10 QUESTIONS Part 1: Patriots vs Dolphins October 8, 2006
Dolphins Digest Associate Editor Alain Poupart is this week's guest on 10 questions.
1) The Dolphins have struggled to win some games lately. What is the general feeling about the team, are they good, are they bad or are they just in need of a few fixes?
AP: If you talk to the players or Nick Saban, everybody will tell you they're a talented team that just need to correct execution mistakes they've been making. But that's probably a little too simplistic. Sometimes they just aren't making plays simply because they're not good enough to make those, not because it's strictly about execution. Saban brought up a 30-yard pass from David Carr to Andre Johnson in last Sunday's loss to Houston as a perfect example of perfect execution because Carr was hit as he threw the ball, it fluttered, yet Johnson came down with the ball despite cornerback Travis Daniels and safety Travares Tillman being close by. Well, the truth of the matter is that Johnson was able to make that catch because Daniels, as he always does, played the receiver and not the ball, and therefore couldn't adjust to the underthrow, and because Tillman, who is suspect when it comes to coverage, was late getting over and really not in a position to make the play. The bottom line is the Dolphins should get better as the season progresses, but maybe their talent level was overrated heading into the season.
2) Just how bad is the situation with Dante Culpepper? Is he on a short leash or is Saban willing to give him some time? What is the general consensus about his backup?
AP:. I left out Culpepper from the first answer because I just knew there would be a question about him coming up. Here's the deal, the situation is slowly getting better and the hope is that it will continue to get better. The truth is it's now obvious Culpepper wasn't ready at the start of the regular season, even if his knee was feeling well enough for him to play. In the first few weeks, he had very little mobility in the pocket, didn't seem comfortable in the least and threw off his back foot way too often. He also was very hesitant and wound up taking a few unnecessary sacks because he just held the ball too long. But he played better last Sunday against Houston, so there's reason for hope. As for backup Joey Harrington, he really hasn't been given much thought because there never was a feeling that Saban would pull Culpepper. That said, the Dolphins would have beaten Buffalo in Week 2 with Harrington at quarterback instead of Culpepper.
3) Miami has some weapons in the passing game in Chris Chambers, Wes Welker and Marty Booker. Do you see them having a good day if Culpepper can get them the ball, or will something stop that from happening?
AP: What will stop that from happening, if anything, is what has been the biggest issue in Miami - the offensive line. Culpepper has been sacked 21 times in four games and even though a few of those are his fault, the line has been simply brutal. Partly because of that, the Dolphins have thrown mostly short passes, which has negated what should be strength on this team.
4) How has the Dolphins running game fared without Ricky Williams? Is there a major drop-off or have other players stepped in to fill the void?
AP: Ricky Williams was the Dolphins' best running back, period, and there's nobody else on the roster who has filled his void. That hasn't mattered, though, because the Dolphins haven't run the ball enough that Ronnie Brown has needed a lot of backup help. Lee Suggs has done just fine in the very limited number of carries he's had. Brown also has run very well, even though poor blocking up front has made his numbers look pedestrian. For the Dolphins offense right now, little matters until the offensive line starts blocking
AP: The Dolphins defense pretty much has been way it was last season, which is to say it's tough to run against, the pass rush is pretty good, but the secondary is very suspect. Will Allen has been a major upgrade over Sam Madison at cornerback, but the safety spot remains a weakness, and it doesn't help that first-round pick Jason Allen hasn't gotten on the field on defense because he's not ready to contribute in that role yet.
See Part Two for Alain's keys to the game and his predictions for the game and the season