Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots @ Miami Part I

We asked Miami insider Alain Poupart some questions about the Dolphins this week in our Behind Enemy Lines series. Alain talks about the offense in this first of three parts.

1) Is Chad Pennington the game manager the Dolphins thought they were getting when they signed him before the season, or has he developed into a quarterback who can come from behind if necessary?

Alain Poupart: He has been both, and more. Pennington actually has been even better than the Dolphins ever could have imagined when they signed him in August. In their current four-game winning streak, Pennington had done some of his best work in the fourth quarter: directing an 80-yard touchdown drive to clinch the victory at Denver; directing a nine-minute touchdown drive against Seattle; directing a game-winning field goal drive against Oakland during which he converted a fourth-and-5 with a 7-yard completion to Ted Ginn Jr. He also is the biggest story the Dolphins lead the NFL in fewest turnovers. Put a 92-plus passer rating on top of that, and you have a guy who just might be the team's most valuable player this season.

2) The direct snap plays made popular by the Dolphins (aka the "Wildcat"), have proliferated throughout the NFL. Is it now a staple of Miami's repertoire, or just the same gadget play that the Dolphins trot out every once in a while now?

AP: The Wildcat formation clearly is a staple of the offense and they'll use it anywhere between 4-10 times a game. What the Dolphins have done is add new wrinkles almost every week since they first unveiled the formation in the first New England game. Some of those included Ricky Williams pitching the ball back to Chad Pennington after taking the handoff from Ronnie Brown, the end result being a touchdown pass at Houston; and Brown faking a handoff to Williams and running on the left with Patrick Cobbs as his escort and potential pitch option.

3) What have the Dolphins been able to get from their receivers that they may not have had since the beginning of the season?

AP: Not a ton because the receiving corps still would be considered below average by any standard, but Ginn has been making more plays in recent weeks -- he had a huge game against Buffalo in late October and another big game against Oakland last Sunday -- and Greg Camarillo has been a reliable option all year. But it's not like the Dolphins have a receiver the opponent has to fear, such as Randy Moss.

4) Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams – who gets the yards the Dolphins need on a third and short play?

AP: It can be anybody. Shoot, it even could be fullback Lousaka Polite, a recent pick-up who convert fourth-and-1 plays against both Denver and Seattle. More often than not, it will be Ronnie Brown, but the Dolphins have been very unpredictable that way, much like their entire play-calling overall.

5) What have teams done to frustrate the Dolphins offense, and do you think the Patriots defense is capable of doing similar things to slow down Miami?

AP: With the exception of the Baltimore game on Oct. 19, the Dolphins actually have had good success offensively against every single opponent. There have been some lulls here and there, but this offense has been remarkably consistent. What Baltimore did against the Dolphins to shut them down simply was totally control the line of scrimmage, and that's where New England could have success. The Dolphins offensive line is a work in progress and it actually was a shock to see how easily it dominated in the first New England game. I wouldn't expect that kind of domination again. But how well the offensive line can control the Patriots' front will go a long way toward determining the winner of the game.

Alain Poupart is the associate editor of Dolphin Digest, the Miami Dolphins affiliate on the Network

Be sure to look for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

Also, check out Patiots Insider analysis of Dolphins questions Here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (coming)

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