From the Other Side: Chargers vs. Dolphins II

Is Sunday do-or-die for Coach Tony Sparano? How's Kevin Burnett doing in his new digs? What must the Dolphins do to make the Chargers their first victim? Dolphin Digest's Associate Editor, Alain Poupart, answers these and other questions inside.

To read Part I of this exclusive "From the Other Side" series, click here.

Michael Lombardo: What are the odds this is Tony Sparano's final game with the Dolphins? If he is fired midseason, who are the interim coaching candidates?

AP: It appears almost a slam dunk that Sparano is done as coach in Miami, but the big question is whether owner Stephen Ross would be inclined to make a move during the season or just wait until January. What may prompt Ross to make a move now is the fan base, which is slowly moving from angry to frustrated to apathetic. The Dolphins had to buy about 10,000 of their own tickets to avoid a blackout in Week 2 against a good Houston team and getting fans to come out for the rest of the home games won't be easy.

If Ross does make a move during the season, the Monday before the bye is the logical time and an 0-4 start might prompt him to do that. As for interim coaching candidates, the logical option would be defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who has experience as a head coach with the 49ers.

ML: Chad Henne has quieted a lot of critics with his play so far. Do you believe he is the franchise QB the Dolphins are looking for? Is it too soon to tell?

AP: Henne quieted a lot of critics the first game of the year with a strong performance against New England, but he has regressed the last two weeks. While his numbers aren't bad, he's not producing in the red zone and he couldn't gain a single yard on the last drive last Sunday at Cleveland when the Dolphins needed about 15 yards to set up for a potential game-winning field goal.

I think we can pretty safely say by now that Henne is not a franchise quarterback. He does have some physical tools, but for lack of a better explanation he just doesn't have the "IT" factor.

ML: Brandon Marshall used to torment the Chargers when he was in the AFC West, but he has fallen off since moving to South Beach. Other than inconsistent QB play, why has Marshall been unable to fulfill his potential post-trade?


WR Brandon Marshall
Ronald C. Modra/Getty
AP: Marshall is a tremendous talent but he also can be a frustrating player. He is and probably always is going to lead the team in receiving, but it just seems there should be more accomplished. Part of the problem has been an inability to make the tough catch in the end zone, something that happened both against Houston and Cleveland.

Marshall, who revealed early in training camp that he's been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, also committed a foolish personal foul penalty against Cleveland that turned a chip-shot 26-yard field goal attempt into one from 41 yards out.

Finally, Marshall has been dealing with a groin injury, which is going to limit his ability to gain yards after the catch, which probably is his best attribute. All that said, Marshall remains a good wide receiver. He's just not the franchise-type player the Dolphins thought they were getting when they gave Denver two second-round picks to get him.

ML: Kevin Burnett was San Diego's most significant free-agent loss, opting for a richer deal with the Dolphins. How has he done with his new team and what role will he play on Sunday against the Chargers?

AP: The Dolphins defense as a whole has been a big disappointment so far this season, and probably not one player has performed below expectations as much as Burnett. Everyone was excited about his arrival because he was a playmaker replacing longtime starter Channing Crowder, who was a solid defender who just didn't make plays. Well, that describes Burnett so far this season.

I can't even recall one good play he has made in three games. I'm not quite sure what the reason is for his sub-par performance so far -- perhaps it's getting adjusted to the Dolphins defense -- but this move so far has not panned out in the least for Miami. As for his role, he's starting at inside linebacker and also gets playing time in obvious passing situations.

ML: What one or two things must the Dolphins do in Week 4 in order to come away with their first win of the season?

AP: Probably the one thing that stands out is finishing in the red zone. The Dolphins have reached the opponent's 20-yard line 13 times this season but come away with only five touchdowns on those drives. And that doesn't even include Reggie Bush's fumble at the Cleveland 22-yard line last Sunday. In that game, the Dolphins had to settle for field goals both times they had a first-and-goal situation. The Dolphins aren't going to win many games scoring only one touchdown, but that's just what they did against both Houston and Cleveland.

Defensively, the Dolphins need to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback. They have only four sacks in three games and opposing quarterbacks have had way too much time in the pocket. If they do that against Philip Rivers, he's likely to carve them up for a lot of yards.

Alain Poupart is Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest. Michael Lombardo is Publisher of SDBoltReport.com.


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