With your Houston Texans readying themselves for Sunday's game in Miami, who better to turn to with questions about the Dolphins than the head man over at SB Nation's blog about the Miami Dolphins? Thus, we're joined by Mosul_DolFan from The Phinsider in this week's addition of "Pre-Game Recon." As always, I answered some questions as well; make sure to head over there to see what's on the mind of DolFans as Sunday's game approaches.
BRB's questions, and MDF's answers, are after the jump.
1. Chad Henne didn't take the step forward that was expected of him last year and even regressed, according to some metrics. Do you think the Henne ship has sailed, or can he still become a legitimate starting quarterback for the Dolphins?
TP: I still believe Henne can be a good starting NFL quarterback. I think in the NFL where Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco come in and have success in their rookie year, we have all come to expect that. We forget about the Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady types, who actually sit behind someone for a few years and develop before they become stars. Even Drew Brees didn't succeed immediately, with the Chargers drafting Rivers to replace him, before it all clicked. I think we might be seeing the same thing with Henne. This is only his fourth year in the league, and third year as the starter. Henne did have a down year last year, but I think he rebounds this year - especially with the new offense Brian Daboll has installed. Henne might not be an "elite" quarterback - but I think he will be a good solid starter, and finally solidify a position that has been in flux since Dan Marino.
2. What do you expect the Dolphins will do to try to handle Mario Williams?
TP: Is there anything the Dolphins CAN do to handle Mario Williams? Of every person on the Texans roster, Williams probably scares me the most. The Dolphins' line has looked like one of their weakest groups so far this preseason/season - and when you have three-time Pro Bowler Jake Long on that offensive line, that's saying something. The right side is much, much worse than Jake's side of the line. Marc Colombo, who was brought in from Dallas and handed the starting right tackle position, moving incumbent starter Vernon Carey to right guard, has been a revolving door thus far, especially against speed rushers. The offensive line doesn't seem like it can stop anyone, let alone Williams.
3. After his less than stellar performance Monday night, the Dolphins released Benny Sapp and brought Will Allen back. What does this do, if anything, to your secondary? Is Allen the nickel now? Will there be a new rotation amongst the CBs?
TP: I think bringing Allen back to the defense does a lot for the team. The coaching staff seemed to have locked Sapp in as the nickelback from the start of training camp. Allen hadn't been able to get onto a game field since 2009, and it wasn't all that surprising the team wanted to move on from him. The problem is, without Allen, the team did not have a backup for Vontae Davis or Sean Smith. Nolan Carroll is a developing player, but he's not ready to be out on the perimeter by himself, and rookie Jimmy Wilson really isn't ready. So, that left just Sapp, who, from what we witnessed on Monday night, cannot play on the edge. He's an effective nickelback, but he's not the player Miami needs right now. Allen can lock down the nickel position, while also adding depth behind Davis and Smith. I think the only change that Allen's return means is he replaces Sapp on the depth chart.
4. Imagine, if you will, that you've just been hired by the Texans. Gary Kubiak asks you for the three (3) areas/players/scenarios where the Dolphins are most vulnerable this week. Assume with me that your fandom is taken out of the equation, and that you're being objective, with your new employer's best interests at heart. How do you answer?
TP: (a) The offensive line as discussed above. (b) Owen Daniels. Attack with Daniels, and you'll find success. The Dolphins have struggled to cover tight ends for years now. This year, the addition of Kevin Burnett was supposed to finally solve that issue - and instead, the Patriots destroyed the defense with their tight ends. Other than the offensive line's inability to block, the threat that Daniels brings probably is the biggest weakness for Miami. (c) Two parts here. The Dolphins have not been able to run the ball during the preseason or against the Patriots. Only Henne has found any real success. Lock down the receivers, and dare the Dolphins to run the ball. When the offensive line isn't able to open up running lanes, it's going to force Henne to throw the ball. That could lead to a turnover if he starts pressing, and could lead to the crowd turning against the home team. A week after getting destroyed by the Patriots, and a year of ridiculing Henne for every bad thing the team has done, it's very plausible that any struggles will make the crowd go after Henne. Force him into a bad decision, and you can win over the crowd. (d) Since I cheated on the offensive line answer, I'll throw a fourth option in here. What we learned from the game last Monday is the Dolphins don't do well against the no-huddle. If the Texans are able to speed up the tempo, and not allow the Dolphins to substitute, it could be a huge advantage. For some reason, the Dolphins were cramping and falling out all over the field on Monday night. A 4:15 game on Sunday will only be hotter.
5. PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: The final score of Sunday's game will be Texans ____, Dolphins ____. Miami's record at the end of the regular season will be ___-___, with ____ playoff games played.
TP: The final score of Sunday's game will be Texans 24, Dolphins 27. Miami's record at the end of the regular season will be 9-7, with 1 playoff games played.
Thanks to MDF for taking the time to answer these burning questions. Take a gander at what's going on over at The Phinsider to read what Miami fans are saying about Sunday's game.