1. Why hasn't Nick Saban been able to get more out of his players thus far in 2006?
AP: That's obviously the big question in Miami, one that has a couple of answers. For one thing, the talent level on this roster probably was overrated because of the Dolphins' six-game winning streak at the end of last season. Second, it seemed in the first half of the season as though players were taking turns in making mental mistakes, and the end result was that the Dolphins always seemed to find a way to lose.
You also can underestimate the impact of the quarterback problems that arose when Daunte Culpepper played four games despite obviously not being ready. Finally, and this is troubling, but the Dolphins' three best efforts have come against the three best teams they have faced - Pittsburgh, New England and Chicago. This habit of playing down to the competition is not good.
2. Is Joey Harrington and upgrade over Dante Culpepper?
AP: Over the Culpepper we saw early this season, absolutely. Look, Culpepper couldn't move in the pocket very well and he seemed to always hesitate with the ball, so that made him an easy target for defenders. Harrington has played decently. He's done a good job of getting rid of the ball, moving around to buy time. If he can cut out that one or two big mistake he seems to make every game, he'll be good.
3. How surprised were the Dolphin faithful that they were able to defeat the Chicago Bears last week, and will that win catapult them to another repeat of the success they had in the second half of the 2005 season?
AP: The most diehard of fans probably were the only ones who gave the Dolphins any chance of pulling the upset because they hadn't shown anything to indicate they were capable of that kind of performance.
Can it catapult them to a strong finish? Sure, because it's not as though this team is anywhere near as bad as it showed early in the season. Either way, it's likely too late for this to make the playoffs.
4. Last week was the first time this season that the Dolphins' defense attacked an offensive opponent. How will they be able to stop Larry Johnson and company?
AP: Your statement is not totally accurate. New England actually accomplished very little offensively against the Dolphins in their 20-10 win on Oct. 8. The Dolphins actually have been very good against the run all season, so it's not as though Larry Johnson should expect to have an easy 150 yards on Sunday. The big issue for the Dolphins has been the secondary, but it's coming off its best game, which perhaps came not coincidentally after athletic safety Yeremiah Bell was inserted into the starting lineup to replace struggling Travares Tillman.
5. Last year the Chiefs played the pre-hurricane game. That night, they simply dominated the Dolphins. Will Miami show up for this game and will revenge be a factor?
AP: New team, new season. The Dolphins have bigger issues than worrying about avenging last year's loss. The big priority is building on the Chicago victory and starting to establish some kind of consistency. The Dolphins want to be beat Kansas City simply because it would be a second consecutive quality win.
6. Joey Harrington is 0-4 as a starter when he's thrown for more than 300 yards. With that said, how is the Dolphins' running game?
AP: The Dolphins running game struggled for most of the first half of the season, but a big reason was that they abandoned it too quickly. Also, the offensive line took a while to get going but has played a lot better the last three weeks. After the success against Chicago, I would think the Dolphins would make more of a conscious effort to stick with the running game.
7. Has there been any talk in the local media or with the team about Ricky Williams? Do the Dolphins want him back next year?
AP: The only time Ricky Williams' name has come up since the season started was after the loss to Green Bay when Nick Saban was asked about playmakers on offense. He mentioned there was one playing in Canada and one on the sideline, referring to Williams and Culpepper. Do the Dolphins want him back next year? Why wouldn't they? When Williams is here, he's the consummate team player, always working hard, always doing what's asked of him. He also gives the team a formidable 1-2 punch, the kind the Chiefs had when Johnson teamed with a healthy Priest Holmes. The deal with Ricky is you just can't go into a season depending on him because of his suspension issues.
8. What's been the one thing that has surprised you the most about the Dolphins' 2-6 start?
AP: That's a really good question because there are a few things to choose from. I think I'd go with Culpepper being so bad early in the season, because from what we saw in the preseason he looked fine. Of course, he wasn't asked to do a lot (a lot of quick throws and handing off) and he was doing it against vanilla defenses, but no one could have predicted just how off he would be before being yanked from the lineup.
9. If you were Nick Saban for one day, what's the one roster move you'd make?
AP: Trade a seventh-round pick for Peyton Manning!!!! Oh, I guess it has to be realistic. If you're asking what would position needs to be addressed, I think I'd go with acquiring a stud offensive lineman, the type who can anchor a line for several years, a guy like Jonathan Ogden or Willie Roaf. If you're asking what move I would make with the current team, I would say keep Andre Goodman in the starting lineup at cornerback instead of Travis Daniels, because I think Goodman has been the better cornerback of the two by far.
10. A lot of Dolphins fans have to be thinking that this season is lost. Are they looking ahead to 2007 already?
AP: Not quite yet, but that'll be coming soon. The victory over Chicago probably delayed that process a little bit, but there will be a lot of looking ahead after the Dolphins lose one or two more games to make it five consecutive years with no playoffs.
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