Alain Poupart: The Dolphins defense has been pretty solid since the third week of the season (the first New England game), and that's because they've stopped giving up huge plays in the passing game. The secondary was nothing short of brutal in the first two games, against the Jets and Arizona, but the only team since then to really hurt the Dolphins through the air was Houston, mainly with Andre Johnson. The Dolphins run defense has been pretty strong all season, so it's through the air that New England figures to attack.
2) Joey Porter was a bust a year ago, now he's being hailed as one of the best in the league. What changed with the Dolphins defense to allow him to record so many sacks? And could someone else fill those shoes?
AP: No one else currently on the roster, not even close. There are two main reasons Porter's production has increased so much. The first is that he entered this season healthy, whereas last year he had arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason. The biggest reason, though, is the Dolphins are playing Porter at his natural position, which is weakside linebacker in a 3-4. Most often that not last season, Porter was playing on the strong side and he often was being asked to cover. What Porter does best, by far, is rush the passer. The Dolphins have let him do that this season and he's responded with a monster season.
3) The Dolphins gave up massive chunks of yards to the patriots in 2007, but they seem to have been able to contain deep play threats this year. Is there something about the scheme that enables the Dolphins to stop the deep ball, or is it the talent the field this year compared to last year?
AP: They've been able to stop the deep balls lately, but in the first game against the Jets there was a massive breakdown that allowed a long touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery, and then against Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin had catches of 75 and 79 yards in the first quarter alone. On two of the breakdowns, it appeared that safety Chris Crocker was the culprit and he lost his starting job after two games and eventually was released. Since then, there haven't been bad communication breakdowns. The main players in the secondary are the same as the Patriots abused last year, except for safety Yeremiah Bell, who is back this season -- and playing well -- after coming back from a torn Achilles sustained in the 2007 season opener.
4) The AFC East is known for having teams that run version of the 3-4 defense. Is Miami's scheme really a 3-4 or have they adapted a different approach?
AP: It's a pure 3-4, which is what everyone expected them to run since Coach Tony Sparano is a Bill Parcells protege. The only thing interesting is that Sparano for so long during the offseason and training camp refused to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone, which is what the Dolphins indeed would be playing a 3-4. This is a pure 3-4, unlike what the Dolphins did under Nick Saban, who ran a hybrid defense that would go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 at different times.
5) How have injuries impacted the Dolphins on defense this year? Have they had to adjust much since the beginning of the season?
AP: . The Dolphins have had tremendous luck this season when it comes to injuries, in part because players know the new regime doesn't have much tolerance for guys who can't stay healthy. The only player of note on defense who has missed a significant amount of time is former nickel back Michael Lehan, who ended up being placed on injured reserve after battling injuries since camp. When he did play, he didn't exactly perform particularly well, so it wasn't like it was a major loss. Former first-round pick Jason Allen has replaced Lehan as the extra DB and has done a pretty solid job at it.
Alain Poupart is the associate editor of Dolphin Digest, the Miami Dolphins affiliate on the Scout.com Network
Be sure to look for Part 1 of this series.