Archive for: September 2011

Week 4 Preview: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers – West Side Woes?

Following an embarrassing loss to the Browns last week, this Sunday, the Miami Dolphins (0-3) head west to take on the Chargers (2-1) for a 4pm start.  Both, the Dolphins and Chargers, are coming off poor performances against below par teams.  The Chargers had decent numbers last week, but committed too many mistakes that let the lowly Chiefs hang around.  The Dolphins, similarly, had the lead for the majority of the game, but, unlike the Chargers, could not seal the deal.  I have seen comparisons of these teams that say they are very similar, but will that make for a close game? Let’s see…

What to Watch For:

Chargers’ Offense vs. Dolphin Defense:

When examining the Chargers’ offense it’s easy to figure out where to start: Pro-Bowl QB Phillip Rivers.  Last week, Rivers threw for 258 yards on 24 completions and had 2 INTs.  I’m going to chalk up that performance to him having a bad day, considering Rivers has thrown for the 4th most yards (979) this season.  The matchup of Rivers against the Miami Dolphin defense is scary at best for Dolphin fans.  It’s no secret the Dolphins’ secondary has more than struggled this season and I do not foresee that changing this week as CB Vontae Davis did not make the trip with the team.  If the Dolphins’ 30th ranked pass fails to right the ship without Davis, Rivers may drop Brady type numbers on Sunday.

The Chargers’ offense relies heavily on their passing attack; having attempted 126 passes to 81 rushes in 2011.  Despite their reliance on Rivers, the Chargers’ backfield will feature two RBs: Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.  Both backs have combined for 271 rushing yards in 2011, but their main contributions come in the passing game.  Together, the two backs have accounted for 34 receptions for 341 yards and 2 TDs.  These two may play a larger role this Sunday as, future Hall of Famer, TE Antonio Gates’ status looks bleak.  This is very good news for the Dolphins as it takes away one of Rivers’ favorite targets and Gates is a TE (whom the Dolphins simply cannot cover no matter the quality).  This is a big loss for the Chargers, but definitely not a fatal one.  Rivers’ will still have quality targets in Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, and his RBs.

Dolphin Offense vs. Chargers’ Defense:

The Chargers come into Sunday with a solid defense to backup their equally solid offense.  The Charger have the 9th ranked passing defense, 19th ranked rushing defense, and the 8th ranked defense overall.  You might think their 19th ranked rush defense would be the point of attack for the Dolphins given how well Daniel Thomas has played the previous two weeks right?  I thought so too, but that idea went out the window once reports came in that Thomas did not make the trip with the team due to his ailing hamstring. Great.  This might be the explanation for the Dolphins acquisition of RB Steve Slaton.  Hopefully Slaton will have picked up enough of the Dolphins’ playbook to possibly take advantage of this Charger weakness. Oh, maybe Bush will give it a shot?

As I said in my Week 3 Wrap-up, I felt that Henne had another good week.  There had been rumors following last week’s game that the Dolphins were looking into trading for Carson Palmer.  I do not think that this is a good move or the answer for this team’s problems.  Henne has been playing better and Palmer wouldn’t make that much of a difference.  Until he would learn the offense the season would be over (at least our chances of making the playoffs), you’re not building your franchise around him because of his age, and you’re giving up valuable draft picks.  That being said, it’s time for Henne to stop “not losing games” and start winning them.  As I said, he has been playing better, but the redzone struggles are no longer acceptable.  The Dolphins’ offense has shown they can drive the ball, but now it is time to finish those drives.  For this to happen, the line has to play good (not even great, just good), then Henne and the receiving core have to get on the same page, and they have to change up the play calling.  As will be the case every week, if the Dolphins fail to put the ball in the endzone, then they will have NO shot at winning this one.

Two Minute Drill:

Dolphins’ Key to the Game: Damn the Rivers.  If the Dolphins allow Phillip Rivers to get into a groove, then it’s going to be a long, painful day for Miami fans.  The Chiefs were able to force Rivers into making mistakes.  The Dolphins must do the same if they want to remain in this game.

Chargers’ Key to the Game: Safe and Sound.  The Chargers do not need to be flashy in this matchup to be successful.  The Dolphins’ secondary can be picked apart with basic passing plays; especially with a QB the caliber of Phillip Rivers.  To win this game the Chargers do not need to hit big plays, but rather hit short passes and keep the ball safe.

