This week is one of my favorite weeks - not just because the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins are big divisional rivals, but because we get to interact with folks from The Phinsider. There are some nice little blog rivalries here at SB Nation, and Buffalo Rumblings versus The Phinsider is at or near the top of the list. Some of the best discussions I've held as a blogger have come while talking to Dolphins fans over at Matty I's excellent blog.
Speaking of Matty I, he's here! And y'all know why - to talk about the upcoming game. Without further ado, here's Matty's latest breakdown of the Dolphins - and if you're looking for the reciprocating interview, be sure to visit The Phinsider today.
You haven't seen much of Chad Henne, professional quarterback, but I assure you we've seen less. What do the Bills need to be wary of with Henne as it relates to his skill set, and how can they attack him?
Matty I: Random fact of the week - Dan Marino, like Chad Henne, also received his first career start at home against the Bills. Coincidence? Well... yeah, of course. But I'm just sayin'...
As far as Henne's skill set, the most obvious thing Buffalo's defense has to be wary of is his arm strength. The Bills can essentially throw out the film of Chad Pennington running Miami's offense - because it's probably going to look a little different on Sunday. Look for more deep outs and go routes.
The best way to attack him is obvious - blitz the crap out of him and use many different kinds of coverages in the secondary. Antonio Cromartie said last week after the game that the Chargers were throwing a ton of new looks and blitzes at Henne once he came in to replace Pennington. And that's definitely the route Buffalo should take on Sunday.
CBS' Pete Prisco had the following to say about Miami's Wildcat formation following the loss to Indy on MNF (via Twitter): "The Dolphins would have run the ball -- Wildcat or not. That thing takes them out of a possible groove." How much validity do you find in that statement?
Matty I: Well I think I need to preface this with the fact that Pete Prisco has long been a "Wildcat hater." It seems like the man goes out of his way to criticize the formation whenever he can.
With that said, there might be some validity to the idea that it could cause the offense to get out of rhythm, particularly with the quarterback coming off the field in some variations of the formation. But that's just the price you pay and I think the negative effect of the formation is outweighed by the positive.
As far as the idea that the Dolphins would have been able to run the ball regardless - that's just a ridiculous statement to make, in my opinion. That's like saying the Dolphins didn't need to go to the "Power I" formation to run the ball effectively. The bottom line here is that the 'Wildcat' is simply a power running formation and is no different, in my eyes or in the eyes of the Dolphins themselves, from any other formation they run. They might run 6 plays in a game out of the "Split Backs" formation, 6 more plays out of the "Singleback Aces" formation, and 6 more out of the "Wildcat." It's just another formation to the Dolphins at this point - nothing more nothing less.
But please keep in mind that the 'Wildcat' is different than the spread option offense the Dolphins have been working on with Pat White taking the snaps. That formation is an entirely different animal.
The Dolphins had some question marks in the middle of the O-Line this past off-season. The running game has been great for you guys, obviously, but the sack rate is up a bit as well, though also not detrimental (surrendering 7 through 3 games). What's your take on how some of the new guys are gelling with the likes of Jake Long and Vernon Carey?
Matty I: As far as the line's run blocking is concerned, like you said, it's coming together nicely for the Dolphins. Jake Grove has seemingly been an upgrade over Samson Satele and a healthy Donald Thomas is a huge upgrade over the right guards the Dolphins were trotting out there last year after Thomas went down in week one.
As far as their pass protection goes, things are slowly coming together. Four of those seven sacks allowed came back in week one. Since then, there has been noticeable improvement. Ironically enough, Jake Long and Vernon Carey have been the biggest culprits of allowing sacks. Each of them allowed two sacks in week one. Since then, though, Long has looked much better. I think it was just a technique issue he had against the speedy John Abraham. He bounced back well the following week against Dwight Freeney. Carey has gotten beat a little too often for my liking this year. But he's a proven commodity and he'll get his act together.
All told, the interior offensive line has been pretty solid in pass protection for the most part - and they should only get better as they get more work together.
Joey Porter's status was in question heading into the San Diego game, where he re-aggravated his hamstring injury. We've seen how effective Miami's pass rush is with Porter. How has it looked when he's been on the sideline? What are his chances of playing Sunday?
Matty I: Well Miami's pass rush isn't nearly as effective when Joey Porter is on the sidelines. Last week when Porter was forced out of the game with his hamstring injury, the Dolphins didn't get nearly enough pressure on Phillip Rivers as we all would have liked. But truth be told, even with Porter they weren't getting as much pressure as they needed to.
With that said, I think the Dolphins have the personnel to survive without Joey Porter on the field. Jason Taylor would still be out there and, while he isn't the JT of old, he still knows how to get to the quarterback and can still give offenses trouble. Charlie Anderson is probably the primary backup of Porter's and he's a guy with a lot of experience and who made some big plays late in the year last year. And we can't forget about former CFL star Cameron Wake - who, if nothing else, knows how to get pressure on an opposing quarterback. But he's still inexperienced at this level and doesn't have the technique to be more than just a situational pass rusher.
As far as Porter's chances of playing, I'd say they're 50/50 right now. I will never question Joey's fire to go out there and play. Even if it's as a situational player, if he feels like he can go, he'll go on Sunday.
Miami's 0-3 start has been pretty surprising given their AFC East division championship last season. You wrote about missed opportunities after the Chargers loss; aside from that, what has been the biggest issue, or cluster of issues, in Miami's slow start?
Matty I: Aside from all of their costly mistakes - i.e. fumbles in the redzone (and at the one inch line) and penalties - there are probably two main issues that have contributed most to Miami's ugly start. And both have to do with the passing game.
The first has been the Dolphins tendency to give up the big play in the passing game. Tony Gonzalez killed the Dolphins in week one by making big play after big play. In week two, the entire country got to see the Dolphins surrender huge play after huge play to Peyton Manning and company. And then last week, Phillip Rivers connected with Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd for numerous big plays as well. As great as the Dolphins have been defending the run, they have been equally as bad defending the pass.
Issue number two is the exact opposite of the first issue - the Dolphins inability to make a big play in the passing game. Three games into the season and the Dolphins have just one play that has gone for over 25 yards. And that play was a pass to Ronnie Brown. No receiver has a reception for longer than 21 yards on the year. And the Dolphins rank dead last in the NFL in yards after catch, with just 126 total yards after catch - good for an average of 2.06 yards after catch.
It's hard to win football games in this league when you surrender big plays in the passing game to opponents and then can't create any big plays of your own at all.