From the Other Side: Bolts-Fins II

Dolphins Digest's Alain Poupart and SD Bolt Report's Michael Lombardo continue their back-and-forth previewing this week's showdown in Miami. In this installment, we cover the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin firestorm, Ryan Tannehill's progress, the Dolphins' defensive playmakers and the race for the AFC's second wildcard spot.

Michael Lombardo is the publisher of Alain Poupart is the associate editor of Dolphins Digest. To read the first part of their Q&A, which covers Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, D.J. Fluker and others, click here.

Michael Lombardo: It's been a tough week for Miami, with Richie Incognito dominating the headlines and the Buccaneers getting off the schneid at the Dolphins' expense. The national media portrays the Dolphins as a team in disarray. Is that an accurate assessment or an unfair assumption/generalization?

Alain Poupart: The national media portrayal certainly has not been favorable and it's pretty obvious this was an incident the Dolphins could have done without. What doesn't help matters is that it's a story that's not likely to go away for a little while because it seems to still be unfolding.

That said, the notion of team in disarray might be exaggerating things because it's two players involved in this mess, not the entire team. Look, the Dolphins are only one game out of the last playoff position and they play the Jets twice down the stretch. Now, the loss at Tampa Bay was painful, but they could be tied for that last playoff spot after this weekend.

ML: Ryan Tannehill has authored a pretty mediocre sophomore season, especially considering the upgrades the Dolphins made at the skill positions this offseason (this coming from someone who has Tannehill on his fantasy football team). What are your thoughts on his progress and his ascent into a possible franchise quarterback role? 

AP: The hope coming into the season was that we'd have a better idea at the conclusion whether Tannehill is the franchise quarterback this team has been longing for, and the reality is we still don't know. The issues on the offensive line clearly haven't help Tannehill's development, that's for sure.

From his end, Tannehill makes some big-time throws on occasion, particularly on the move, and shows great moxie in crunch time. On the flip side, the accuracy still could be more consistent and there are some intangibles he still needs to improve.

Richie Incognito and Bryant McKinnie
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
ML: The Dolphins acquired Bryant McKinnie on the cheap at the trade deadline. The Chargers made a play for him in the offseason, which is noteworthy now that their left tackle (King Dunlap) has just endured his third concussion of the season. How has McKinnie fared since arriving in Miami and what did you think of this pick-up?

AP: The acquisition of McKinnie made perfect sense because the offensive line was having so many issues in pass protection and McKinney certainly is a proven pass protector. So far he's been pretty much what you'd expect, which is to say he's been good in pass protection and not quite as good in run blocking. But there's no question the Dolphins needed him because they absolutely had to do something to improve the pass protection.

ML: The key to to the Chargers' success -- the little bit they've had, anyway -- has been dominating time of possession, thereby protecting what is a pretty pathetic defense. The key for Miami, then, will be getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers. Which of Miami's defensive playmakers will drive this effort and which ones have particularly favorable matchups this week?

AP: The Dolphins' biggest playmakers on defense clearly are Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson, Now, Patterson has been dealing with a groin issue almost all season and he sat out the Monday night game against Tampa Bay, so I'm not sure he'll even be playing on Sunday.

Grimes is an absolute stud, good enough that you match him up against a stud wide receiver, although the Chargers don't have that kind of guy anymore.

After a tremendous game on Halloween night, Wake was awfully quiet against the Bucs, who ran the ball a lot and also double-teamed and chipped Wake to make sure he wasn't going to disrupt their offense. Against the Chargers, Wake will be going up against D.J. Fluker, who better have good foot quickness or he's going to need help against Wake.

ML: The Chargers and Dolphins sport identical 4-5 records. Which team has a better chance to sneak into the playoffs as the AFC's second wildcard team?

AP: Given the shape of the roster on both teams, I would say the Dolphins have a better chance. While the Dolphins have lacked consistency at the end of ball-games, they have the players to go on a little run, as evidenced by their 3-0 start.

The schedule is manageable, too, because after the Chargers, the Dolphins also have the Jets twice, Pittsburgh and Buffalo among their final six games. Now, if the Chargers still had Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Dwight Freeney and now even Larry English, it might be a different story. But the Miami roster right now looks a lot more playoff-caliber than that of the Chargers.

For more insider game coverage, visit Dolphins Digest and SD Bolt Report.

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