Rick Laughland: Have the Dolphins exceeded your expectations this season? Do you expect them to be in the playoff hunt or are they still a year or two away from contending?
Alain Poupart: There's absolutely no question that the Dolphins have exceeded expectations, and it starts with the impressive performance of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. While he has perhaps not been as spectacular as RG III or Andrew Luck, he's been very solid and has avoided the major swings you normally see from rookie QBs. Because of that, there's no reason to think the Dolphins can't compete for a playoff spot this season. Let's face it, it's not like there are a lot of juggernauts in the AFC. The Dolphins have been in every game they've played this season, the only exception being a 7-minute span in the opener at Houston.
Rick Laughland: From the small sample you've seen, does Ryan Tannehill strike you as a franchise-type quarterback? What impresses you the most about him? What does he need to improve upon?
Alain Poupart: I've been impressed by Tannehill from the time he reported to training camp. From the start, he just looked the part and showed an ability to make all the throws. In particular, his accuracy when throwing on the move is very impressive. He also doesn't get rattled — at all. Put simply, he just looks like he's got the "it" factor. As far as what he needs to improve, nothing really stands out. He just needs to keep progressing and not take a step back (a la Cam Newton) and maybe become a bit more consistent with his accuracy. But at this point, it's difficult to find much to complain about.
Rick Laughland: How has Joe Philbin changed the culture in South Beach? Are you surprised he's letting Reggie Bush get involved in a war of words with Rex Ryan and LaRon Landry? What do you make of this whole hot sauce fiasco?
Alain Poupart: First off, let's not use South Beach because the Dolphins facility is a good 45-minute drive from South Beach. That said, what Joe Philbin has brought is a calm demeanor. He's very detail-oriented but maybe not to the point of being maniacal about it like Tony Sparano, who could tell you exactly the number of snaps each player had played the previous week or even throughout the whole season. I'm not surprised he allowed Reggie Bush to speak his mind because he doesn't appear to be quite as much of a control freak as Sparano was. Besides, it was Mike Pouncey who came up with the juicy stuff this week, and about Aaron Maybin and not LaRon Landry (see dolphindigest.com for Pouncey's harsh words). What do I make of the whole thing? It's a whole bunch of talk, and maybe it's what the Jets need to fire themselves up for this week after the big letdown against New England.
Rick Laughland: Who has been the Dolphins MVP so far this season? Who has been the biggest disappointment?
Alain Poupart: The subject of Dolphins MVP has been a hot topic among Dolphins writers, and the list of candidates would have to include Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and lastly Ryan Tannehill. Yes, Tannehill has been that valuable. If I had to pick one, personally I think Starks has been the most consistently impressive player on the team. He has led what has been a very good defense. As for disappointments, the easy choice would be WR Legedu Naanee, but he got cut after failing to catch a pass in the first three games and then fumbling on his one reception in Week 4. Among those still on the roster, the choice would be second-year TE Charles Clay, a versatile player who has made his share of mistakes so far and hasn't contributed nearly as much as hoped.
Rick Laughland: Finally, looking back, was Hard Knocks a positive thing for the organization or merely a distraction?
Alain Poupart: Not sure "Hard Knocks" really mattered one way or the other. I don't buy into the notion of distraction. The negative with "Hard Knocks" is allowing cameras to show how you handle your business. For example, GM Jeff Ireland didn't come off very sympathetic when he informed Vontae Davis he had been traded and there are those who criticized Philbin for not being forceful enough when he chastised Chad Johnson for his profanity-laced press conference (a criticism I don't agree with in the least). As for benefits, there are none other than raise the profile of your team. But I would argue the only way to raise your profile in South Florida is by winning, which is the only reason fans are starting to pay attention to the Dolphins — not because they were on "Hard Knocks."