Behind Enemy Lines: Pats - Dolphins Part 1

Dolphin Digest Insider Alain Poupart answers 6 burning questions about the Fins in Week 8.

Patriots Insider Jon Scott asked Dolphin Digest Editor Alain Poupart for his take on the Pats - Fins matchup in Week Eight.  Here's what Poupart had to share about the Dolphins.,

1) The Dolphins front seven seems to improve every year (in recent years).  How accurate a statement considering the team was ranked  21st overall in 2012?

Alain Poupart: The strength of the Dolphins defense for the last several years has been its defensive line, in particular the defensive tackles. It's especially true this year with Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick all playing really good football and forming a tremendous three-man rotation. An issue up front this year has been the injury to Cameron Wake, who has played 22 snaps the last three games. As for the linebackers, newcomers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler were supposed to help produce more big plays because of their speed but they have yet to really make an imnpact.

2)  Who will he Dolphins assign to cover Rob gronkowski in this game, or will they use some type of zone coverage?

AP: The Dolphins don't tend to do a lot of matching up, so I'm guessing you're going to see different players taking turns covering Gronk. When the Dolphins are in man coverage, you could expect to see Reshad Jones or Chris Clemons in coverage, but there'll be a lot of zone coverage as well. The one thing that's clear, the Dolphins need to do a better job against Gronkowski than they did against Jimmy Graham in the Monday night game at New Orleans.

3) The Dolphins secondary seems to be about where they were in 2012. Llast year's group yielded 248 yards per game (27th overall) while in 2013 they're giving up more yards (269/game. What's different about this year's group?

AP: More playmaking. This year's secondary has given up its share of big plays, which also happened last year, but they've also done a better job of creating turnovers. Miami already has gotten seven interceptions from its defensive backs this season, as opposed to nine for all of 2012. And that''s despite playing four games without cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who had two picks in the opener at Cleveland. The other big change is the presence of Brent Grimes, who is the best cornerback the Dolphins have had in a decade, if not longer.

4)  How is the Ryan Tannehill development going?  Better or worse to compared to the struggles we've seen from other QBs in his Draft class? Though he may not be Andre Luck or RGIII, was he worth they first round pick the team used on him (so far)?

AP: Ryan Tannehill is making some progress, but there still are bouts of inconsistency and some finer points he needs to get better at, such as pocket presence and avoiding staring down his receivers. He has, however, been accurate more consistently than he was last season. Of course, any talk about Tannehill needs to include the fact that he's not getting much help from the offensive line. As for the big question of whether he was worth the first-round pick the Dolphins used on him, I'd be inclined to wait until the end of the season to make that call.

5)  The Dolphins are 3-3 so far. Are they about where you expected them to be at this point of the year?

AP: The Dolphins are about where I expected them to be in terms of record, but not in terms of how they got there. It's been a weird year, really. The truth is the Dolphins have had a lot of injuries on defense, their offensive line has been really bad, so in that sense they should be happy to be 3-3, especially considering they were outgained in each of their first five games. Four of Miami's first six games came down to the wire, and they split those four games. So they're about where they should be. The troubling aspect for the Dolphins and their fans is they're heading in the right direction.

6) The Dolphins paid a ton of money to sign Mike Wallace in the offseason, yet he's only third on the team in receptions and has made more news for negative reasons than big plays. Has he been a disappointment?

AP: In the sense that there was an expectation — mostly by fans and some media members — that Wallace would be catching a 50-yard touchdown pass every game, yes, Wallace's production has been disappointing. He and Ryan Tannehill are still working on establishing a rapport, the kind of rapport Tannehill has with fellow starting wideout Brian Hartline. Wallace also has dropped his share of passes. That all said, there's no question the Dolphins have benefited from Wallace's presence on the field because opponents clearly respect his speed and that's opened things up underneath for Hartline and the third wide receiver, Brandon Gibson, who has proven to be a very good free agent acquisition.

Be sure to check out Part 2 on the Patriots

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