Dolphins’ Player to Watch: The Defensive Line.  I usually save the “Player to Watch” for someone I think will have a big game, but this week it’s the players that NEED to have a big game.  I have pretty much given up on the secondary’s ability to stop the pass, so this leaves the task of stopping Rivers to the D-line.  The D-line needs to finally come alive and get to Rivers consistently to break up his rhythm.

Chargers’ Player to Watch: Phillip Rivers.  No shocker here.  If Rivers can have a solid day with minimal mistakes, then the Chargers will find themselves in position to get the W.

How it plays out:  After looking at the numbers, I do believe these two teams do matchup better than I originally thought.  Despite this, Phillip Rivers is still Phillip Rivers and the Dolphins’ secondary is the Dolphins’ secondary.

Prediction: 27-17 Chargers. Rivers and the Chargers’ offense control this game.  They do not make many mistakes and put the ball in the endzone.  Henne and the Dolphins offense do not.  Failed opportunities and poor defense continue to plague the Dolphins.

If my prediction holds up, I hope it doesn’t, the Dolphins will drop to (0-4) entering their bye week.  One has to wonder if Tony Sparano can survive another loss.  Something will have to be done, but what can be done and will it honestly make a difference?

As  always, PhinsUp!                                                                                                                                                                                 -John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Thank you for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and be sure to leave a comment.

Miami Dolphins Week 4 News and Notes: Add a RB?

Transactions:

The Miami Dolphins claimed RB Steve Slaton off of waivers on Wednesday.  Slaton is described more of a speed back.  This acquisition is a bit of a head scratcher considering we have Reggie Bush.  Is this pickup in response to Bush’s lack of production? Should be interesting to see how the Dolphins will fit him in with the rest of the RBs.

Injury Updates:

Injured CB Vontae Davis returned to practice on Wednesday and Thursday.  Though he is now practicing, it is still unclear what his status will be for Sunday.

RG Vernon Carey, who injured his shoulder, also returned to practice on Wednesday.  It is also still unclear what his status will be for Sunday.

LB Jason Taylor was held out of practice on Wednesday as a coach’s decision to give him some rest and he should play on Sunday.

Chargers HOF bound TE, Antonio Gates, is struggling with an ailing foot and his status for Sunday is unknown, but from reports it does not look good for him.  This is great news for the Dolphins as covering TEs has been more than a struggle.

-John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Week 3 Wrap-Up: Different Sunday, Same Old Miami Dolphins

Okay, stop me if you heard this one before: This past Sunday, the Dolphins lost what could have been an easy win. Stop?  The offense looked sharp at times, but when in the redzone they seemed to hit an imaginary wall at the 10 yard line. Stop? Meanwhile, the Dolphin defense was able to hold a lead for the majority of the game, but gave it away as the game was winding down. Stop? I wish I could.

Dolphins Defense:

How do I sum up a Dolphins’ defensive performance that only allowed 280 total yards?  I’ll start by putting those 280 yards into perspective.  First, this was against a Browns’ offense; one that averaged only 294 total yards/game in their first two games, only possessed the ball for a little more than 20mins and was also missing their star player, Madden cover-boy, RB Peyton Hillis.  The lack of Hillis should have provided the Dolphins with a huge advantage. Rather, in Hillis’ absence, the Dolphins D let backup RB, Montario Hardesty (who had 19 total rushing yards coming into Sunday), go for 67 yards on 14 carries for an average of 4.8y/c.  His total yardage may not have been special, Hardesty’s near 5 yards per rush setup the Browns for short conversions and forced the Dolphins to play against the rush.  This proved to be too much from them.

The Dolphins’ defense did not play bad the entire game.  Rookie Jimmy Wilson was able to pick Colt McCoy early on.  Wilson did have an impressive day overall as Vontae Davis was sidelined with an injury.  The secondary was able to hold McCoy to 19/39 for 210 yards.  Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ defense hasn’t learned to cover a TE.  Browns’ TE Ben Watson was their leading receiver with 5 catches for 64 yards.  The defense also continued to give up the big play, as the Browns’ first TD game on a 33 yard pass and the second TD was a back breaking 14 yard pass giving the Browns the lead with 43 seconds left.  Overall, the D played okay, but it was against the Hillis-less Browns offense and lost the game for the Phins.

