Charlie Bernstein: Ryan Tannehill seems to have taken his game up a few notches since Joe Philbin's public "lack of confidence" in him. Do you think that's a coincidence, or maybe the caliber of defense he's been playing against?
Tony Lopez: A little bit of a coincidence, Tannehill is very self aware and spoke in the off-season about how pivotal this season is for him and how he needed to make a big leap from Year 2 to Year 3. With that said, Philbin's lack of a vote of confidence following the Kansas City game definitely lit a fire under Tannehill, asserting himself prior to the Oakland game as the starting quarterback for the Dolphins and came out playing like it. Sure he struggled in the first half against Green Bay but overall, he's been lights out the past three games. Once he and his receivers get synced up down field, sky is the limit to how effective he can be.
CB: The Dolphins ground game has been surprisingly good but the offensive line is still yielding plenty of sacks. If you were game planning against Miami, would you load the box to stop the run?
TL:Yes the offensive line has been an upgrade from last year and given the talent they have up front and how they've performed in the run game they should be giving up less sacks. But some of those sacks can be attributed to Tannehill's poise and toughness in the pocket, as he holds the ball too long because he trusts his teammates with almost blind faith. As far as defending the Dolphins running game with a stacked box, that would be a bad look against the Dolphins. The Fins run all of their base offense out of a spread formation. With Miami excelling using the quick passing game and screen game and Tannehill's overall success against the blitz, defenses would be shooting themselves in the feet. Best way to defend the Dolphins offense is to win up front in the trenches with your down linemen and use delayed blitzes against the pass. To stop their run game you have to do it by playing disciplined against the read option and scrapping your gaps in run fits to stop the cut back.
CB: Mike Wallace is beginning to look like the playmaker that the Dolphins thought they were getting when Jeff Ireland signed him to his big deal. Is that a product of him playing better or Ryan Tannehill's improvement or possibly both?
TL:I actually think the playmaker the Dolphins have gotten this year in Wallace is one they didn't expect when Ireland signed him. He has not been the big play threat down the field this year that everyone expects him to be. Instead he has been more of a complete receiver, making difficult catches in traffic, running the whole route tree, and breaking tackles, playing with a physicality foreign to his game prior to this year. If the Dolphins can get him back to averaging 17 yards per catch like he was when he was a deep threat in Pittsburgh and combine that with what he's producing now, you'll be looking at a player who puts up huge numbers. It's all there for him, he just needs Tannehill to hit him in stride on passes beyond 20 yards.
CB: Who is the biggest surprise on the defense?
TL:Jelani Jenkins hands down. You're talking about a player who was on the roster bubble as a second year player and because of injuries has become the team's leading tackler. Always touted for his intelligence and knowledge of the defense, his play on the field had local beat writers calling him “Almost” like in the movie Apacalypto for his penchant of always being in position to make a play only to come up short. But when met with the opportunity of extended playing time, the game slowed down for him and allowed him to play fast. Now those plays he used to almost make, he's making them with consistency, using his ability to diagnose plays versus the run and pass.
CBThe difference between a playoff team and a .500 team is winning the games that you're supposed to win. This would certainly be one of those games for Miami. We saw Cleveland fall into the trap last week following an emotional victory. The Dolphins are coming off a similar type of win, do you expect the Jaguars to have their fullest attention?
TL:If the Jags don't have the Dolphins full attention, it won't be from a lack of awareness from the coaching staff. Philbin has been adamant about not treating the Jags like anything other than an improving team, “just watch the film” that has a good defense and young talented offensive weapons. The Dolphins have had a propensity for slow starts before their turned it around last week, so if this is the trap game for them, getting off to a slow start would be an indication they got full on themselves after the big road victory last week.
Behind Enemy Lines- Dolphins
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