AFC East: Dolphins Finding Success

Don't look now, but the Miami Dolphins are on a win streak. Part of that success comes from the contributions of Miami defender Karlos Dansby. AFC East report inside.

Look who's on a roll

   --The Dolphins are one of just nine teams with current win streaks of two or more. Coach Tony Sparano said it's a sign of showing how difficult it is to string together victories. The Dolphins won consecutive games for the first time since starting 2-0 last season.

   "It's pretty difficult," Sparano said. "I mean, I think that when you look in our league right now. Of course, there's Green Bay and there's some teams like that are just out there and they're in front. But you look at the rest of it, what happened last night with the Patriots and the Jets. And Buffalo yesterday, just in our own division. I think that there's pretty good parity. I don't know if that's the right word there in that situation, but nobody is stringing large chunks of winnings."

   --After the game, linebacker Karlos Dansby told reporters that he was the best linebacker in the game. When asked for a response, coach Tony Sparano said he had no problem with Dansby's comments that could be considered arrogant by some. Sparano actually embraced the fact a player was willing to show confidence, especially with the Dolphins needing any form of motivation after the 0-7 start.

   "I like the confidence, I sure do," Sparano said. "I want all my players to be confident. Who's the best, who's not the best, any of those things, you guys can figure those things out. But Karlos is playing pretty good football right now. He's done a nice job as of late."

   --Sparano offered no update on the free safety position. Tyrone Culver has started four straight games since Reshad Jones was injured. Despite Jones being healthy, it's likely that Culver remains on the first-team. Sparano said both will continue to split reps at the position.

   "I thought Ty played well yesterday," Sparano said. "I thought they both played well. Reshad was in and out of there, was active. I thought Ty did some good things, too."

   --Despite the early-season struggles, the Dolphins have remained loose. They've shown it through on-field celebrations and dances but Jared Odrick's moves did not impress coach Tony Sparano. After sacks, Odrick sometimes does the "Pee-Wee Herman" dance. Odrick has recorded a sack in three straight games.
   "I told (Jared) Odrick on the sideline I thought it was an ugly dance," Sparano said, laughing.

Trimmer Dansby gets back up to speed

   The Dolphins' defense didn't have much bite the first half of the season, and it appeared Karlos Dansby's appetite had a lot to do with the unit's early struggles.

   Dansby is the inside linebacker around whom defensive coordinator Mike Nolan built his 3-4 scheme.

   The eight-year veteran, who signed a five-year, $43 million deal ($22 million guaranteed) last year, thought he was maintaining a proper diet during the offseason, which featured an NFL lockout. But by the time the NFL's doors were open, Dansby weighed 270 pounds, he recently admitted.

   It took him nearly three months to trim down to 246 pounds, which was the weight he played at when he delivered a 10-tackle, one-sack and one-interception performance in Sunday's 20-9 win over the Redskins.

   "I was eating salads and certain dressings," said Dansby, who has contributed 62 tackles, two sacks and one interception in his nine games. "I thought I was eating good."

   Dansby also strained his groin in a Sept. 18 loss to the Texans, which limited his ability to run full speed. As a result, Kevin Burnett was being used in the nickel and dime packages as the linebacker covering tight ends and tailbacks while Dansby came off the field.

   Now it appears the Dolphins' two inside linebackers are splitting those duties, which makes the scheme a bit more complicated to diagnose.

   In his first five games, Dansby contributed 21 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. In his past four, he's registered 40 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defensed.

   "You knew some of the guys were heavier than they had been. Some of them were lighter than they had been," coach Tony Sparano said. "Nobody knows what they were doing. I couldn't tell you if it was from eating salads. ... I just don't know. You can't put your finger on what they were doing, as far as what they considered getting ready to play football and what we would consider here.

   "I realize that a lot of players think the offseason program is too long, and in some cases maybe it was too long. But it's a necessary evil to get yourself ready to play the season. That is something I'm sure, this coming offseason, players around the league will probably appreciate it a little bit more."

   --The Dolphins won their second straight game and once again turned in another solid defensive performance. Sunday's 20-9 victory against the Washington Redskins made it eight consecutive quarters that the Dolphins hadn't allowed a touchdown.

   Turnovers were the story for Miami. They entered with just four forced turnovers, which ranked last in the NFL. Miami recorded two against the Redskins, both on interceptions. Linebacker Karlos Dansby's interception early in the fourth quarter was perhaps the game's biggest play. It came with Washington threatening to take the lead, but the stop was all the Dolphins needed.

   They used the turnover to seal the victory with a 10-play, 81-yard drive that was capped with an 18-yard touchdown by running back Reggie Bush. Coach Tony Sparano said the biggest difference in defensive play is their "underneath coverage," meaning the linebackers are playing solid.

   Dansby and Kevin Burnett have both upped their game in recent weeks, recording the bulk of their production the last four games. They were partly responsible for the Dolphins allowing just 246 yards to the Redskins, including just 61 on the ground.

   The question now is whether they maintain this defensive play against stronger opponents. Miami faces division rival Buffalo Sunday and then the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Although the Bills have lost three of four, they still pose a challenge with running back Fred Jackson.


More Dolphins  news at: Dolphin Digest

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