With our beloved squads set to open the 2012 regular season against each other in less than 48 hours, Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider, SB Nation's site for all things Miami Dolphin, was kind enough to stop by to answer a few of my inane questions. I answered his questions as well and will link to that post as soon as it gets published. Hit the jump to see what Kevin had to say about the imminent dust-up between the Dolphins and Texans.
1. Many Texans (residents, not the team) are familiar with Ryan Tannehill from his time at A&M. Looking at the situation from afar, it seems to me that Tannehill won the starting job because of a combination of things that were out of his control (David Garrard getting hurt) and things that were within his control (beating out Matt Moore). Do you agree? And with Tannehill making his first start on Sunday, what will the Dolphins do to cater the game plan to their rookie QB?
A: You are exactly right. The job looked to be David Garrard's until his knee injury. Then, Tannehill simply outplayed Moore and won the job. The bonus that Tannehill has over every other rookie is that he is back in the same offensive system he used in college, having former TAMU head coach Mike Sherman as his offensive coordinator with the Dolphins. He knows the offense - better than some of the veterans on the team - but clearly, the speed of the game is the key to his development. The Dolphins have to rely on short passes and the running game to get Tannehill comfortable early. The key really is going to be whether or not Tannehill and the wide receivers can find any sort of rhythm.
2. I see that the latest word appears to be that Jake Long will start at LT on Sunday. How hobbled is he? On the other side of the OL, Miami will be starting a rookie in Jonathan Martin. How confident are you in Martin being able to hold his own against what Wade Phillips will bring on that right side?
A: Long sat out a week letting his knee rehab, but he's back and fully practicing this week. I doubt we will see any difference in Long's performance this week. Martin, meanwhile, is a concern. He's going to be good, but he's struggling to get used to the speed of the game (a common problem on the Dolphins right now). I think he will be fine in the long run, but he is obviously the weak point along the offensive line right now.
3. On the other side of the ball, as you know, the Texans have new starters at RG and RT. What do you anticipate the Dolphins will do to test the right side of the Texans' line?
A: The Dolphins are going to be going hard after quarterbacks all season. Part of it is bringing Cameron Wake back up to the dominating force he should be, while the other part is using defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's new 4-3 system to generate pressure from Jared Odrick and rookie Olivier Vernon. The Dolphins have to get pressure to cover their weaknesses in the secondary. Watch for a lot of different looks from the defense, with multiple pass rushers and Wake moving all along the line. Don't be surprised if Wake is over the right side of the line more often than on the left.
4. Imagine that Gary Kubiak has just hired you. Kubes says, "Kevin, I know you know the Dolphins as well as anybody. Tell me the three (3) areas the Texans need to attack on Sunday to win this football game." Putting your allegiance to the Dolphins aside and realizing you need to answer your new employer honestly, what do you say?
A: 1 - Press the receivers. The Dolphins are going to be looking for short, timing patterns to get the offense moving. The wide receivers have not established themselves as any sort of weapon in the offense yet. Get up there and jam them to stop the timing routes and make Tannehill try to find the second and third options.
2 - Stack the box. Just like trying to use short passing routes, the Dolphins are going to want to get Reggie Bush, and to a lesser degree Daniel Thomas, involved in the game. Until Tannehill and the receivers prove they are a threat, focus on shutting down the run.
3 - Attack on offense. The Dolphins' defense is going to be good against the run, which should make Arian Foster have a rougher day than he will against other opponents. Miami's defensive weakness is clearly their secondary. This should be a field day for Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, and the rest of the Houston receivers. Attack early and make the team adjust to the passing threat. Then Foster should be able to find success on the ground.
5. PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: The final score of Sunday's game will be Dolphins ____, Texans ____. At the end of the regular season, the Dolphins' record will be ___-___.
A: Miami 17, Houston 27. At the end of the season, I really think Miami could be 8-8. There are some "easy" opponents on the schedule for the Dolphins this year, so the team should be able to find some wins.
On a side note, I can't wait for Sunday. I will be at Reliant, taking my son to his first NFL game. We will be proudly wearing our aqua Dolphins jerseys in your white-out this week. I've never been to Reliant, so I look forward to seeing the stadium. Good luck this weekend, guys - but just not THAT good of luck.
Thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my queries. If you want to see what Dolphins fans have to say about playing the Texans on Sunday, head on over to The Phinsider.