2)Can you give us an update on how the rookie defensive draft picks like Merling and Langford are developing?
Alain: As mentioned above, Langford is starting as a third-round pick, and he has looked the part of a 3-4 defensive end from the time he got here. Of course, it helped that he played in a 3-4 in college at Hampton. He's very big and stout against the run, and even can provide a little pass rushing from time to time. As for Merling, he's had to adjust after playing in a 4-3 and he doesn't seem as far along as Langford. But he does flash big-play ability, such as his tackle of Larry Johnson short of the goal line on a fourth-down play in the preseason. He looks like he'll be a starter as well.
3)How would you assess the secondary?
Alain: That's the big concern on defense. The Dolphins were awful against the pass last season (opponents combined for a passer rating of over 90), and it's pretty much the same returning cast. The Dolphins seem OK at cornerback with Andre' Goodman, Will Allen and Michael Lehan, but it's at safety where the concern is. Yeremiah Bell is back after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury, and he's the key back there because he's the one playmaker in the secondary. If he stays healthy, the secondary should be fine, but unfortunately his history has been that he always winds up getting hurt.
4)Parcells is a defensive coach by trade. How much does he lend a helping hand to players and coaches in practice . . .
Alain: We saw Parcells work one-on-one with players throughout training camp, but it wasn't just with defensive players. He also worked with kick returners or receivers or whoever he felt needed instruction at the time. For the most part, though, he just watched the practices from the sideline and let the coaches coach.
5)A key to the 3-4 defense is having dynamic 3-4 OLB's to rush the passer and cause havoc. How would you rate the Dolphins in this area?
Alain: I've already discussed Porter, who is scheduled to start after having back issues during training camp. The Dolphins have four outside linebackers on the roster, with Roth, Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses joining Porter. All three of them have some pass-rushing ability, but none could be called an elite rusher at this point. That's why it's so important for Porter to produce.