10 Questions: Patriots - Dolphins Part 2

In part one Dolphins Insider Alain Poupart of Dolphin Digest shared his thoughts on Miami's ground game, Dante Culpepper's struggles, the defense and more. In part two Alain confirms our suspicions of the Dolphins biggest problems. His prediction for the season and his thoughts on what he would do if he were in Nick Saban's shoes may surprise you.

10 QUESTIONS - Part 2: Patriots vs Dolphins October 8, 2006

Dolphins Digest Associate Editor Alain Poupart is this week's guest on 10 questions.

6) What's the biggest weakness of the Dolphins right now? And what are they doing to address it?

AP: As you can probably surmise from the previous answers, it's the offensive line by far. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot that can be done about it four games into the season. The Dolphins did insert longtime left tackle Damion McIntosh at the right guard spot last week, but how much of an impact that will have remains to be seen.

What the Dolphins hope is that the offensive line can repeat what it did last year when it came on strong down the stretch after a difficult start. But the offensive line wasn't this bad early last season.

7) What is the biggest strength of the Dolphins and how do you think they should use that against the Patriots?

AP: Right now, the team's biggest strength has been stopping the run, which could help neutralize Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. What should be the biggest strength is the ability to throw the ball downfield with Culpepper and Chambers and Booker and McMichael. Unfortunately, we have seen no signs of that strength yet this season, and -- at the risk of being redundant -- we won't until the offensive line protects better and Culpepper feels a little more comfortable. The Dolphins have had to max-protect quite a bit, and that also doesn't help the downfield passing game. I would expect -- and hope -- that the Dolphins would take a couple of shots downfield to exploit the Pats secondary.

8) When Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z predicted the Dolphins to go to the Super Bowl, was he on medication, or did you expect the same thing heading into the season? What do you expect now?

AP: The Super Bowl prediction was a little surprising, even to the most optimistic people down here. I did think the Dolphins were good enough to challenge the Pats for the AFC East. The big problem here is that everybody was buying into the idea that Culpepper would just start the season and be right where he was in 2004. Nobody also could have foreseen the offensive line regressing so badly after their late-season progress in 2005.

Now, it's difficult to be very optimistic because the Dolphins have been so mediocre. There's also the Nick Saban factor, in that he was a big reason for the high expectations but now has to prove his mettle if this thing is going to get turned around. My gut feeling is this team will finish around .500.

9) Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson talked some smack before the Bengals game, and then the Patriots quietly neutralized him. Are there any trash talkers on the Dolphins? And have they been saying much about the game this week?

AP: The Dolphins have a couple of guys who don't mind talking, but no trash talkers, per se. Besides, the feeling here is that Nick Saban quickly would muzzle any player who started some verbal jarring.

10) If you were Nick Saban for the day, what would be your plan to defeat the Patriots? (Give us three things you'd do).

AP: 1 -- Use the same kind of psychological ploy that was used after the Dolphins lost at Cleveland last November to fall to 3-7.

2 -- Do whatever you need to do to get pressure on Tom Brady. Hopefully, the D-line can take care of it, but blitz one or more guys if that doesn't get it done because Brady will have a field day against the secondary if he has time.

3 -- Offensively, I'm thinking the way to go is a lot of quick passes because I'm not sure the line can keep the pass rushers off Culpepper for very long.

Prediction for the game? (and why)

AP: For some reason, I think back to the 2004 season and see similarities in that the Dolphins head to Gillette Stadium a wounded team, but still can make things difficult. Logic says the Dolphins can't compete with their offense, but I see their defense keeping it close until the Pats pull away late. Say, New England, 20-17.

Prediction for the season? (and why)

AP: As I said before, I think the Dolphins will finish right around 8-8 because some of their problems will fade with time (such as Culpepper becoming more and more efficient, the offensive line playing a little better) while others (pass defense) will keep them from becoming a team that can reel off a lot of victories.

Curiosity question: Who do you see as the top 3 teams in the AFC?

AP: Indy is the first one that jumps out. I think you have to put Baltimore in there because McNair can pull out games for them. I'd throw San Diego in there, but won't because Schottenheimer's ultra-conservatism gives the Chargers no margin for error. That leaves as my third team ... New England. I left out Cincinnati because they can't stop the run; Denver because Plummer looks like he might be error-prone again this year; Pittsburgh because Roethlisberger doesn't look right; and Jacksonville because their offense is still not up to par.

See Part One for Alain's keys to the thoughts on Dante Culpepper and the Maimi ground game


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