You know what time it is. The Miami Dolphins will be gracing Ralph Wilson Stadium with their presence this Sunday for the first time since December 9, 2007, when the Trent Edwards-led Buffalo Bills put a 38-17 beat down on a Dolphins team that finished 1-15 that year. Now Buffalo is attempting to avoid losing their fourth straight game to their biggest rival.
Joining us, as always, for Bills/Dolphins week is Matty I from The Phinsider. His interview with me is after the jump, and his interview of me is over at his site, so make sure you check both out. Away we go.
Chad Henne. He's the present and future of the Dolphins, and Miami is now 5-2 in games he's started. He's been a pretty solid game manager, only throwing 4 INT - but it's also pretty clear that he's not doing some of the things he was supposed to do, like improve Miami's deep game (he's averaging just 6.1 yards per attempt). Have you in any way been disappointed by this guy?
Disappointed? Not at all. Henne is a guy who has stepped in when he wasn't even expected to (at least not that early in the season) and has played relatively well. He's still inconsistent with his accuracy. But his strong arm has come as advertised, and he's made some throws that Chad Pennington's arm just wouldn't allow him to make. He looks very poised in big spots and has been exceptional on third down.
As far as the deep passing game goes, you can't say that Henne isn't doing something he is supposed to do. Those long passes will come in time. The fact of the matter is that the Dolphins don't have any receivers to throw to down the field. Ted Ginn is the only receiver the Dolphins have who can actually stretch a defense - and he has suddenly forgotten how to catch the football. The rest of this team's receivers look like they're running in quicksand. But once the Dolphins actually get some speed at the receiver position, I'm pretty confident that we'll see an improved deep game.
Here's how desperate Bills fans are about our current quarterback position: any chance Miami re-signs Chad Pennington as a backup for the 2010 season?
I say that because I think it makes a lot of sense for Chad Pennington to consider going to Buffalo. And that's the last thing I want to see. Having had the pleasure of seeing how valuable a guy like Pennington is to a franchise in the year and a half he's been in Miami, I would really hate to see him go to a division rival. He's exactly what a team like Buffalo needs.
As far as Pennington's future in Miami goes, I don't think anyone can say with any certainty that they know what will happen. With that said, I don't find it likely that Pennington - if he decides to play next season - is a Dolphin in 2010. I think that both the front office and the coaching staff have decided that Henne is their guy. They also seem determined to develop Pat White as both a backup and a "spread option" quarterback. And I'm not sure Pennington would want to come back to Miami knowing that he was, at best, only going to be the No. 2 guy - especially if a team like Buffalo comes calling offering their starting job to him.
Like I said, it's the last thing I want to see. But if he was to end up in Buffalo, I'd wish him all the luck in the world, because he's among the classiest athletes I've ever seen.
Obviously the Ronnie Brown injury hurts - less so for the Dolphins than for the championship run I was plotting in my fantasy football league. I've spoken with you before about my immense respect for Ricky Williams, but at 32 years old, is he capable of being the workhorse back for a physical team trying to make a playoff run?
Tell me about it, Brian. Ronnie was also on one of my fantasy teams - in the league that has "a lot" on the line (if you catch my drift). So his injury was a double whammy for me.
As for Ricky, that's the million dollar question. I don't doubt his ability and I wasn't very surprised at how effective he was last week against the Panthers. But he did carry the ball 22 times just four days after carrying it 20 times against Tampa Bay. His season high in carries last year was just 16 - back in Week 3. And he hasn't carried the football 20+ times in back to back weeks since the end of the 2005 season. So I'm not as confident as some are that Ricky can handle a much increased workload for six more weeks.
But I also think we're going to see Lex Hilliard get more chances as the year goes on. The Dolphins kept Hilliard on the 53-man roster out of training camp as the fourth running back because they did like what they saw from him. Now he's the primary backup and I think we'll start to see 10-12 touches per game for Lex as we move forward. Rookie Kory Sheets might also get a few looks - particularly in the "Wildcat" taking Ricky's spot as the "sweeper" while Ricky mans Ronnie's old spot as the triggerman.
It's hardly surprising that Cameron Wake had his coming out party against Buffalo, but he's been much more than a flash-in-the-pan of late. How has his role changed, and will it continue to do so in the future?
Cameron Wake has proven to be a real pass-rushing monster, to be honest. Despite playing just 100 defensive snaps this year, Wake is tied for second on the Dolphins with 4.5 sacks and leads the team in quarterback pressures with 15. But the coaching staff still isn't comfortable with Wake's ability to set the edge on rushing plays and to drop into coverage when it's necessary to do so. And that's why his snap count has been so low.
But his game reps are increasing. Back in Week 8, Wake saw just one defensive snap. The following week, he saw 12. But then in Week 10 - with Joey Porter sitting out due to a "coach's decision" - Wake saw 33 reps. Then last week, with Porter returning, Wake only saw 10. But I get the feeling that his role is going to slowly increase as the weeks go by - especially to keep the team's two starting OLB, Porter and Jason Taylor, fresh.
Sean Smith and Vontae Davis have been your full-time starting corners for about a month now. How well have they progressed this season?
I think I echo most Dolphin fans when I say that I'm very excited about both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Smith has been starting since day one and he's played quite well. In fact, it seemed like teams were picking on Will Allen to avoid throwing in Smith's direction. But over the past few weeks, Smith has been a little more inconsistent. I don't know if it's the "rookie wall" - though that would make a lot of sense considering he's been a starter all season - or if it's just a situation where he's making some mental mistakes. Either way, though, I'm not too worried about it because I think he's going to be a very good player.
Meanwhile, Davis just stepped into the starter's role once Allen went down for the season. And he's progressed very nicely since his increase in snaps. He's making fewer mental mistakes and, right now, might be out-playing Smith. But even still, he does get beat at times. But I've also noticed that when he gives up a big play, it's not because he's beat or out of position. He just needs to get his head around quicker on deep balls.
All in all, though, it's hard for any Dolphin fan to sit here and not be pleased with how these two are coming along. Quite honestly, I think the Dolphins are going to be strong at cornerback for years to come.