This is a question I'm glad isn't asked of me too often: how does it feel to be winless half-way through the NFL's regular season? Luckily for Matty I from The Phinsider, I avoided asking that question - mostly for fear of karma's lethal bite.
Nonetheless, it's always interesting to get into the minds of an opposing team's fans. So, as is becoming quite the fun exercise around here, Matty I joins us today to answer five questions I posed to him about his beloved Dolphins. Make sure to stop by his excellent blog to see my answers to his questions. To the interview! (My questions in bold.)
We know Cleo Lemon is Miami's starting quarterback this weekend. If it hasn't already happened, at what point does it become ludicrous to not start John Beck? Is there an upside to keeping Lemon in the lineup?
TP: If you ask many Dolphin fans, that point has come and it is now stupid for the Dolphins to not start Beck. And to be quite honest, I think I might be one of them. This week would have been the perfect place to start Beck. It's at home coming off of a bye week. If you look ahead at the schedule, the next two are tough road games at Philly and at Pittsburgh, so those 2 don't really look like ideal situations to start Beck. But I think the main reason John isn't starting is that there's a good chance he really isn't ready. Up until Trent Green's injury in week 5, Beck was running the scout team offense in practice. So he wasn't even running his own team's plays. Since the injury, John has been elevated to the #2 QB spot, but he was still only receiving about 30% of the snaps in practice. Then last week, Cam decided to split the reps evenly. So, leading up to Sunday's game, John would have only participated in 6 practices in which he received a good portion of work with the first team. That's probably why John isn't starting yet, which is understandable. So I guess what I'm saying is that it's crazy that John wasn't getting more reps in practice earlier in the season. If he was, he'd have been more prepared to start even sooner.
As for Lemon, there really isn't an upside to starting him except for the fact that he has experience and knows the offense better. That's about it. And even though Cleo is starting, John is still getting 50% of the reps in practice, meaning John's time is coming soon. Maybe we even see Beck replace Cleo at some point in this game. I wouldn't be too surprised, to be honest.
Talk about Miami's run game without Ronnie Brown, who until he got hurt was the best runner in the NFL this season. Can Jesse Chatman last 8 games as this team's feature back?
TP: That Ronnie injury really hurt, man. It really, really hurt. He was really the lone reason to get excited for Dolphins football week in and week out, and with one terrible pass by Cleo Lemon, it was all taken away as Ronnie gets hurt trying to reverse field to make a tackle on the Patriot who picked off the pass. And I'm glad somebody acknowledged the fact that Brown was the best running back in the game in 2007 until his injury. It seems that gets forgotten quickly.
As for the running game now, I'd say Chatman will be able to hold up. He's actually in good shape and is a good fit for Cam's offense because he is good at catching out of the backfield. But a lot of the credit for the success on the ground has to go to the offensive line, which has played simply outstanding this whole season. With the holes they have been opening up, Jesse should have no problem filling in for Ronnie somewhat effectively. He likely won't have any big games, but he's certainly a capable replacement.
I know this is almost ancient history, but what's the real story behind the trade of Chris Chambers? Did you like or dislike that trade, and did it surprise you at all?
TP: I definitely was surprised by it. I say that only because there wasn't any real talk about any team having interest in Chris. So it was kept under wraps quite well by both franchises. But truth be told, I liked the move as soon as it was announced. I think gaining a 2nd round pick for Chris was an excellent move. Basically, the Dolphins got 6 good years from him and then traded him away to get back exactly what they spent on him. And I don't really think there's any "real story" to talk about with this trade. It was just a move which certainly looks towards the future. Perhaps the best part about it is that it allows Ted Ginn Jr. to have a much bigger role on offense, which was one of the major keys to the trade. Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller both came out and said that they've been impressed with Ted and Derek Hagan in practice and this move gets those 2 on the field more often, which will only help their progress.
Miami is winless, but they've lost a few close games - heck, they even kept things mildly interesting against the Patriots. What's been the biggest problem in not being able to win those close ones?
TP: The two glaring problems that the Dolphins have faced all year has been their inability to stop the run and to get off the field on 3rd down. Since week 1, stopping the run in key situations has been an issue. In their opening week overtime loss to Washington, the Dolphins could not stop the running game at all. In overtime, the Redskins got the ball first and never gave Miami a chance. They ran it right down Miami's throat, only needing to throw 2 passes for a total of 12 yards to get down to Miami's 22 yard line. And those kinds of drives have happened numerous times to Miami and can explain their 0-8 record.
The other problem, like I said, has been getting off the field in 3rd downs. In that overtime drive by Washington, the Redskins had to convert a 3rd and 7 and did so with a 10 yard pass to Chris Cooley. If they hold on that play, Washington is forced to punt and who knows what happens considering Miami had a healthy Trent Green and Ronnie Brown. For the season, the Dolphins are dead last in 3rd down conversions against, allowing their opponents to convert 50% of their 3rd downs. In the NFL, there is no way you win football games when you can't get your defense off the field. It's that simple.
Some of your team's defenders (most notably Zach Thomas) have reportedly started to show signs of age. Talk about Thomas, Jason Taylor and some of the other defensive vets in terms of how they've played and what their futures hold in Miami.
TP: Well let's start with Zach Thomas. Thomas hasn't slowed down when he's on the field. He's averaging over 10 tackles per game when he plays. The problem is that he just seems to have been having some bad luck in the health department. But none of the injuries he's suffered from have been due to his age. He's missed 2 games due to a concussion, which can happen to anybody. And he missed the London game due to whiplash he suffered in a post-came car accident the week before when the car he was riding in, driven by his wife, was rear-ended on the highway on his way home. Now that's some bad luck if you ask me!
Jason Taylor, on the other hand, has certainly struggled. He hasn't played at a level anywhere close to what he's used to. He's committed dumb penalties and can't seem to get to the QB as often as he's used to. Has he lost a step? I think so. But he can still be effective in the right situation. But this defense isn't helping him out at all. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised to see JT in another uniform in 2008. And I wouldn't be opposed to that as long as the Dolphins get something good in return and Taylor goes to a contending team where he can get the ring he rightfully deserves. The other aging vet, Keith Traylor, has continued to play well when he's on the field. But at his age and size, he has to take more and more plays off each game. I got a feeling this will be his last season. Oh, and Vonnie Holliday will be returning from a broken ankle this week. When he played earlier in the year, he was effective. And I think he'll continue to be as age hasn't really caught up to him...yet. But without a doubt, this offseason's top priority will be revamping this defense from top to bottom, which will make for an eventful offseason if nothing else.
Many thanks to Matty I for taking time out of his busy schedule to satiate our thirst for the inside scoop on Miami. Be sure to keep track of The Phinsider through game day for the latest news, opinions and analysis on the Dolphins.