Q & A with Jason Cole
A conversation with Miami Herald beat writer Jason Cole
Q: Tell me about the strengths the Dolphins have and if you expected those to be the same when they headed into the season?
JC: I can tell you the front seven on defense, a veteran crew, knows what it's doing for the most part, it doesn't have great depth but so far through the first eight games it's been pretty solid, defensive tackle is okay with Keith Traylor playing very well so far this season, downside is Trevor's obviously you know pretty old at 36, and the other defensive tackle is Vonnie Holiday who is probably undersized for a defensive tackle, playing a little bit out of position at this point in time, they need some young guys to step up there, but it's a solid front seven. The offensive line they have been surprisingly improved only allowed twelve sacks so far, has only played really poorly in two out of the eight games, that would be Kansas City and Tampa Bay and that was primarily because the score was out of hand in both of those games so that the opposing teams could really attack them. This is not as bad an offensive line as Patriots fans saw last year in the game up at New England early in the season where they pretty much manhandled the Dolphins and killed both of the Dolphins quarterbacks, both Jay Fiedler and AJ Feeley and knocked them both for a loop
The wide receivers are a bit decent, not as good as you would hope with Chris Chambers there. He's an extremely talented guy who has not played to a talent in terms of results. Marty Booker is solid. Randy McMichael is probably having his best season, not maybe statistically, but overall if you factor in he's been a very willing blocker.
The running backs are the strength they have been everything the Dolphins hoped for with Ronny Brown, who's probably the best running back in the draft justifying why he was the first running back taken in the draft. Ricky Williams has returned and looks pretty good and strong in the first few games after, first couple of games where obviously his timing was off, and the team as a whole was playing poorly in those first two games those being against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
The secondary, huge weakness, they're awful. There's no other way around it. In four of the last five games if you throw out the New Orleans game, they have allowed 33 out of 65 game third-down conversions - that was against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and last week against Atlanta. That's probably because the coverage is just so poor.
Q: What about the playmakers and the players who left in the offseason?
JC: Patrick Surtain left, Morlon Greenwood, Shannon Night, It was tough. It's not easy to trade Patrick Surtain, but he had the leverage on them [the Dolphins] because of his contract, and he had a team out there that was willing to pay him 14 million dollars up front, that's a bad combo for the Dolphins.
Q: How has his replacement fared so far?
JC: Travis Daniels is OK, I think Patriot's fans would understand this, he's kind of a typical LSU kid, a smart kid. He knows what he's doing. He's never going to do anything to screw things up and he's physically limited. He's not an explosive runner, he's not incredibly fast, he doesn't pursue the ball after it's in flight particularly well. So, you know he's going to fight and he's going to give you everything he can, he's probably better than Randall Gay, but he's not ever going to be a pro-bowler
Q: Would you say there are some strengths that match up well against the Patriots offense or do you think there's a real concern about Tom Brady and his offense?
The Dolphins rush the passer pretty well it works a lot they'll attack the quarterback as much as they possible can. If the line's a little banged up, can you handle it [the Dolphins rush] now? I mean Brady, Brady's great at handling the blitz. He's one of the top few good quarterbacks in the league and number one depending on your matter of taste. The Dolphins love to attack quarterbacks, there's no question about that, and they'll take their shots. In dealing with that,is the Patriot's offensive line, particularly offensive tackles, can the Dolphins get some kind of match up there where they can get Jason Tayalor and Kevin Carter going?
If they can, you know, the game becomes interesting. If they can't you'll see Brady picking apart their secondary, left and right.
Q: The Dolphins defense is ranked 16th overall and 20th against the run. Do you think that the Patriots running attack is going to be able to get anything going against the Dolphins Defense or do you think it's going to be more of a Brady show?
JC: I anticipate it's going to be more of a Brady show, from what I see the Patriots running attack, it's not the kind that gives the Dolphins the same kind of trouble as much as a power game, it's not as much of a classic power game that the Dolphins have had some problems with in recent weeks. Atlanta is more of a power game with [Michael] Vick and [Warrick] Dunn, they still want to run downhill, Kansas City is pretty much a downhill running game. Tampa Bay made a couple of big mistakes in that game that hurt them, so I think the Dolphins can probably hang with the New England's running game. The thing they won't be able to do is hang with the New England's receivers if Brady has time to throw.