Dolphins Offense:

The Dolphins’ offense continued its Jekyll and Hyde act.  Shouldn’t a team start slow, make adjustments, then improve?  Not our Miami Dolphins.  Following the Jimmy Wilson interception, the Dolphins’ offense was able to drive the remaining field and put it in the endzone with a Daniel Thomas screen pass.  It was a thing of beauty and had me thinking we were going to roll.  I was wrong.  The offense then regressed as the next few Dolphin trips to/near the redzone resulted in a fumble by a disappointing Reggie Bush and settling for field goals.  One of my keys for the Dolphins I had in my week preview was to put the ball in the endzone when they had the chance, they simply did not do that.  They continue to settle for field goal attempts; which are no longer a given anymore.  What happens to the play calling when we get close?  It seems we break away from what got us there.  Yes, I understand it’s a shorter field, but it’s not like we use 30 yard plays to get down the field.  Henne seems to like to run, try rolling him out and give him options.  Something different?

Despite their overall inability to put the ball in the endzone, the offense did have some bright spots.  Chad Henne, let me come to his defense in the midst of rumors the Dolphins are targeting Carson Palmer.  I think Henne had another solid day and should not take the majority of the blame for this loss.  Henne finished 19/29 for 255, 1 TD, and 1 (crucial) Int.  I feel like I have been saying it all year, but Henne played good, but not good enough to win the game.  Where Henne struggles is in the redzone, duh, and reads across the middle.  The O-line may be to blame for some of Henne’s downfalls.  The O-line played horrendously, again, getting Henne rushed, hit, and sacked (5 times) far too often.  If a change is going to happen, the O-line should be near the top of the list, far above Henne.

Another bright spot was Brian Hartline.  Maybe it was his return home, but Hartline caught every ball thrown to him resulting in 4 rec. for 87 yards.  He does not have the speed of Welker, but seems to be of that mold.  With this receiving core, we should be able to have a new guy have this performance each week.  My brightest spot for this Miami Dolphins’ offense has to be Daniel Thomas.  It is still way too early for him to be proven, maybe I’m just fishing for some news, but I’m quickly falling in love with this guy.  Thomas finished Sunday with 23 carries for 95 yards and 3 rec. for 27 yards and a TD.  This guy is only two games into his career and having solid numbers for an offense that needs it.  Again, really early, but I like what I have seen.

Overtime:

Dolphins Key Player: Daniel Thomas. My last few sentences pretty much some up my feelings.  Tough runner, has speed, had a receiving TD.

Browns Key Player: Montario Hardesty.  He filled in nicely for Peyton Hillis and prevented the Dolphins from being able to solely focus on stopping the pass (not that they could anyway).

Defining Moment: The Dolphin defense’s lack of discipline.  The defense had far too many penalties that extended the Browns’ drives and gave up that huge drive to lose the game.

A Look Ahead: Next Sunday, the Dolphins travel west to face the SD Chargers.  Folks, this one could get ugly, quick.  The Chargers did struggle against the lowly Chiefs this past Sunday. Perhaps they slept on them, but all I know is Rivers could but up Brady numbers on this Dolphins defense.

Final Thought: This game places the Dolphins organization in a volatile position.  The organization has said that Coach Sparano will not be fired, but you have to believe the fans won’t settle for nothing being done.  As I mentioned, there are reports that the Dolphins are looking into acquiring the Bengals Carson Palmer.  Is this really the answer?  Before the season I would have said sure, but honestly, I cannot complain too much about the way Henne has played.  In my humble opinion, moves need to be made on the O-line, the secondary, the LB core, and/or the kicking game before the QB spot.  On the other hand, what could the change hurt?  Maybe it brings some optimism to the locker room and South Florida?  Something has to give here, question is what.

PhinsUp!                                                                                                                                                                                                    -John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, be sure to leave a comment.

Browns’ RB Peyton Hillis Out Today

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that Peyton Hillis is out today: “@AdamSchefter: Browns RB Peyton Hillis is out today.”

This places the game in the hands of Colt McCoy and Cribbs.  I hope the Dolphins took the advice in my week 3 preview and did not solely focus on stopping Hillis.

