After training camp, four
preseason and five regular season games, the Miami Dolphins are ready for a
All things considered, the
timing couldn't be better.
There are several players,
most notably linebackers Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Channing Crowder, and Akin
Ayodele, that are beat up. The best prescription for them is rest and healing
time. And they’ll need it, because the Dolphins are about to enter a very tough
stretch of games versus the Saints, at NY Jets, and at Patriots (.714 combined
This is why coach Tony
Sparano is giving his players extra time off. But at the same time, he’s
looking for his staff and players to take advantage of the bye week to prepare
for the Saints, one of the best teams in the NFL.
"It means a lot to me
(that some of the players are watching film on their days off). I think that
they're starting to get it and that's important," Sparano said. "I
think right now they understand how to use this down time to the best of their
ability. They understand that we're a 2-3 football team that has to get better
and that this is an opportunity for them to study our opponent, who is a darn
good one, and get ahead of the game. That's what we've been talking about but I
think that they're starting to get it. They're starting to get what it takes
maybe to be good pros."
Keep in mind that the Saints
do not get a 'bye' this week, as they face the NY Giants at the Louisiana
Superdome. After that grueling match, they have to travel to Miami. The sum of this is that the Dolphins should
have a big advantage in preparation and game readiness.
Good thing, because they’ll need
it, especially on defense, if they're going to upset the Saints.
The secondary is probably
the biggest worry in Davie
right now. Their penchant for surrendering long passes is keeping opponents in
games. Somehow, the Dolphins need to fix this serious problem.
Right now the Dolphins are
ranked 19th overall in pass coverage, with the 3rd most 40+ yard pass plays
surrendered; only Rams and the Bucs have a higher per completion average than
the Dolphins (8.4 yards per reception). Essentially, this means the defense is
wasting the team's huge advantage in Time of Possession (35:29, 2nd in the
This is the kind of stuff
that ruins seasons.
The biggest challenge that
defensive boss Paul Pasqualoni and secondary coach Todd Bowles have had in
fixing this problem is that every single member of the starting secondary is
being victimized via a bevy of blown assignments, poor technique, and physical
At least CBs Vontae Davis
and Sean Smith have an excuse to fall back on; they’re rookies going through
the school of hard knocks. But what about veterans Will Allen, Yeremiah Bell,
and Gibril Wilson?
These vets are just not
getting the job done, especially Wilson.
If they don’t play better, the Dolphins have little hope of beating the
high-powered Saints, to say nothing of qualifying for the playoffs.
Offensively, the Saints have
the second-best running attack in the league. QB Drew Brees is third in NFL in
passing. RBs Mike Bell and Reggie Bush give them an excellent combination of
power and speed. Together with WR Marques Colston and (gasp) TE Jeremy Shockey,
the Saints may prove to be toughest team yet for the Dolphins’ 8th
ranked defense to stop.
Pasqualoni and Bowles know that
another defensive disaster is looming if their guys don't improve, and soon.
Hopefully the added prep and healing time will help find a cure to what ails
them the most.
Offensively, the sun has
come up as the Dolphins ring up back-to-back 30+ point games for the first time
in seven years.
Now I’m not someone who
anoints anyone based on a one game performance. But no footballer ever aced a test
better than QB Chad Henne did against the Jets.
“What was good in the ballgame the other day
was that he had a lot of good, hard test questions. I thought he answered some
of those questions very well”, said Sparano.
Let me be more to the point,
coach. On a huge Monday Night stage, against a hated divisional rival, Chad
Henne delivered. He delivered the ball with accuracy, with velocity, and with
poise. The Dolphins won that game in the fourth quarter primarily because of
20 of 26, 241 yards, 2
touchdowns, no picks, no sacks. A passer rating of 130.4. A fourth quarter,
come from behind drive to win the game, in the face of some of the most
challenging blitzes for an offense to defeat.
That, people, is some good
But the thing about Henne
that is most encouraging is that he seems to understand that winning is habit,
fueled by hard work and preparation. He’s not full of himself, and he intends
to put the bye week to good use.
"Yeah, continue on the
success that we did have in the previous weeks”, Henne explained. “To take a
week off and not study New Orleans would definitely be a step back for me, but
I'm going to be in here trying to get ahead of the game and trying to
understand some of their blitzes because [Saints defensive coordinator] Gregg
Williams is a blitz guy."
Now if the Dolphins can ever
figure out how to get ahead of things on coverage teams, and get those deep
passes covered, they might have something to holler about.
Hopefully this well-timed
bye week will help.