Battle Red Blog's sister site dedicated to all things Dolphin, aptly named The Phinsider, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Texans' seemingly perennial Floridian opponent. Is Dion Jordan as good as advertised? Is Jonathan Martin as bad as reported? Is Ryan Tannehill's wife still hot? Read on and find out.
1. What were your biggest takeaways from the Dolphins' preseason opener? I know it's hard to gauge much from that game, but tell us what stuck out in your mind.
With the Dolphins having played two preseason games already, thanks to the glorified scrimmage that is the Hall of Fame Game, the concerns are pretty much the same between the two games, even if the position shifted a little. The top concern is the offensive line. Against the Cowboys in the HOF Game, it was the left tackle position. Jonathan Martin has taken a lot of heat already this summer, but really, he is not playing that badly. He's not going to be a Pro Bowl left tackle (which, with the first four years of Jake Long's career being at a Hall of Fame level, may have spoiled us and keeps us expecting that from every left tackle), but he can be very solid.
In the Jaguars game, the Dolphins again had offensive line problems, but it had jumped from Martin on the left to Josh Samuda at right guard, bleeding over to Tyson Clabo at right tackle. Samuda, who spent last year as the backup center to Mike Pouncey, was clearly overmatched in the game, despite having a great training camp thus far and looking like someone ready to start. Since the game, he has been regulated back to the second team center position, so it looks like that experiment is over.
The offensive line is clearly the biggest issue. With the starting line not yet set, and none of the reserves jumping up and claiming the starting right guard position, it may continue to be an issue this week.
The other concern right now, at least among Dolphins fans, is the wide receiver position. While Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson are playing well, the chemistry between Wallace and Ryan Tannehill is still a work in progress. Will it be okay by the start of the season? Most likely. But, until the two start connecting in preseason games (Wallace did not play in the HOF Game and was not targeted against the Jaguars), fans are still going to worry.
2. What are your feelings on Miami's offseason, included but not limited to the draft and free agency?
A lot of people, especially outside of Miami, look at this offseason for the Dolphins as another team spending a ton of money and grabbing as many players as they can. However, I think this is a different situation than the annual Dan Snyder spending spree in Washington, or Vince Young's "Dream Team" Eagles. The Dolphins were very systematic with what they did. They started setting up for this offseason, with specific targets like Mike Wallace, two years ago. The team worked to get the salary cap space in 2013 they would need, and then they struck.
Miami wanted to get younger and increase the talent level at several positions. I think that's where the difference comes in between some of those other free agency grabs. The Eagles added players like Ronnie Brown, Vince Young, and Jason Babin, all players going into their third or fourth different contract. The Dolphins primarily targeted players going into their second contract. They did land some big name players, including Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Dustin Keller, and Brent Grimes, but it was not a mad dash to grab anyone and everyone. There was a system in place.
As for the Draft, I love it. Selecting Dion Jordan in the first round absolutely surprised everyone, but it was a brilliant selection. He's going to be something special, and the Dolphins now have a dynamic pass rusher to pair with Cameron Wake and then to replace the 31 year old Pro Bowler when he retires. The Dolphins did well throughout the rest of the draft as well, adding cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, as well as depth players on the offensive line (Dallas Thomas), running back (Mike Gillislee), and others.
3. Entering the 2012 NFL Draft, I was very skeptical of Ryan Tannehill as a NFL QB. His rookie season, at the very least, showed flashes of promise, which likely serves to demonstrate anew that I really don't have a clue what I'm talking about. What do you expect to see from Tannehill in 2013? And do you think we'll be talking about him in the same fearful tone that we use for Andrew Luck, RGIII, and Russell Wilson in, say, another three years?
I really like Ryan Tannehill and do think in three years, he will be among the top quarterbacks. Unfortunately for him, he came out in a year with those other three guys. Tannehill had a good solid rookie year, but no one knows that because Luck, RGIII, and Wilson were ridiculous. This year, Tannehill needs to take charge of the offense (which he seems to be doing in training camp), cut down on the interceptions, and improve his accuracy. I think he will be able to do all three of those, which should be able to bring the Dolphins into playoff contention.
4. Imagine, if you will, that you've just been hired by the Houston Texans. Gary Kubiak asks you for the three (3) areas/players/scenarios where the Dolphins are most vulnerable (not just for this preseason game, but for the regular season from where you sit right now). 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?
The offensive line is first. Attack it and make it prove to you that it is going to be able to stop you. That's actually the number one thing I want to see from the Dolphins this game. Points on the board, connections between Tannehill and Wallace, those will be great. But, facing a defensive front like the Texans will be a great challenge for Miami, and it will give everyone a better sense of where the line really is.
I'd probably say go with multiple wide receivers and see how the Dolphins match up. The secondary for Miami could be really special this year, especially with the way Brent Grimes has been playing throughout camp, but that does not mean they are not vulnerable. The Dolphins are looking to bring a lot of pressure, with a lot of blitzing, this season. Bringing out four or five wide receivers could force the Dolphins to either abandon the blitz, or put pressure on the cornerbacks to perform. Stay away from Grimes, but after that, you can try to see what's available. Both Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson have had good camps, but you may find some space there. If the Dolphins bring in Will Davis as a fourth or fifth cornerback, you should be able to exploit his ball hawking nature with double moves or pump fakes. He looks into the backfield a lot, which lets him get that jump on a ball and come away with the highlight interception, but it can also lead to him being out of position on the play.
Finally, I would say attack the middle of the field with tight ends. The Dolphins' new linebackers, Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, have not yet established themselves in coverage. You may find a weakness there. If that one does not materialize, I'll give you a fourth area to test. Take away the Dolphins' receivers and force them to run the ball. The Miami offensive line, which may be a vulnerability against the pass, should be good against the run, but the running backs themselves are young and inexperienced. Put the game on their shoulders, force Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to get 35 carries in the game, and see if they can handle the workload. The Dolphins have done a great job so far in hiding what they are going to do once the regular season starts. Later in the preseason, this may change as we get a better picture of the Dolphins' personnel packages and tendencies on offense and defense, but for now, that's your best bet.
5. PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: At the end of the 2013 regular season, the Miami Dolphins' record will be ____-____, which will be good enough for ___________ place in the AFC East.
At the end of the 2013 regular season, the Miami Dolphins' record will be 9-7, which will be good enough for second place in the AFC East.
here has been a lot of talk this off season that the Dolphins are going to challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East crown. I don't see it this year. There's no doubt the Dolphins are closing the gap on the Patriots, but I don't think they will be ready to take over as the dominant team in the division in 2013.
I would like to say Miami will be 10-6 and in the Playoffs, but I am not ready to make that prediction yet. There are a lot of things that have to happen just right for any team to put up a double digit win total. Teams that do it routinely are impressive. Miami looks like they are on the right track to get there, but I just don't think they are to the point where you can predict it. A winning record with a postseason berth on the line in Week 17 is about as bold a prediction as you will get from me right now. That being said, I really think this team could be January-bound this year, grabbing that six seed and Wild Card spot.
Thank you to Kevin Nogle for coming by. You can catch more coverage of this Saturday's game from the perspective of Dolphins fans over at The Phinsider.