You have to wonder, is this the start of the Madden Curse for Hillis? Wish him the best.

Phins Up!

-John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Week 3 Preview: Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns – Must Win?

Is the Miami Dolphins’ 1pm game this Sunday at 1-1 Cleveland a must win?  It depends on who you’re asking about? Chad Henne? Tony Sparano? The Miami Dolphins’ 2011 season?  What happens to them if we lose?  Before we can get into those discussions, we have to actually play the game.

What to expect:

Brown’s  Offense vs. Dolphin Defense:

In their first two games, the Browns, have recorded a loss to the surprising Bengals and a win last week against the Colts.  In these two games, based on the numbers, their offense has performed poorly.  The Brown’s offense is ranked 25th in passing, 21st in rushing, and 26th in total offense (and this is against the Bengals and Colts…ouch).  On the other hand, from the little I have seen of them, the Browns’ offense hasn’t looked as bad as the numbers make them out to be.  Regardless of how bad the Browns’ numbers are, with the way the Dolphins D has played, we have no room to take them for granted.

I have read that the Dolphins may be adapting the strategy of “stop Hillis and let Colt McCoy beat us.”  This would be a mistake in my book for a few reasons.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Hillis is an extremely good running back that will have a major say in the outcome of the game, but stopping the pass needs to be the Dolphins’ concern.  Until the Dolphins show they can stop their opponents passing consistently, it needs to be their main concern.  In his first two games, McCoy averaged 200 yards/game, threw 3 TDs, and 1 Int.  By no stretch are these stats outstanding, but McCoy jumped up 30 QB rating points from week 1 to week 2.  Combine McCoy’s performance with the Dolphins 30th ranked pass defense that is focused on Hillis and it may result in a good opportunity for McCoy to have a break-out performance.  Another reason to focus on the pass is Vontae Davis was just listed as being out for Sunday, oh boy.  I piece of good news for the Dolphins’ D is, as I am writing this, I have see that Hillis has missed practice on Friday due to an illness and is listed as questionable.  I do not wish illness or injury on anyone, but the Browns not having Hillis would be of great benefit to the Dolphins.  Although, I have to believe that it will not hold him out on Sunday, but, in what would be a new one, it could be the start of the dreaded MADDEN CURSE dun dun dun.

Dolphin Offense vs. Browns Defense:

The numbers have the Miami Dolphins’ offense listed as 9th in passing, 8th in rushing, 10th in total offense.  Yes, that look of disbelief on your face was the same I had when I saw it too.  I thought about why this was so shocking, but it’s semi-believable when you think about it: Henne had a huge game week against NE and the Dolphins have back-to-back 100 yard rushing games.  Where our disbelief really comes from is our inability to put the ball in the endzone, as the Dolphins are ranked 25th in points scored.  The Dolphins have struggled finishing drives for the past several years and cashing in on our opportunities has to happen this week.

Henne came back to earth last week after his game against the Pats.  He does not need to do what he did against the Pats each week, but he does need to be better than he was last week.  At times he was making the right decisions and hitting his receivers, other times he was inaccurate and rushed.  It seems that Henne’s performance all depends on his momentum; when he’s going, he’s real good, but when he’s bad, he’s real bad.  This puts the emphasis on the performance of the O-line.  They have been really weak in pass blocking and need to keep Henne clean to allow him time to make reads and get into a flow.  This may be especially important considering the Browns have the 2nd rated pass defense; take that with a grain of a salt (remember they played the Bengals and Colts).  What I am most excited to see on Sunday is if Daniel Thomas is for real and, if he is, can the Dolphins find a way to mix-up their attacking using Thomas, Bush, and the Receiving core.  The Dolphins have a lot of quality weapons and they just need to figure-out how to use them all; especially in the redzone.

Two Minute Drill:

Dolphins’ Key to the Game: Get off the field (with points).  I feel the key(s) to the Dolphins’ success will come in two areas on Sunday.  The first is to get the defense off the field.  Too often the defense will allow their opponent extend their drive on 3rd down.  They need to tighten up and realize they are one play away from getting the ball back.  Secondly, the Dolphins need to put the ball in the endzone. No more settling for field goals, it should simply be unacceptable when in the redzone.

