Behind Enemy Lines: Hawks at Dolphins Part II

To get the lowdown on the Hawks' next opponent, Seahawks.NET Staff continue a Q & A session with Dolphin Digest's Alain Poupart.

Seahawks.NET: With Miami’s massive roster turnover from a year ago, which player has been the biggest addition to the offense? To the defense?

Dolphins Digest: On offense, there is absolutely no question it has been Chad Pennington. It's given the Dolphins solid quarterback play, something this team hasn't had since the mid-'90s. On defense, the biggest contributors pretty much have been returning players, but I'll go here with nose tackle Jason Ferguson. He's played an important role in the run defense, which for the most part has been real good this year.

SN: Aside from Joey Porter, who else is a pass rushing threat?

DD: Nobody. No kidding. Here's all you need to know: The Dolphins have 18 sacks on the season, and Porter has 11.5 of them. Nobody else on the team has more than two. This is one concern on defense, the fact that nobody else is getting regular pressure on the QB. But, boy, Porter has been a handful.

SN: Why hasn’t Ernest Wilford worked out in Miami?

DD: That's a good question. From what we've seen, his route-running in camp and the preseason wasn't particularly impressive, and he found himself having a hard time getting open. When he did get open, he showed very inconsistent hands. Combine all of that with the fact he doesn't play special teams, and that's why he's been inactive on a regular basis -- although that might change now that Derek Hagan has been released.

SN: How is Jake Long progressing at left tackle?

DD: Long is moving along pretty well, although I can't say he's been necessarily dominating, either. Given his work ethic, though, there isn't anybody down here who doesn't believe he'll be a solid pro for many, many years. Whether he ever becomes a dominant tackle in the mold of Walter Jones, I don't know.

SN: Is Chad Henne the franchise QB South Florida has been waiting for since Marino retired?

DD: Yes, but he's going to have to wait his turn until Chad Pennington's play drops off. Henne looks very, very impressive in the preseason, both from an athletic standpoint and also with his poise. That said, there's every reason to believe he'll be starting at quarterback for this time for a long time.

SN: Has Miami been healthy, or is Tony Sparano engaging in some injury report shenanigans?

DD: It's probably a combination of both. I'm not naive enough to think there hasn't been any shenanigans, and another issue is the new regime doesn't have much of a tolerance for guys who are always injured. One great example was Michael Lehan, who was released a couple of weeks after sustaining the latest in a long line of injuries. Where the Dolphins have been lucky is in avoiding the major, catastrophic injury (see Brady, Tom).

SN: Where can we expect to see Ted Ginn Jr.? In what ways does Miami work to get the ball in his hands?

DD: As Coach Tony Sparano points out very often, it's all going to depend on how the Seahawks defend the Dolphins offense. Against Buffalo two weeks ago, the Bills put Terrence McGee one-on-one on Ginn for most of the day, and the Dolphins abused him all day with deep comeback routes and slants. Then last week against Denver, the Broncos double-teamed Ginn and left Greg Camarillo in single coverage on the other side, and Camarillo wound up with a huge day. There isn't necessarily a set game plan to make sure Ginn gets his catches, it's all based on what Seattle does.

SN: Can you explain what the Wildcat is all about?

DD: Ah, the obligatory Wildcat question. It's the name of a formation where Pennington lines up wide and is replaced at quarterback by Ronnie Brown. Brown lines up in the shotgun formation and Ricky Williams goes in motion in front of Brown right before the snap. After taking the snap, Brown then will either hand off to Williams running toward the sideline or keep it and look for a hole. One wrinkle that showed up in the Houston game a month was Williams taking the handoff, pitching the ball back to Pennington after the quarterback took a few steps backwards, and then Pennington throwing a deep pass to Patrick Cobbs, who had lined up in the slot. The formation produced great results for a three-game stretch against New England, San Diego and Houston, but it has been stopped pretty regularly in the last three games. The Dolphins used the formation five times against Denver last Sunday, and those five plays produced a total of minus-5 yards. The last play saw Brown getting sacked for an 8-yard loss while he was looking to throw the ball. Miami never used the Wildcat in the second half at Denver, and I'm wondering whether it might be put on the shelf for a while.

SN: Miami has used both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams this season. What can we expect to see from that bruising duo?

DD: Both of them again being used. In addition to running both of them in and out of the game, the Dolphins also will use them together at times, most often in the Wildcat formation. But, as mentioned before, I'm not sure how much we'll see the Wildcat on Sunday -- if we see it at all. The running game has been sluggish in recent weeks, so neither Brown nor Williams has put up big numbers. But it's obvious these are two quality backs, so we're looking for a breakthrough performance any week now.



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