Leberfeld: Hudson Houck is supposed to be the best offensive line coach in football. Why can't he get through to this group?
Poupart: That's one of the best and most disturbing questions around this team. It must be pointed out that the talent up front appears marginal at best, but it's pretty much the same group that was playing pretty well down the stretch. The feeling is the line will get better at some point, but there just aren't enough pieces for this group to ever be more than adequate.
Leberfeld: Why did Nick Saban think that this patchwork secondary he put together was going to be successful?
Poupart: Saban's background is as a defensive back, so he obviously thinks he can mold a lot of people into successful DBs. But again here, as with the offensive line, the talent is marginal at best. Will Allen has played pretty well at cornerback for the most part, but none of the other three current starters -- Renaldo Hill, Travares Tillman and Travis Daniels -- have done much in coverage. It actually could be argued that Andre Goodman played much better than Daniels while Daniels was sidelined by an ankle injury. Goodman might return to the starting lineup against the Jets because Daniels is nursing a knee injury.
Leberfeld: Saban seems to intimidate a lot of reporters in South Florida. Would you agree with this?
Poupart: I'm not sure it's really a question of intimidation because the tough questions generally get asked. To say the relationship is stormy certainly would be accurate because Saban will get agitated by a question on a very frequent basis. By my estimation, it's very similar to what goes on in Dallas with Bill Parcells and in New York with Tom Coughlin.
Leberfeld: Is the Front Seven the strength of this team?
Poupart: The defensive line is the strength of this team. Nose tackle Keith Traylor is having a tremendous season up front, Dan Wilkinson has played very well in a backup role and Jason Taylor has really come on the last couple of weeks, not to mention the play of Kevin Carter and Vonnie Holliday. The linebackers, specifically Zach Thomas and Channing Crowder, have made a lot of tackles, but they also have not made any impact plays.
Leberfeld: When Paul Zimmerman predicted the Dolphins would go to the Super Bowl, what was your reaction?
Poupart: It was like, "Woh, down boy!" Having said that, I did expect the Dolphins to challenge for the AFC East title, but at the time I was thinking that A) Culpepper could function despite not being 100 percent, which he couldn't; B) the offensive line would pick up where it left off last year; and C) the secondary actually would be better than last year because the feeling was that the new guys they brought in were better in coverage.
7)What ever happened to Manny Wright?
Poupart: I'm not sure we have enough space to fully explain his situation. The Reader's Digest version is this: He appears to be a highly immature kid who just isn't willing to pay the price to be an NFL player. He wound up gaining about 30 pounds in the offseason after going home to Southern California because, he said, of his mother's cooking. Then he came back, never got himself totally back to his original weight, apparently was unhappy with where he was on the depth chart, left the team, asked to be traded. Nick Saban made it clear he wasn't about to let a player dictate where he would play, so he simply put him on a reserve list and let him sit out the season.
Leberfeld: Is Nick Saban the GM hurting Nick Saban the coach?
Poupart: Certainly appears so. Some of the Dolphins' big acquisitions of this offseason -- L.J. Shelton, Culpepper, Hill, to name three -- haven't really panned out yet, and the Dolphins have gotten nothing so far out of first-round pick Jason Allen, who the team certainly could use in the secondary.
Leberfeld: Miami is considered a somewhat fickle sports town. Do you see the no-show problem rearing it's ugly head again?
Poupart: There is no question that will happen. Always has, probably always will. A good barometer will come after the Jets game when the Dolphins play host to the Green Bay Packers. The Favre factor might bring in some fans, but there won't be much interest in the game otherwise, especially if the lose Sunday.
Leberfeld: How has Ronnie Brown played, and how good can he be?
Poupart: Ronnie Brown has played about as well as you can play behind that offensive line, except for that first-quarter fumble last Sunday at New England. The thing with Brown is that he's not a breathtaking, get-a-lot-yards-on-his-own type of back. He's a grind-it-out guy who can get 2-3 extra yards on a run simply by carrying a couple of defenders with him. There's no question he's a good back, but at this stage I'm not sure I ever see him becoming a special back. It was just the Dolphins' luck that the one year they had a really high draft pick, there was not that franchise back (think LT) available. Then again, with a good offensive line, Brown probably would finish with around 1,500 yards.
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