Browns’ Key to the Game: Arrive Early.  In other words, come out with a stop and a score (or the other way around depending on the coin toss).  Either way, if you can get up on this Dolphins team, it is very hard for them to overcome that adversity and build momentum.  I don’t think the Browns can lose this game in the first quarter, but they may be able to win it.

Dolphins’ Player to Watch: Daniel Thomas.  The Browns have the 24th ranked rush defense (against C. Benson & J. Addai; not exactly elite RBs).  It could be a good time to get Thomas going early and open up the Browns secondary for Henne.  I just hope the Dolphins don’t become one dimensional if Thomas is successful.

Browns’ Player to Watch: Peyton Hillis. Hillis had 94 yards & 2 TDs in a win and 57 yards & 0 TDs in a loss. Enough said.

How it plays out: This one remains close until the end, as do all Dolphin games.  The Dolphins will get the running game going and Henne will play better, but not great.  The Dolphins D continues to fail to get off the field, but plays good enough to give the offense a chance.

Prediction24-17 Dolphins. The offense plays well against the unchallenged Browns defense and figures out how to put the ball in the endzone.  The defense continues to bend, but not break well enough.  Plus it’s an away game.

Back to the question: Is this a must win?  For Chad Henne, if he plays poorly, throw picks, and the Dolphins lose, then yes.  Henne cannot lose this game for the Dolphins and still be the starter.  Fortunately for him, I do not foresee him being the reason for losing this game.  For Tony Sparano, you better believe it.  He is already on the hot seat and if he loses this one, he may be gone by the Dolphins bye week.  For the Dolphins season, no, because I don’t think we will overcome the Jets and Pats with or without this game.  In reality, this game may not really be a must win in these situations, but there is one situation that it is an absolute must win.  This game is a must win for the Miami Dolphin fans.  If the Dolphins lose this game, Dolphin fans will be calling for the head of the entire organization.  Attendance will get even uglier and no sponsor will be able to buy enough tickets to compensate for the missing disgusted fans.  So, yes, this IS a must win for the Dolphins to keep the fans and their dignity.

PhinsUp!                                                                                                                                                                                                    -John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Thank you for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and be sure to leave a comment.

Miami Dolphins Week 3 Transactions: Johnson, Jones, and Olshansky

On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins cut RB Larry Johnson…again.  As I tweeted, @PhinNationJohn (Shameless Plug), this came as no shock.  Johnson was re-signed because of the health concerns with RB Daniel Thomas, but after Thomas’s 107 yard debut, it is apparent LJ’s services are no longer needed.  I do not see another team picking LJ up after only gaining 2 yards on Sunday.  If the Dolphins would need him…again….he should be available.

The Dolphins added DL Igor Olshansky, another former Cowboy, on Tuesday.  This seems to be in response to the Dolphins’ concerns of the health of their D-line.  It is being reported that Randy Starks is dealing with some sort of leg injury and Tony McDaniel is out with a broken hand.  Seems the Dolphins replace one insurance policy (LJ) with another (Olshansky).  This pickup is not huge news, but its interesting to see the Dolphins continue to pickup Dallas Cowboy pieces, not saying they are bad players, but it hasn’t worked.

The Dolphins also re-added CB Nate Jones, former Cowboy (shocker), to the roster on Tuesday.  Also unsurprising, as the Dolphins are trying to sure-up the secondary.

-John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Week 2 Wrap-Up: The Rollercoaster that is the Miami Dolphins

Up, then down. High, then low.  Ascension, then freefall.  Hope, then reality.  These phrases define my overall feeling during the Miami Dolphins performance on Sunday.  It’s baffling how the Dolphins ARE able do things right, but just don’t do them right enough of the time.  They were able to address every concern I had for them at some point during the game.  The problem is they only address it for a portion of the game.

Dolphins Defense:

Obviously, the D had to be the biggest question that you had to have for the Dolphins. How would they handle a dangerous Texan receiving core?  Your answer, good…okay well alright…some of the time.  Schaub went 21/29 for 230 yds and 2 touchdowns. 7 of those completions went to Andre Johnson for 93 yds and 1 TD.  How do I even consider this an alright performance?  First off, they didn’t let the Texans go for 500+ yds and 4TDs.  Secondly, they were able to bend, but not break.  The Dolphins were able to hold the Texans to a Red Zone efficiency of only 1/5, forcing the Texans to settle for field goals rather than TDs.  The first Texan TD only came when they started on the Dolphins’ 6 yard line.  Third, they “only” gave up 23 points to an explosive Texans’ offense.  So yes, I can actually say that I was high on the defense’s performance, at first.