Q: I understand that there's some quarterback concerns down there.
Q: Is that an understatement in your opinion?
JC: Well, look, Gus Frerotte's a good man and you know and he's doing the best he can, and he's learning how to play with these new guys and all that kind of stuff I'll put this all on Gus, but I will say this, if you're a quarterback and you don't get hurt once or you don't get knocked down once or you don't get shacked once in a game and you've got a few running backs, Williams and Brown, that have combined for almost 120 yards rushing last game if you don't put up more than 130 yards passing it's on you.
There have been plenty of weeks here where it wasn't all Gus Frerotte's fault. But last week against Atlanta, that's on him. He has shown his limitations. This is why he's a journeyman who has played on (I think) seven teams in twelve years.
What are the options if they decide Frerotte is NOT the solution?
Their thing is that they'll stick with Frerotte till they're out of the race. That could be in two weeks that could be in five weeks. Once they do that, I think is Sage Rosenfels. They traded for this kid Cleo Lemons when they finally dumped AJ Feeley at the trade deadline. Lemons has some physical tools they like. He's not going to play this year. He hasn't been here to know the offense well enough to play with those guys, that's an offseason project.
Sage is a short-term thing, do you have something with him, and you somehow beg borrow steal your way into finding your own Tom Brady Odds are stacked usually against that. More likely they're going to have to draft somebody, or make some big move in the offseason to get a quarterback and make what is probably going to be a very expensive move in the offseason to get a quarterback.
Q: You've had some injuries as well. David Boston is gone. How has that impacted the team?
JC: Not very much. They weren't counting on him, they were hoping they could get something out of him, but they weren't' counting on him.
Wes Welker has turned into a pretty decent number 3 receiver, and Bryan Gilmore a pretty good number four. The sum total of the entire receiving corps is just so-so. David Boston. I hope his body can get back in shape someday. It's a long and tedious process, but there's nothing there right now.
Q: The Dolphins record is 3-5.What has been the typical game for the Dolphins where they show up and this is what you can expect out of them? Which game reflects they type of team the Dolphins are?
JC: It's somewhere between the Buffalo game where they have 5 turnovers and still only lost by a score, and almost had a chance to go in and that game. Somewhere between that game where they mad a lot of mistakes and persevered to overcome them, and the Atlanta game where they have some very definite flaws. Such as the inability to cover and allowed some many third-down conversions, (Atlanta was 11 of 17 in that game), combined with some holes in their run defense. They fought through that game, it was a one-score game, and the reality is that Atlanta could have blown them out pretty easily. Atlanta had two drives of 92 yards, and another of, 70-plus yards, and another long one they only produced 17 points because they had turnovers.
'Are they fighting hard are they competitive?' Yes. 'Are they a good team?' No. Last year was chaos. They were 1-7 at this point and they were an ugly, ugly, ugly 1-7. They were completely uncompetitive in 5 games, and depending on how you view the other two, you can say they were uncompetitive in all seven of their losses. The only reason why they won a game is because of Mike Martz gambling on defense. He called two of the dumbest all-out blitzes I've ever seen. And that's what allowed the Dolphins to beat St. Louis.
Q: How do you think they'll do against the Patriots this week? What will they have to do to come away with a win?
JC: They have to come up with a couple of big plays against the New England secondary and this is the hard part because the Dolphins passing game is very erratic. So 'can you come up with a score or two?' Or a big play that changes field position, that kind of thing. Something that allows [The Dolphins] to get a lead early in the game, and allows them to come after Brady. Brady is going to get points. The Patriots are going to find a way to put up somewhere between 20 and 28 points.
The key is; Can the Dolphins get a cheap score, or two, somewhere and put themselves in position where they can get themselves 23 or 24 points and keep New England to 20 or 21 to eek out a win?
Q: So you see it as a close game?
JC: The Dolphins are not the Colts.
I think the game is going to be close not matter what. New England to me isn't a team that is going to blow someone out. If the game is even going into the fourth quarter, then the Patriots win, but if the Dolphins are up by six or seven going into the fourth quarter then it gets to be interesting.
Thank You Jason.
Jason Cole can be found covering the Miami Dolphins for the Miami Herald. He has a Q& A section on the Herald website where he answers fan questions. E-mail Jason here. More from Jason on the AFC East and the Dolpihns chances will be coming after the game.