Once again, it's time for our weekly Q&A session. Up this week is Bloguin's own Phins Phocus. Cody Straam, the site's lead blogger, was kind enough to answer our questions this week. Let's get to it!
1. On a scale of 1-10, where is your confidence level in QB Chad Henne? Does he have enough talent around him to get the job done on offense?
I would say about a six. He certainly looked much improved in the preseason playing in Brian Daboll’s new offense. I think Reggie Bush will also benefit Checkdown Chad, as a guy who can turn a simple pass in the flat into big yardage. Not to mention, Henne finally displayed some encouraging leadership qualities during the lockout, leading player-organized workouts.
But I still have a hard time believing he’s put some of his bad habits in the rear-view mirror. Staring down receivers has been his biggest fault thus far, and even with the progress, we’ve still seen some of that this year. He also seemingly lacks any real fire or competitive streak, which has deemed him the nickname “The Robot.” All the great quarterbacks in this league seem to be of the vocal, fiery variety. Henne’s not that guy.
And ultimately the continued struggles of the interior offensive line could mean Henne is going to have to carry this offense at times. That may become too much pressure to handle. But the hope in Miami is that an improved Henne to go along with a top five defense could lead to a return to winning ways.
2. The key move for Miami in the offseason was signing Reggie Bush. What are the strengths of a Bush-Daniel Thomas running combo compared to the Ricky-Ronnie show. Which one would you rather have?
Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas is actually a more complete tandem than Ronnie and Ricky were. They project to complement each other nicely, as Thomas is the bigger, between the tackles type while Reggie is obviously of the speedy, home-run threat variety. But Ricky and Ronnie were probably much better, much more complete backs.
With Ronnie on the verge of turning the dreaded 30 for running backs in December and with Ricky now at 34, though, it was probably time to move on. Maybe they could have had another productive year in Miami with improved play up front, but the Dolphins are at least ahead of the curve by replacing them when they did. I haven’t bought into who they replaced them with, though. I didn’t like Daniel Thomas in the pre-draft process. He looked like a “power back” that usually went down after initial contact and he ran with a worrisome upright style. Reggie, meanwhile, can’t be counted on for a full 16 games and hasn’t shown the ability to consistently run between the tackles. Regardless, the continued struggles of the interior offensive line will likely spell doom for the Dolphins’ running game for the second consecutive year.
3. This Dolphins defense is the strength of the team. Last year, it was Cameron Wake who broke onto the scene for Sparano. Who do you think is that breakout player on the Dolphins on defense to watch out for?
Sean Smith. Knowledgeable folks in Miami know Sean Smith’s value, but he’s far from a household name nationwide. He dropped too many would-be interceptions last year, but he actually emerged as one of the top cover corners in football. Only Nnamdi Asomugha was targeted fewer times than Smith per coverage snaps in 2010 and only Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Darrelle Revis surrendered fewer receptions per coverage snaps. But if a shutdown performance like that went unnoticed last year, it certainly could do the same this time around. He probably needs to accumulate multiple interceptions this year if he wants to be in the Pro Bowl discussion.
4. How secure is Tony Sparano's job? Will the controversy surrounding the Harbaugh situation in the offseason trickle down to the team's performance on-the-field?
Sparano is without a doubt on the hot seat. Anything less than 9-7 would likely lead to his firing, and even 9-7 might not protect him if owner Stephen Ross is set on the playoffs this season. But the encouraging thing is (from the outside looking in at least) that this team appears to be fully behind their head coach. Several players have been very supportive of Sparano on twitter and it appears that any offseason turmoil only put a chip on the Dolphins’ shoulder. I would be shocked if this team went into disarray and collapsed like many media members project them to.
5. I read somewhere on Pro Football Talk that the Dolphins still had 3,000 tickets available for the game on Monday night about a week ago. How confident are the fans in this Dolphins' team this season?
Negativity is running rapid in the fan base these days. Many casual fans look at the Dolphins not replacing Chad Henne as a given that this team’s mediocre ways will continue. But you have to remember South Florida is home to some of the worst sports fans in America. The Dolphins have one of the best away-from-home fan bases in the league, but their support in Miami is underwhelming.
They've been playing in front of rows of empty orange seats in Sun Life Stadium for several years now. But home crowds have been equally unimpressive for the Miami Hurricanes on Saturdays. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing how few people show up to watch the Florida Marlins. And even the Miami Heat, despite being in the spotlight of the basketball world, typically saw fans showing up late to games. Unfortunately, that’s just the climate the Dolphins play in. But you know how the saying goes, “winning cures everything.” The Dolphins are Miami’s first love and if winning is restored, the fans will come back. But it shouldn’t be that way.
6. What are some of the keys in this game for Miami to pull the upset?
Pressure, pressure, pressure. That’s obviously been the key to slowing down Tom Brady and the Pats. He’s simply too good to be given a clean pocket to throw from. Cameron Wake will be key, but he needs help from Jason Taylor, Koa Misi, and Mike Nolan’s exotic blitz packages. Inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett will also have a huge role Monday night. I expect Vontae Davis and Sean Smith to keep the Patriots’ boundary receivers in check, but Brady and Belichick will likely counter with a heavy dose of Aaron Hernadez, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Woodhead, and obviously Wes Welker. That will put a lot of pressure on Dansby, Burnett, and thrown in nickel corner Benny Sapp to contain Brady’s targets.
On offense, I don’t expect the Dolphins to run the ball well at all, but if they are somehow able to get something going on the ground, that would do wonders for Chad Henne. Speaking of Henne, protecting the football will be critical. I expect the Dolphins to move the ball through the air fairly well, but it won’t mean much if Henne kills drives with poor decisions that lead to turnovers.
7. Prediction? Who wins and why?
I think the Dolphins are going to surprise people this year. I could easily see that happening on Monday night, and truthfully speaking, I get the gut feeling we’re going to see an inspiring performance from the Dolphins. But the Patriots are still the Patriots and Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. Even Miami’s A game might not be enough and you’re always a few mistakes away from getting blown out against New England.
Patriots 27 Dolphins 20