So we have the Dolphin defense playing better, holding them to field goals. Then we queue up a blown coverage that leaves Andre Johnson wide open in the end-zone.  How do you blow coverage on ANDRE JOHNSON?  It’s one thing if he physically beats you.  He’s a superior athlete that can beat just about any DB, but how do you let HIM just go uncovered?  We also just seem to give up enough yards for them to get a first down and extend their drive.  The D played better, but in no way great.  The Dolphins’ defense also cannot stay healthy throughout an entire game, as Davis and Dansby both missed time on Sunday due to injuries.  The defense was undoubtedly up and down, much like the offense.

Dolphins Offense/“Special” Teams:

Before I actually get into the play of the Dolphins’ Offense, I must comment on a coaching choice.  Why, after winning the coin toss, would we defer?  Don’t get me wrong, I love getting the ball after half; I always do that when I play NCAA ’12, but after the way Henne came out on their first drive last week, why would you go on D first?  I would just like to know the thought process there.  Maybe it was the right choice, as the offense sputtered with a three-and-out on their first drive.

I had two questions for the Miami Dolphin offense entering the game on Sunday.  The first was, whether or not Henne could continue his success.  That answer was no.  Chad went 12/30 (40% completion rate) for 170 yds for 1 TD and 1 INT that truly was not his fault.  At times, Henne threw with good accuracy, making smart decisions.  Once we get the redzone, he falls apart, throwing the ball out of bounds, giving his receivers no chance of making a catch.  So again, we drive and drive, but can’t finish the job.  The O-line showed weak pass blocking all day, getting Henne sacked twice, hurried all day, and hit while throwing; resulting in Henne’s interception.  On the other hand, the Dolphins had their most momentum when the line opened up holes for Thomas to pound out an impressive 107 yds on 18 carries (5.95 y/c) debut; which answered my second question of whether or not the Dolphins could further their running game.  They must have run that draw play 12 times in the third quarter.  The Dolphins have a bad habit, though it worked on Sunday, of finding one play that worked twice and running far too many times.  Just as Thomas is about to break 100 yards and the Dolphins are rolling, every Dolphins fan had to have that feeling of “here it comes” and it does with a Thomas fumble.  It’s almost laughable…but overall, Thomas did look solid and might be able to be that “one cut” back that we love.  Only time will tell.

I don’t even want to write this next part and you know what I’m talking about.  My emotions went from anger, to disbelief, to a laughing fit of rage.  I am not trying to be funny when I say I have seen high school teams with better special teams.  I try to think about how this could happen in the NFL, where you get paid millions, MILLIONS to play a few downs a game and you can’t do it right?  I’ll even let the one Carpenter missed go, but if he doesn’t kick the second one at the snappers head we are down by 7 and in the game at the end.  Also, if Jason Trusnik is still in uniform this coming week, this organization is clueless.  He wouldn’t be for the Pats or Jets.

Overtime:

Dolphins Key Player: Daniel Thomas. I was between Thomas and Marshall, but despite his fumble, I really like what I saw from Thomas who got NO help from Bush or the laughable LJ.

Texans Key Player: Dan Carpenter.  Okay seriously, I’ll actually give it to Andre Johnson who had a good game, but I don’t think the Texans would disagree with my initial pick.

Defining Moment: Thomas’ fumble. It did not result in points for the Texans, but it absolutely killed any momentum the Phins were able to gather at that point in the game and you could just tell it was over once it happened.

Looking Ahead: This Sunday we head to Cleveland to face off against the Browns.  Three pieces of good news come with this: 1. It’s the Browns.  2. It’s a back to normal 1pm start time.  3. Sadly, it’s a welcomed away game.

Final Thought: This game has become what we expect in a Dolphins game. They hang around, giving you hope they might pull it off then just disappoint.

PhinsUp!                                                                                                                                                                                              John

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PhinNationJohn for additional Dolphin news and commentary.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, be sure to leave a comment.

Week 2: Houston Texans vs Miami Dolphins – Unanswered Questions

If you would have bet me, that in week one, Chad Henne would go 30 for 49 for 416 yds and 3 touchdowns, while the Miami Dolphins’ defense would give up 600+ total yards, I would have bet my house against you and would be homeless right now.  Coming into the new season, I had questions that the Dolphins needed to answer to be successful.  Would Henne continue his preseason “success?” Would the Dolphins running game exist at all? Would the Dolphins’ CB tandem live up to Vontae Davis’ declaration that they are the best in the NFL?  Some questions were answered, but many more new questions emerged.  This Sunday the Dolphins will match-up with the 1-0 Houston Texans at 4:15pm in Sun Life Stadium and will look to find some answers.

What to expect:

Texan Offense vs. Dolphin Defense:

Trying to predict how this weekend’s match-up will play out based on week one provides a bit of a challenge.  In week one, the Houston Texans blew-out a Manning-less Colts team 34-7.  It should be interesting to see what strategy the Texans offense uses against the Dolphins.  You would think the smart money would be just let Schaub, Johnson, and the rest of the receiving core to go nuts, right?  On the other hand, the Texans ran the ball 41 times for 167 yds (4.1 y/c) on Sunday while only airing it out 24 times.  Just running out the clock you say?  On the contrary, of their 36 first half plays, 21 of them were rushing plays.  Which brings me back to the question, after seeing Brady dissect the Dolphins’ secondary, do they come out throwing the ball all over the field or stick with their successful running game, which “Oh by the way” did not have Arian Foster (who looks to play on Sunday)?

Either way, the defense needs to show up if the Dolphins are going to have shot at winning this game.  Obviously, most of the blame has to be placed on the secondary for last week’s performance.  They were beat all night and, at times, they seemingly just did not know their responsibilities.  You have to believe that solidifying coverages had to be the main focus during practice and though they may struggle again this week, I don’t see them giving up another 500 passing yards again this week.  Maybe the return of Will Allen will provide them with some stability and leadership they need.  The secondary could also use the help of the LBs and pass rushers that seemingly could not cover any TE and only got to Brady for one sack.  When they were able to at least get pressure is when we saw Brady’s incompletions.  Overall, this defense needs to right the ship, I just don’t know if this is the best team to do it against.

Dolphin Offense vs. Texan Defense:

The Dolphin offense led by Chad Henne was nothing less than shocking.  The opening drive that went for 84 yds, lasted 7+ mins and most importantly resulted in a TD left me speechless and wondering what team I was watching.  Maybe it was the opening night hype, maybe it was the Monday Night Football effect, maybe it was the Pats, MAYBE the offense can actually be that good, but whatever it was that made them look that good, it needs to happen more often.   As the game went on, the offense did come back down to earth a bit, but I was still impressed.  Henne looked sharp for most of the night.  I have a feeling his new freedom to change the play at the line has really helped his confidence.  One of my initial concerns was about the Dolphins ability to run and while Bush only went for 38 yds, it was over 11 carries for an average of 3.5 y/c.  Several of his rushes were between the tackles and honestly Bush looked strong.  By the end of the game he was worn (umm where was LJ on short yardage situations??), but we should have Clay and Thomas back this week; which will keep Bush fresh.  The line did let Henne get tagged 4 times and Incognito was anything but, as he racked up far too many penalty yards.  Fortunately these mistakes should be correctable and despite getting beat (by a great interior d-line) Mike Pouncy looked good in his debut.

It’s hard to judge the Texans’ defensive performance against the Colts who realistically were missing their entire offense with Manning.  As is usually the case, we will go as our O-line goes this week.  If they can improve, open up running lanes, and keep Henne’s jersey clean against a Texan D that recorded 3 sacks against the Colts, then we should be able to continue our success.  I would LOVE to see the Dolphins come out throwing on first down like they did during the first drive.  Teams are used to us being a run first offense and by spreading the field with our weapons, our running game will only benefit.  Driving the field was not a concern against the Pats, but we still do not know how to put the ball in the endzone.  It’s almost like we get conservative in the redzone, trying not to make a mistake rather than punching it in (what happened to the play-action pass?).  You can’t win games kicking field goals, especially against a high powered Texans offense.

