When searching out for this week’s opposing blogger I was worried about some of the reaction I might get with the Packers possibly trotting out players from the Green Bay Blizzard arena team to help field roster spots. However, that wasn’t the case with Cody Strahm of Phins Phocus who is answering some questions on what we can expect with the Dolphins take their talents north this weekend.
1) Has Chad Henne improved this offense from last year? If not, can he take them to the next level?
So far, I would say this offense is slightly better than they were a year ago, thanks in large part to Brandon Marshall, who opens up the offense and requires constant attention. To me, anyway, they have the pieces to be one of the top offenses in football, but haven’t lived up to their potential yet this season because of two things. The first being the falloff of the running game. More on that in the next question. The second reason they haven’t been able to break out yet, is inconsistency on Henne’s part. We saw him light it up in Week 3 against a great Jets defense, only to pick up where he left off the next week early on, but eventually throw three costly picks that prevented the Dolphins from pulling away in the first half and making it a game in the second.
Physically, Henne has all the tools to take the offense to the next level. Prototypical size, elite arm strength, and adequate weapons to work with, to name a few. It’s just a matter of grasping the mental aspect of the game on a consistent basis. More specifically, cutting down on some of his bad habits. For example, he stares down his receivers far too often, and doesn’t seem to know how to take the heat off his passes in the short to intermediate passing game. As of now, though, your guess is as good as mine as to which Chad Henne we will see Sunday. He could go out and be in complete command of the offense by throwing for over 300 yards and a couple scores, but we could also see him go out and turn the ball over multiple times and continue to digress after the progress he made against the Jets.
2) The last few seasons the Dolphins have a repuation of a strong running team with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but through the first month of the season they are ranked in the middle of the pack for rushing offense? How much do each of these guys have left when looking at injury history with Brown and age with Williams?
Outside of poor ball security, I blame everyone but Ronnie and Ricky for the running game’s recent struggles. For starters, the interior offensive line isn’t creating much of a push for the backs to work with. That’s probably because there are three new starters manning the interior, and their best guard, rookie John Jerry, has been sick for the past two games. To me, though, the front office needs to take on some more blame for cutting center Jake Grove, who was instrumental in allowing the Dolphins to run the ball between the tackles last season, but signed a $30 million contract last offseason and gets injured too often for this regime’s liking. His replacement, Joe Berger, hasn’t played at the same level he did when Grove went down towards the end of last year.
I also place some of the blame on play-calling. Yes, the Jets basically stacked the box against the run, and the Dolphins were in a huge hole against the Patriots, but for this offense to be at its best, they need to become more balanced. For example, under Sparano the Dolphins are 15-2 when they run the ball more than they throw and 5-15 when they throw the ball more than they run. They threw the ball 89 times compared to only 44 rushes in the past two games, which were both loses. I expect the Dolphins to try, early on at least, to get back to their identity of being a run-first team against the Packers.
After the Dolphins beat the Vikings in Week 2, Brett Favre called Vontae Davis the league’s best corner that nobody knows about. Well, in my opinion, Cameron Wake may be the league’s best pass rusher that nobody knows about. He’s a great story too. Wake went undrafted in 2005, before being picked up by the New York Giants but eventually got cut before training camp even started. He wound up in Canada where he completely tore it up for two seasons. Wake totaled 39 sacks in two years for the BC Lions before he got the call from the Dolphins. Last year, he flashed extraordinary potential as a pass rusher in the nickel package, but was completely overshadowed from a national perspective by Jason Taylor and Joey Porter. Now, though, he’s finally getting the playing time and attention he deserves.
He’s only racked up 3.0 sacks so far this season, which is noteworthy but not dominate, but he’s had quite a few near sacks and has hurried countless other throws. Few tackles in this league can single block this guy. He has the speed and explosiveness to beat anybody off the snap, but also possesses the brute strength to completely collapse the pocket with the bull rush. Your best bet would be to try and wear him down by running to his side often. He’s struggled somewhat at setting the edge so far this season, so you may be killing two birds with one stone by having consistent success running to his side all game long.
Whenever you concede a blocked punt, blocked kick for a touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown in one game, it’s only appropriate that you fire your special-teams coach the next morning. Which is exactly what the Dolphins did mere hours after that Monday night debacle, when they fired John Bonamego and promoted Darren Rizzi. Rizzi certainly doesn’t look the part of savior, with limited experience and credentials, but a message was sent with Bonamego’s firing and a change needed to be made.
As much as I would love to say that game was a fluke, it simply wasn’t. They had another punt blocked against the Jets the week before that certainly didn’t help their cause, and Brad Smith broke off a couple big kickoff returns. They also had two punts blocked in the preseason and were awfully shaky in kickoff coverage then as well. Combine all of that with Dan Carpenter sending two kickoffs out of bounds already this season, and it’s easy to see why fans cross their fingers and hold their breath whenever the offense and defense aren’t on the field.
5) With match-up nightmare Jermichael Finely and possibly Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup, what do you think Miami’s gameplan will be on defense?
If you watched the Dolphins-Jets game on Sunday night a few weeks ago, you would know how terrible the Dolphins are at covering tight ends. Dustin Keller shredded them for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first-half. So Finely being out is a huge relief for the defense. As far as Rodgers goes, all indications now seem to be pointing to him playing, but if the Dolphins continue to luck out and he can’t go, the game plan obviously changes. I think you have to load up the box and make the unproven quarterback beat you. The Dolphins are going to bring pressure regardless, though. That’s the type of defense Mike Nolan likes to run. Some of the exotic looks he likes to throw at defenses would probably have considerably more success against Matt Flynn in his first start, than one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, though.
Thanks again to Cody of Phins Focus for joining us this week. We’ll be answering some questions for his site, so make sure to check it out before Sunday.