Question 1: How would you describe QB Ryan Tanneyhill's development? At least statistically he seems to have improved in his second season. Are you sold on him being a franchise QB?
Kevin: No, not sold on him being a franchise quarterback, but I do think he's on the right track. I think he has outgrown Mike Sherman's offense, Tannehill's college offense, and is ready to take on a full NFL style offense, and I think that's a big part of the frustration with him right now. He is playing better this year than he did last year as a rookie, and he is making good decisions (most of the time), as well as reading his progressions well - although lately, he is starting to lock in on receiver more, which may be part of the reaction to being sacked so many times this year. I like Tannehill and think he will continue to grow, but I'm not ready to say the Dolphins have their guy for the next 10-15 years.
I'm sure the Panther defense will try to rattle him early and confuse him by disguising their coverages. We just have to be sure Mike Wallace doesn't get behind the defense.
Question 2: The Dolphins offense is 31st in yards per game and 24th in points per game. Is that due to the problems on the offensive line or is there more to it?
Kevin: Both? The offensive line is clearly a part of it, but it's also strange play calling and poor execution too. I don't know how many times the Dolphins have had 3rd-and-1 this year, only to run a slow-developing stretch play, lose two yards, and punt the ball away. When you are constantly deciding you hate converting third downs, your drives stall too often. When they do have the right play called, the receivers drop the ball, the offensive linemen don't block on a screen pass, or Tannehill misses on the throw. The offensive line issues are definitely a big part of the problems, but they aren't the only problem.
We can relate to those types of problems, especially problems with the play calling. Funny how winning makes that go away ;)
Question 3: I believe I saw on The Phinsider that rookie DE Dion Jordan only played 22 snaps in the win over the Chargers. How concerned are you at this point that he isn't getting on the field more than he is?
Kevin: It's a major concern for fans, and it's a source of frustration each and every week. This Dolphins coaching staff believes strongly in slowly bringing along rookies. Add in Jordan's college having been Oregon, which is on the quarters system making him ineligible to workout with the team until July, and the shoulder injury he had and rehabbed during training camp, and it makes some sense how protective of Jordan they are being.
But, it is definitely something we all want to see, and we were happy to see he is starting to get more playing time. He doesn't have the body to set the edge against the run, yet, so he may not see much playing time this week against a run-happy Carolina, but, he does have the athleticism to play linebacker and be a spy on Cam Newton, so that could be a way to get him on the field.
The Dolphins defensive front and ability to get pressure on the passer is one of my worries when looking at this game. That was a key to the Panthers losses to the Bills and Cardinals.
Question 4: The Dolphins defense ability to rush the passer really worries me given our offensive line has struggled at times. Is the key to pass rush Cameron Wake or are there other players we need to slow down as well?
Kevin: It clearly starts with Cameron Wake, and he will, rightfully, get most of the attention. But, that doesn't mean Olivier Vernon, Jordan, or Derrick Shelby can't, or won't, get around the edge. Any of those three are effective pass rushers, with Jordan clearly being the top guy, but Vernon having a better all-around game (run and pass defense).
And, don't ignore the defensive tackles. Paul Soliai is more of a run stuffer, so I would expect him to see plenty of playing time this week, but both Randy Starks and Jared Odrick can get into the backfield from the middle of the line. The three defensive tackles rotate in-and-out, so there will definitely be times where you could be facing a pass rush of Wake, Vernon, Stark, and Odrick, plus a blitzing Jordan.
Wake will be lined up on RT Byron Bell. That should worry every Panther fan. Let's see how Mike Shula tries to help out Bell because he better or Newton is in for a long afternoon.
Question 5: After a strong 3-0 start the Dolphins have had mixed result since then. At 5-5 now do you think this team can make a run to the playoffs and if so what has to change for that to happen?
Kevin: I do. My preseason prediction was 9-7 and be in playoff contention. For that to happen, Miami has to win four of their last six, which they can accomplish.
Changes that need to happen, however, for that 9-7 record to become a reality. The offense has to start executing better, and Tannehill and Mike Wallace have to get on the same page on the deep ball. The defense also needs to wake up and stop the run, which is supposed to be their strong point this year, but has been embarrassingly bad at times.
Oh, and not giving up four sacks a game would be nice as well.
The Panthers ability to run the ball will be another key. If they can create 3rd and shorts with the run game then they may be able to hit some deep passes on play action.
Kevin: This may be a homer pick, but I think this game actually lines up well for Miami. They got their act together last week after the miserable Week 10 performance on Monday Night Football, and they played a full 60-minute game against the Chargers. Carolina is coming off a huge win, on the short week, and Miami is playing for the playoffs, and to prove the world wrong about them. I think the Dolphins get the offense going and sneak this one out. Plus, they are 4-0 all time against Carolina, I'll say that has some magical meaning as well. Panthers 27 - Dolphins 30
I always go Homer on my game predictions as well even if we are heavy underdogs. I didn't realize until this week that we had never beaten the Dolphins in the regular season. I think it's time to end that streak. You can check out my answers to his questions and my game prediction via this link.
I big thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions.