Buffalo Bills (5-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-4)
SB Nation's Miami Dolphins coverage: The Phinsider
You all know the drill around here if you've been here a while - and most of you have. Each week, we interview the team blogger of the Buffalo Bills' upcoming opponent. In this case, Matty I, who covers the Miami Dolphins at The Phinsider, was kind enough to join us to talk about his 2-4 Dolphins. There's more good news: he'll be joining us again tomorrow to break down some key matchups heading into this weekend's game. For now, Matty I answers three questions:
"The Wildcat" came down to earth a bit last week in Miami's loss to Baltimore. Was it a product of just playing a really good defense, or do you think the league is starting to catch up to the innovative formation? Are you sick of answering questions about The Wildcat yet?
Matty I, The Phinsider: Let me answer part two of this question first. YES! I'm sick of hearing about and talking about the 'Wildcat' already. And so are the players and coaches themselves. I hope that everyone - especially the national media - finally realizes what this formation is. It's just another formation that will be used a handful of times each game. It's no different than the strong I formation or the shotgun. It's not a gimmick and it's not a gadget. It's a legitimate formation that this team can use because of the personnel they possess and it takes advantage of some of the few strengths that this team has on offense - running back depth and a powerful offensive line.
As far as last week, I think it's a little of both. Coaches all across the league have been at least spending some time on how to defend it simply because a lot of teams could potentially break it out during the course of the game. With that said, I think that you have to give credit where credit is due. The Ravens did an excellent job of coming up with a gameplan to defend it and then executing that gameplan. Their team speed and football IQ on the defensive side of the ball was just too much for Miami's young offensive line to really overcome. They couldn't create running lanes for Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams. And if there are no lanes, no play will work - not even the 'Wildcat."
It's all about execution. The Dolphins didn't execute well at all.
Obviously, Miami has doubled their win total from last season to date, and they're playing much more competitive football this season. Please discuss your feelings, as well as general Dolphins fan feelings, about head coach Tony Sparano.
Matty I: Well I love Tony Sparano. and I think most Dolphin fans would agree with me. He's been better than I even thought he would be. And I'm not talking about the 2 wins or the decision to have the guts to break out the 'Wildcat" formation - though those 2 things are nice to see. What I'm most excited about - and all Fin fans would agree - is the culture change in Miami. This team is suddenly tougher - both mentally and physically. They have a confidence, a swagger, that we haven't seen since year one of the Nick Saban administration. The players have an edge to them, a fire and intensity, that stems right from Sparano himself. And that's what I'm most excited about.
But to be fair, Sparano is still a rookie head coach and has made a few mistakes. Some people also question a few of his personnel moves - like keeping Ted Ginn off of kick return duty until this past week and keeping two big, physical receivers like Ernest Wilford and Derek Hagan inactive quite a bit on gameday. And the question will be what happens as the season goes on and the losses pile up. What happens in year 2 if things get off to a rocky start? So as fans, we have to take a cautious approach. But right now, it's hard not to like what we've seen out of this regime - especially Tony Sparano and his coaching staff.
From the looks of it, NT Jason Ferguson could miss this game against Buffalo. Who fills in at the nose in that 3-4 defense? Does his likely loss inhibit the contributions of guys like, say, league-leading sack artist Joey Porter?
Matty I: It's looking more and more like that will be the case and Ferguson will probably miss this game. Filling in as the starter would likely be Randy Starks. Starks is roughly the same size as Ferguson, but has limited - if any - experience as a 3-4 NT. He's not a strong as Ferguson and is better suited to be a 4-3 DT or a 3-4 DE. But it is what it is. He'll get to work at the NT spot all week in preparation and it'll be interesting to see how he does.
Backing Starks up will be second year DT Paul Soliai - who has the physical size to be a dominant NT but hasn't shown much of anything. Expect to see Soliai in at NT a lot of Starks struggles early on.
As far as the effect of losing Ferguson, you'll notice it in the running game. Ferguson was so good at taking up two blockers and freeing up the linebackers to make tackles for little or no gains. Last week once Ferguson went out, the Ravens could run the ball basically all they wanted. However, don't expect the pass rush - Joey Porter in particular - to be limited here. Porter still had a big day last week and will need to have another big day on Sunday for the Dolphins to hang tight in this game.
Part of my immense respect for Matty I is the fact that he's one of the fairest observers off his team that you'll ever encounter. So when he says something about the Dolphins, you can take it for truth. He runs a solid site at The Phinsider, so be sure to check it out if you have a burning question about the Dolphins heading into the game.
I answered some questions for Matty I as well, so if you're interested in those, check them out. Much more on this matchup later today and throughout the rest of the week.