I thought this was a good Q&A with Matty I of The Phinsider.
1. The AFC East is shaping up to be a very competitive division in 2010 with an improved Dolphins team, the resurgence of Tom Brady's haircut, I mean uh, play with New England, and the Super-Bowl-promisin', Hard-Knockin' New York Jets. Assuming you have the Bills finishing fourth like every other rational human being, how do see the rest of the AFC East shaking out this year?http://www.dailynorseman.com/2010/9/16/ ... ta_Vikings
It's going to be a very competitive division, that's for sure. Even the Bills, though they won't be competing for a division crown or playoff spot this year, will have an impact because they have enough talent (C.J. Spiller and their backs, for example) to steal a division game or two - which could be the difference maker for the three other teams.
In the end, I see the Jets collapsing. They have too many egos in that locker room and a head coach who is going to eventually lose control of that team. Oh - and their quarterback isn't very good. I give the nod to New England over the Dolphins right now because of their quarterback. This is a quarterback league and whoever has the best one usually wins. His ridiculous haircut aside, Tom Brady still has the most talent of any QB in the division and the most weapons to throw to. The Dolphins will be competitive all year, as will the Jets. But it's still New England's division - for now.
2. One of the unknowns Miami seems to have is with Chad Henne at quarterback. Some experts think Henne will have a breakout year; others are wary of giving him too much responsibility. How do you see him developing throughout the 2010 season?
It's going to be a process, that's for sure. Even with the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins are a run-first team. That's what they do. It's in their blood. But Henne is going to be given more responsibility with each passing week. This week is a perfect example. The Vikings can stop the run - we all know this. So the coaches are probably going to put more on Chad Henne's shoulders. Is he ready to carry the team? Not yet, at least not consistently. But we saw those flashes last year (particularly in leading fourth quarter comebacks over the Jets and Pats) and that leads me to believe he'll be able to hand more responsibility.
Still, I don't think any Dolphin fan or coach would tell you they are positively certain that Henne is the long-term solution for this team. But there's no reason to think Henne can't be. These next three games, though, will tell a lot about how far Henne has come and how much farther he still has to go.
3. The Dolphins are the NFL godfather of the Wildcat offense. How often do you expect the Dolphins to change things up on Sunday? Or do you expect a more conventional approach?
When every other NFL team runs the Wildcat offense, it's nothing more than a gimmick. But as you point out, the Dolphins are the godfather of the Wildcat. It's no a gimmick when they run it - it's just another formation. They practice it as they do any other offensive formation. And that is why no other team can run it and have the success the Dolphins have from it.
But the team has been using it less since Ronnie Brown - the trigger man of the Wildcat - went down to injury last year. Even with a healthy Brown this year, the Dolphins only used the formation a couple of times last week against Buffalo. But teams like the Vikings that haven't seen the Dolphins run it firsthand tend to have more trouble defending it than division opponents who prepare for it twice a year. So I think the Dolphins will try to use the Wildcat more than they did a week ago - and could even have some success out of it. So if I'm the Vikings, I'm spending a lot of time preparing for it - which is exactly what the Dolphins want you to do.
Even if Miami sees little success from the Wildcat on Sunday, its impact can still be felt. NFL teams only have so much time to prepare each week. And if the opposition has to spend some time focusing on the Wildcat, taking away prep time for other formations, then the Wildcat did its job.
4. That 3-4 defense seems to be a strong point with Miami this year. What unit of the defense (defensive line, linebacker, or secondary) would you consider to be the strongest part of the unit? Which players on defense do you expect to wreak the most havoc against the Vikings?
There's no question that the strong point of this group is probably the entire front seven and the versatility and flexibility those guys give defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Karlos Dansby is the centerpiece of the defense - make no mistake. He's the player who makes this defense go. He lines up all over the field, can drop into coverage, and can rush the passer. But then you have converted defensive ends Cameron Wake and Koa Misi on the outside of that 3-4, with converted DE Randy Starks handling the nose tackle position. Notice how many "converted" players this front seven possesses. That allows Mike Nolan to switch his defense's look from a 3-4 to a 4-3 almost instantly and means many players can handle many different roles.
Other than Dansby, there are two players who will likely have definitive impacts on this game. One is the previously mentioned Cameron Wake - Miami's explosive pass rusher who, to this point, has shown that you can't block with just one man. He'll probably be the player Vikings fans are most surprised by on Sunday. The other key player is strong safety Yeremiah Bell. Mike Nolan uses Bell all over. He's going to likely see time covering the tight end. He'll also probably blitz a couple of times. But his strength is in run support - which is obviously going to be crucial to Miami's success on defense.
5. Your biggest addition to the team this offseason was probably Brandon Marshall. He had a decent game in Week 1, but probably a little below expectations (especially mine--I have him on both of my fantasy teams!) Do you see a season similar to what he's done in Denver, or should we temper our expectations a bit?
I think expectations definitely need to be tempered a bit. Remember, the Dolphins are still a run-first team. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are still the linchpins of this offense. And part of the reason Marshall was an ideal receiver for this team is because of his ability - and willingness - to run block. Don't get me wrong, Marshall is still the focal point of the passing attack just as he was in Denver. But the Dolphins just won't be passing as much, that's all.
That doesn't mean Marshall isn't going to put up numbers. He was targeted 13 or 14 times last week, catching 8 passes. Sure, those catches didn't amount to a lot of yards. But he had a couple of third down conversions and if the wind doesn't hold back Henne's long ball to an open Marshall - who had two or three steps on his defender - then we're suddenly talking about a 9 catch, 100+ yard, one touchdown performance. So Brandon is going to be just fine. And as Henne progresses and gets better (remember, he doesn't even have a full 16 games starting experience under his belt yet), Marshall will see his numbers improve - and the Dolphins should see their record improve.