Behind Enemy Lines

Dolphins Digest Editor Alain Poupart answers 10 questions from editor Todd Korth regarding the Miami Dolphins and their game this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. How disappointed are Dolphins fans with the team's 1-5 start this season?
Alain Poupart: Disappointed, disgusted, fed up. You can apply all of those. It's bad because the expectations, fair or not, were so high. The other thing is nobody saw this coming. With Daunte Culpepper looking just fine in the preseason (partly because everything is at half-speed and defenses don't throw a lot of stuff at offenses), there really was no reason to expect such a horrible showing.

PR: Why have they come up short in five games this season?
AP: More than anything, it's been the offense that has failed the Dolphins, more often because of the quarterback play and the line play. But last Sunday against the Jets, Joey Harrington had a fine game and the line did a nice job, except that the receivers kept dropping passes and Ronnie Brown did a poor job on a couple of short-yardage runs. The defense has played pretty well overall, but it always seems to give up that one or two big plays a game, usually a long pass play or a costly penalty. In short, this is a team that always seems to find a way to lose.

PR: What area of the team is the Dolphins' weakest link, and why?
AP: Now that Culpepper is out of the lineup to focus on completing his recovery from knee surgery, it's a toss-up between the offensive line and the secondary, which is what we suspected heading into the season. The offensive line has been mediocre for the past four years, while the secondary has been bad the last two years despite wholesale changes in back-to-back seasons.

PR: Did Daunte Culpepper return too quickly from his knee injury from last year?
AP: It's pretty obvious now that was the case, but again there were no indications of that during the preseason. The problem, according to Coach Nick Saban, isn't that Culpepper isn't healthy, it's just that he doesn't have the same strength in the knee and therefore can't move around as well. That made him a sitting duck in the pocket and teams just blitzed the Dolphins mercilessly because they knew Culpepper wouldn't hurt scrambling. That's why Saban decided to shelve Culpepper for the time being so he can focus on regaining, as Saban described it, "explosiveness of movement."

PR: If Culpepper was healthy, would the Dolphins still be 1-5?
AP: Absolutely not. The Dolphins lost to Buffalo in Week 2 strictly because Culpepper couldn't get out of the way of anything, so that's one victory they would have had. The feeling is they also probably would have beaten Houston and the Jets with a healthy Culpepper, even though he played fairly well in the fourth quarter of the Houston game.

PR: Is Joey Harrington a temporary replacement for Culpepper, or will he be leading the Dolphins for the rest of the season?
AP: That's a very good question. It depends on how quickly -- or slowly -- Culpepper regains his mobility. The best guess here is that because of the Dolphins' record and the fact they soon will be out of playoff contention, Culpepper might be put on IR so they can just focus on getting him back at full speed for 2007. But that's pure speculation Saban has said this will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, so it's possible Culpepper could be back at any time.

PR: What problems does the Dolphins' 3-4 defensive scheme present to opposing offenses?
AP: The Dolphins actually play a hybrid defense, in that they can go from a 4-3 to a 3-4 without changing personnel because Jason Taylor plays defensive end and outside linebacker. In fact, if you look at the Dolphins' depth chart, it lists the defense as a 4-3. That ability to disguise looks and hides what Taylor will be doing (either rush the passer or drop into coverage) probably is the biggest challenge the Miami defense presents. The Dolphins also have a very good defensive line, with two space eaters in the middle in Keith Traylor and Dan Wilkinson, and the pass-rushing specialist Taylor.

PR: Which players have stood out thus far for the Dolphins on offense?
AP: There's only one really, and that surprisingly has been wide receiver Wes Welker. It's funny because it was suggested early in training camp that Welker might have to fight for his roster spot because of the presence of Marcus Vick as another receiver/returner. But despite being small and not particularly fast, Welker has made play after play for the Miami offense. Having said that, it's a symptom of a struggling offense that the best player on the field has been the third wide receiver.

PR: Which players have stood out thus far for the Dolphins on defense?
AP: Taylor has had a tremendous season so far, not only in run defense but also with three sacks. He has made his share of big plays, as he usually does. Former Packers first-round pick Vonnie Holliday has been solid, as has Kevin Carter. The linebackers haven't made many big plays and the secondary has been mediocre, although Will Allen has played outside of drawing pass-interference penalties.

PR: The Packers have never won a regular season game in South Florida. Can they beat Miami on Sunday at Dolphin Stadium?
AP: The state of the Dolphins right now is such that there is no such thing as a slam dunk for them, so the answer is yes. As poor as the Green Bay defense has been this season, the Dolphins have yet to score more than 17 points in any game, so who knows whether they'll be able to light it up on Sunday. Defensively, it's doubtful the Packers are going to run on the Dolphins, but Brett Favre could have a big day if the pass rush doesn't get to him. When the schedule came out, this was a game that pretty much was penciled in as a win for the Dolphins, but there are no such games for them right now.

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