1) What is it like in Miami now that Tony Sparano is gone, and was his firing midseason something that had to be done?
Alain Poupart: The mood in Miami pretty much is the
same as it has been since they started playing well following the 0-7
start. The players all backed Sparano and he got a lot of credit for
keeping the team playing hard despite the record, but the players also
are firmly behind interim head coach Todd Bowles. As for the firing,
did it HAVE to be done with three games left? That's debatable, but the
reality was that there was no way he was coming back next season, so
why not get a head start on the coaching search.
2) Will Jason Taylor be back next year? Does he have anything
left in the tank?
AP: Not likely and a little bit. While he hasn't
made any definitive statements yet on next year, Taylor has kind of
hinted on a couple of occasions that this will be his last season. As
to how much he's got left, it's clear he's not an impact player
anymore. He's got six sacks this season, which actually is a pretty
impressive total for a part-time player. But he's also been invisible
for large stretches.
3) What was the catalyst to the Dolphins starting to
turn their 2011 season around after a slow start? Was it
coaching, injuries, strategy?
AP: Some of the players would tell you that what
made a big difference was Sparano changing his regimen after the Denver
game with lighter practices, a later start on Wednesday, etc. Maybe
that's made a difference, but what's also helped is that Matt Moore got
more comfortable with a few more starts at quarterbacks and the defense
finally got healthy. That, more than anything, is why the Dolphins
started turning things around. Don't forget, either, that the last two
losses in the 0-7 start were three-point decisions to the Broncos (when
they blew a 15-0 lead late in the fourth quarter) and against the
4) What was the biggest difference between the 2010 Dolphins
and this year's version?
AP: Off the top of my head, the clear difference is
big plays on offense. The Dolphins had 22 "explosive plays (25 yards or
more) all of last season, and I believe they're already in the low 30s
in 2011. They're now about the same defensively after taking a major
step back early on because of injuries to key guys like Karlos Dansby
and Vontae Davis.
5) How will the Dolphins change their strategy to
slow down the Patriots passing attack, especially after Brady threw for
517 yards in the season opener?
AP: As mentioned before, this is not the same
defense that got torched by Brady in the opener. The hope is that the
Dolphins stick a DB on the Patriots tight ends because Rob Gronkowski
and Aaron Hernandez have killed them the last two years (along with
many other defenses). Of course, it would help if the pass rush could
hurry Brady up a little bit, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.
6) Reggie Bush seems to have finally found a groove. Is this
something that was in the works all season, or is it something new?
AP: No, there really was no reason to think early
in the season that Bush would get on this kind of roll (three straight
100-yard games, capped by a 203-yard effort at Buffalo last Sunday).
Exactly why this has happened is unclear because the offensive line
actually is more banged up now than it was early in the season. Bush
has gotten more carries in recent weeks and he's shown the ability to
handle the increased workload. While the Dolphins still call plays for
Bush to run between the tackles, his success usually has come when he
bounces things outside. Regardless, he has been quite a revelation.
Prediction And Why
AP: Despite their record, I would suggest that the
Dolphins right now are playing like a playoff-caliber team. Matt Moore
is doing good work at quarterback, Bush is running very well and the
defense is playing lights out. That said, it's impossible for me to
envision Miami finding a way to pull off the upset because I just think
Brady will find a way in the end. It won't be easy, though. Patriots,
- Dolphins Game Talk
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