To get us prepared for Monday’s game against the Dolphins, I spoke with Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider to get his thoughts on a few questions I had. You can read the Q&A below, and be sure to check out The Phinsider for my answers to his questions.
The Dolphins are currently one of the worst offenses in the NFL and traded their starting running back at the trade deadline. Do you think they will be able to put enough points on the board to beat the Panthers, who currently have one of the best defenses in the league?
I have no idea. Sometimes, the Dolphins offense looks like it can be potent, and other times, it is just impotent. Jay Cutler actually looked pretty good last week in a losing effort, and if he can keep that up, they could have a chance on Monday night. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are better pass catchers out of the backfield than Ajayi is, and that seems to be a direction head coach/offensive play-caller Adam Gase wants to move. I am not overly optimistic that the Dolphins will be able to do anything on Monday - but that is more about the Dolphins' struggles than it is about the Panthers' defense, even when considering the Carolina defense is the top defense in the league.
While they’re struggling on offense, the Dolphins have mostly played good defense this year, especially when they can generate turnovers. Do you believe they’ll be able to force the Panthers to turn the ball over and prevent Cam Newton from getting into a rhythm on offense?
That is absolutely going to be their goal. Cameron Wake has been quiet the last couple of weeks, so they are going to be trying to get him back on track, while Ndamukong Suh has been really good up the middle this year. Charles Harris, the team's first round pick back in the spring, will rotate into the lineup as well, and while he has not had the sacks yet (one on the year), he has been able to put pressure on the quarterback. Safety Reshad Jones is instrumental in getting take-aways, and the Dolphins will use him in a multitude of ways, playing up in the box, blitzing, and in coverage. He is the player to watch for turnovers as he always seems to be in the play whenver the ball hits the ground.
Are there any unknown players on the Dolphins roster that Panthers fans should watch for on Monday night?
William Hayes is a veteran with five years with the Tennessee Titans and four years with the St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams, but he is not a household name and he is playing well, especially as a run-stopping defensive end. Safety T.J. McDonald will be interesting to watch in this game as he makes his Dolphins debut following his eight-game suspension. The Dolphins really like him, so now it will be time to see if he lives up to the hype we heard all summer and that led to him getting a contract extension before he even served the suspension.
What player or group of players on the Panthers concerns you the most? Which concerns you the least?
The pass rush has to be the most concerning, with Julius Peppers (7.5 sacks) and Mario Addison (6.5 sacks) both in the top 12 of sacks so far this year. Miami's offensive line has struggled this year, and we are set to see another shakeup as veteran Ted Larsen will likely move into the starting lineup as the left guard after coming off the injured reserve list last week. Ja'Wuan James, the starting right tackle, appears to have a serious hamstring issue, so either Jesse Davis (who was playing left guard) or Sam Young will probably move into the right tackle spot. That is not a good thing when you are facing players like Peppers and the rest of the top defense in the league - and the team with the second-most sacks in the league this year.
Least concern? Hmmmm. I am going to say the running game? And that has nothing to do with the Panthers, who are ranked 15th in the league this year, but rather with the Dolphins' rush defense. Miami has the seventh-ranked rush defense this year, and they have been really effective against the run most weeks. Two weeks ago, the Ravens rushed for 174 yards against Miami, so it is not a perfect selection.
What’s your final score prediction for the game?
Like I said at the start, I have no idea what the Dolphins' offense will be this week. Let's just say 20-17 Carolina.
Bonus question: On a scale of 0 to 10, how much does Jay Cutler care about this game?
Nicely done. Cutler has definitely been a frustration at times this year. The offense feels like it has picked up some of his laid back attitude, and it is infuriating. Hopefully he looks more like the quarterback we saw last week throughout the rest of the year.