Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins Rolling

The Buffalo Football Report asked Dolphin Digest's Alain Poupart an 8-pack of questions, heading into Sunday's showdown in Toronto. Poupart discusses everything from Miami's 'Wildcat' formation to second-year receiver Ted Ginn Jr. Premium members get the scoop inside...

1. Have the Dolphins been running the Wildcat in every game this season, and has this formation been consistently effective?

Alain Poupart: Didn't waste any time with the obligatory Wildcat question, did you? The Dolphins began using the Wildcat formation in the Sept. 21 victory at New England, and created quite a stir with it that day. They have used every game since then, and the results usually have been solid, although never as wildly successful as during that 38-13 win at New England. There have been a couple of instances, the Baltimore and Denver games for instance, where the opponent pretty much shut down the Wildcat and convinced the Dolphins to stop using it. The number of plays out of that formation tend to go between 4 and 8 every game, and I certainly wouldn't expect anything different this Sunday.

2. How important has Chad Pennington been to Miami considering the revolving door at quarterback since Dan Marino retired?

AP: I'm not sure there are words to describe what Pennington has meant to the Dolphins. So much has been made of the mistake-free football he has played, and that's reflected in the Dolphins' plus-10 turnover ratio, which is tied for second in the league. But more importantly, Pennington has made play after play in the passing game, particularly at crunch time. He likely will reach the 3,000-yard mark this Sunday, and that will make him the first Miami quarterback to reach that plateau since 2001 (Jay Fiedler). The quarterback position has dragged down this franchise for almost a decade, but now finally have a guy who actually wins games for them.

3. What kind of attitude has Tony Sparano instilled in the Dolphins, who are just one year removed from being 1-15?

AP:oughness probably would be the best word to describe what Tony Sparano has brought the Dolphins (although keep in mind that also comes from Bill Parcells). Sparano is a no-nonsense football guy who isn't afraid to yell or get in guys' faces but does it in such a way that his players respect him -- unlike Nick Saban, who made a habit of talking down to players and everybody else around him.

4. Has Ted Ginn Jr. turned the corner, or do some fans still mourn for Brady Quinn?

AP: No would be the answer to the first part of that question. Ginn had a huge game against the Bills in late October and made some plays since then, but he also continues to drop easy passes and show little desire to get involved in contact. His kickoff returning has been mediocre at best, which is very disappointing for someone with his speed. But that speed gives him the ability to break a long one at any time, such as when he took an end-around 40 yards for a touchdown against Oakland. As for Brady Quinn, his name isn't heard around these parts very often anymore for two simple reasons. The first is how well Pennington has played, the second is how average Quinn has looked in his limited playing time and his subsequent finger injury.

5. Do you think Miami - one game out of the division lead - can finish strong and win the AFC East?

AP: I wouldn't put anything past this team at this point. Look, it's not an overly talented team, but it's one that plays tough and has got a great point man in Pennington. The schedule also is favorable. If the Dolphins can get past the Bills on Sunday, they have the 49ers at home and a trip to Kansas City on the schedule after that. With victories in those three games, the Dolphins would find themselves in a position to win the AFC East by beating the Jets at Giants Stadium in the season finale -- regardless of what anybody else in the division does the rest of the way. That's pretty heady stuff for this franchise. The big step will be this Sunday's game.

6. Who is the catalyst for the Dolphins' resurgent defense?

AP: Without a doubt, it's Joey Porter. The guy leads the team with 14.5 sacks, which already is the most in franchise history for a linebacker. He also is disruptive because of his ability to force fumbles. The secondary also has come on in recent weeks after a difficult start and both starting cornerbacks, Will Allen and Andre' Goodman, have been playing really well. But Porter by far has been "the guy" for the Dolphins defense this season.

7. Who could be an underdog playmaker on Sunday for Miami?

AP: That probably would be rookie wide receiver Davone Bess. He has stepped into the starting lineup following the season-ending knee injury sustained by Greg Camarillo, and led the team with six catches last Sunday at St. Louis. Bess is a small guy with only marginal speed, but he's a tremendous route-runner with a great understanding of the passing game (something he got at the University of Hawaii). If the Bills don't pay attention to him on Sunday, they'll pay the price. Don't be surprised if he catches seven or eight passes.

8. What is your prediction for Sunday?

AP: Paaaaiiiiinnnn. Oops, sorry, had a Mr. T moment there. With the game being played inside, the elements no longer matter, which always benefits the better team. In this case, I think it's the Dolphins. I'm assuming it will be J.P. Losman at quarterback for the Bills, and I have a hard time believing he's not going to turn the ball over a couple of times. On the flip side, the Dolphins have become balanced enough that if the Bills stop the Miami running game, then Pennington can move the ball through the air. The biggest concern from a Dolphins standpoint would be avoiding giving up long kick returns to either Leodis McKelvin or Roscoe Parrish. But I just see the Dolphins as the better team, and would call it 24-17 Miami.

Alain Poupart covers the Dolphins as the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest.


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