Two Minute Drill:

Dolphins’ Key to the Game: Obvious one here. Defense, defense, DEFENSE.  The only way the Dolphins will have a chance in this game is if the D rebounds from its dreadful performance against the Pats.  If we can turn Schaub’s jersey green and contain their running game, then the DBs should have an easier time covering their responsibilities. Oh yea one more thing, DRINK SOME GATORADE, PICKLE JUICE, PEDIALITE, AND/OR RUN WITH AN IV IN!

Texans’ Key to the Game: Weaknesses & Turnovers.  That is, take advantage of the Dolphins’ weaknesses and don’t commit the turnovers.  If the Dolphins do not fix their glaring coverage problems, then the Texans should be able to hit the big play to Andre Johnson all day.   On the other hand, they gave away 3 turnovers (2 ints and a fumble) to a less then respected Colts defense.  If they are able to accomplish these points, then it may be a long day for the Phins.

Dolphins’ Player to Watch: Cameron Wake. Struggled against a rookie in week one.  If he can’t get going, Schaub may pick apart the secondary.

Texan’s Player to Watch: Jacoby Jones. I feel the Texans will come out firing and the Dolphins will be keying on Andre Johnson (atleast they should be) These should leave Jones in favorable (for him) one-on-one coverage.

How it plays out: The Dolphins have never beat the Texans, but this week…will be no different.   I have to believe the defense will play better, but will not handle the Texans receiving core AND their rushing game; which is good with or without Arian Foster.  The Dolphins offense will continue to grow and Henne will have another good day, but can’t win the shoot-out. It will be close and we should have a chance to win.

Prediction: 27-24 Texans. Could go either way and I hope I’m wrong, but Texans win the shoot-out.

PhinsUp!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              -John

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Miami Dolphins re-sign CB Will Allen, but is he healthy?

Last night, we learned that the Miami Dolphins released Benny Sapp, but the move was surprising because we didn’t know who was going to fill the void created by his departure.  Well, it seems that the Dolphins had someone in mind…someone that has played the last 5 seasons with the Dolphins…..Will Allen.   Allen was cut prior to week 1 of the 2011 season, but his return to the Dolphins is a welcomed one.  After watching Tom Brady carve up the Dolphins secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey, something needed to change.

In the preseason, Benny Sapp looked like a Pro Bowler…intercepting passes and blanketing receivers.  After watching on Monday Night, it all was a bit of a mirage.  The Dolphins defense looked out of sorts and there were Patriots receivers running more open than the gap between Michael Strahan’s teeth.  But I digress.  The worst part about this whole debacle (and it is a debacle) is that the Dolphins are responsible for all $1.9 million of Benny Sapp’s 2011 contract.  They are paying the guy all of that money for 1 game and replacing him with a guy they could have kept in the first place!  I’ve learned that common sense and the Miami Dolphins, should not be used in the same sentence too often.

Onto Will Allen…is he an upgrade?  Yes, if he’s healthy.  Remember, Allen was held out of a couple of the Dolphins’ preseason games and more than a few practices, because he was injured.  His health was the reason I thought the Dolphins cut him in the first place and chose Sapp.  If he’s healthy (which I can only assume he is, since the Dolphins just re-signed him), he can bring some stability and leadership to the Dolphins secondary….specifically to Vontae Davis and Sean Smith.  The Dolphins had better get their secondary fixed in a hurry because the Texans saw what the Patriots did on Monday night….and I’m sure they’re going to try to replicate it.

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Miami Dolphins release CB Benny Sapp

In a surprising move, the Miami Dolphins released Cornerback Benny Sapp earlier today. Sapp was burned more than a few times in the Dolphins loss Monday Night to the Patriots.

The move is surprising for a few reasons; First, the Dolphins secondary looked terrible Monday Night and there hasn’t been any talk about who will take Sapp’s place in the Dolphins secondary.

Second, Sapp outplayed Will Allen in the preseason. He actually looked really good in the preseason for the Dolphins.

Third, Sapp was on the week one roster which means his $1.9 mil contract is guaranteed. So the Dolphins will be paying Sapp to sit at home. Heck, I could do that for $1.9 mil!

I’d expect to hear about the Dolphins plans to replace Sapp by tomorrow. If I’m Will Allen, I’m waiting for the Dolphins to call and I’d probably try to milk every dime out of them….because they need him.