Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins Part 1

The writers from Miami and New England team up to provide unique answers for insiders. In Part 1, Poupart talks about the Dolphins issues.

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 Giants.

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, 24-21.

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