Behind Enemy Lines: Return of Joey

The return of Joey Harrington to Detroit will be the lightning topic during Thursday's Thanksgiving Day battle between the former No. 3 overall pick and the Lions. RoarReport.com's Nate Caminata quizzed Dolphin Digest on Harrington's reception in Miami, among many other topics, the final part of our "Behind Enemy Lines" segment.

ROAR REPORT: The million-dollar question: What has the general reception been to Joey Harrington, both in the media, Dolphin nation and locker room? Are they confident with Harrington behind center?

DOLPHIN DIGEST (Alain Poupart): That's an interesting question. The general feeling has been fairly positive because the Dolphins have won their last three games, but everyone knows that the offense is still struggling and they won because of their defense. I don't think many people, media or players, really believe that Harrington is the long-term solution at quarterback, though.

RR: What is the status of Daunte Culpepper's knee? Is the team optimistic that he will eventually regain the starting position down the road?

DD: Before the Minnesota game last week, Culpepper said he was feeling sharp pain in his patellar tendon, which was the kind of news that led many to believe we won't see him again on the field this season. I believe the team is very anxious about Culpepper's ability to regain the form he displayed during his best years in Minnesota.

RR: What does Harrington provide that Culpepper could not?

DD: The two biggest things are the ability to move around in the pocket and also the ability to get rid of the ball quickly. Culpepper was horribly hesitant in the pocket in the first four games and couldn't move very well, so that made him an easy target for opposing pass rushers.

RR: What is the mindset of the players, especially w/ Andre Goodman and Harrington on the roster, entering Detroit on Thanksgiving Day? Are they aware of the circumstances surrounding both players, and will that play a part on Thursday?

DD: You know the players are aware of the circumstances surrounding Harrington because of all the adversity he went through over there. It's clearly not the same situation with Goodman, who wasn't booed mercilessly or criticized at every turn during his time with the Lions. That said, the Dolphins' main focus is continuing to build on the momentum they have and the success it took so long this season to achieve.

RR: Are the Dolphins well-rounded enough of a football team to continue their winning ways?

DD: Not unless the offense improves considerably. In the last two games, the Dolphins scored one offensive touchdown each time, and they can't expect the Dolphins to score defensive touchdowns like they have two of the last three weeks. Because of the way the defense is playing right now, they can be competitive every time out, but they won't beat a Jacksonville, New England or Indy with the offense struggling like it is.

RR: Is Ronnie Brown capable of becoming one of the league's premier running backs, and how has he improved since becoming the team's No. 1 ball carrier?

DD:Brown flashes some big-time ability on occasion, but there's no reason to believe at this point he ever will become an elite back. He just doesn't seem to possess those kind of instincts where he will make the right cut every time. That said, he also hasn't had a lot of help at times this season with one example being last Sunday against Minnesota when he rushed for 2 yards on 12 carries and had zero room to run.

RR: How do you stack the Dolphins' defense against the rest of the league, including teams like the Chicago Bears?

DD: Even though the Dolphins are ranked among the top handful in defenses in the league, I wouldn't put them quite at that level. The three things I would point out: 1) Jason Taylor right now is on a roll the likes of which we don't see very often from a defensive player. 2) The pass defense has improved significantly -- make that, very significantly -- since Coach Nick Saban finally decided to replace Travares Tillman at strong safety with the more athletic and much superior Yeremiah Bell. 3) The Dolphins' run defense is very, very good when nose tackle Keith Traylor is in the lineup, but he's sidelined right now because of a knee injury.

RR: A season and a half into his NFL coaching career, what is the response to former Michigan State coach Nick Saban as the head coach and his moves in Miami to this point?

DD: He has gotten a whole more respect for his coaching than his personnel moves at this point because Ronnie Brown isn't the stud you would expect a No. 2 overall pick to be (even though there wasn't much in the way of can't-miss talent in last year's draft); because this year's first-round pick Jason Allen has made very little contribution on defense; and because of the Daunte Culpepper situation. From a coaching standpoint, Saban clearly doesn't have the aura he brought with him to Miami and people are wondering why the hell it took so long for the team to start playing good football this season after the same thing happened last year.

RR: How did the loss of Scott Linehan affect playcalling? Who has taken over playcalling duties in Miami, and has their been a noticeable drop-off in quality of scheme?

DD: The play-calling has been taken over by new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the former Bills head coach and former Steelers OC. Mularkey came in with a reputation for liking gadget plays and the feeling is that he has overdone at times this season. This examples were a two-point conversion late in the Houston game when he had Ronnie Brown throw a halfback pass on a play that could have tied the game, and also running a double reverse while nursing a three-point lead two weeks against Kansas City. The other issue some have had with Mularkey is that he's been too quick to abandon the running game. Having said all that, I don't think you would find too many people who would tell you that Mularkey has been an upgrade over Linehan.

RR: From an outsider's perspective, what is your brief evaluation of the Detroit Lions and their problems as an organization and/or football team?

DD: From an organizational standpoint, it seems pretty obvious that they just haven't drafted very well with the wide receiver fiasco jumping out really, really badly. It also seems that year in and year out the Lions have issues along the offensive line, which also doesn't speak well for the personnel department. As for this season, it seems to me that the Lions are a lot better than a 2-8 team but just always seem to find a way to lose -- much like what was happening to the Dolphins early in the season. From what I've seen, most of the issues have been on defense, but it seems that every time the defense plays well, the offense decides to have a bad game.


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