With the Raiders set to travel to Miami to face the Dolphins, I caught up with Kevin Nogle of the Dolphins blog, The Phinsider, to ask him five questions about the team he covers phinside and out. After the pummeling they took last week at the hands of the Texans, they have plenty of questions of their own but no harm in piling on.
Kevin graciously answered my questions. He had that level of...well, let's say optimism, one might expect from a team blogger. But amidst the positivity there is some good phinsight into the Dolphins team the Raiders are about to face this weekend.
Both teams had a mistake-filled first weekend so neither team has a lot to cheer about. For the Dolphins, it was rookie Ryan Tannehill throwing three phinterceptions and the Dolphins turning the ball over five times. For the Raiders it was the long snapping issues.
Here are my five questions followed by Kevin's responses:
1. I know Ryan Tannehill had a rough start to his NFL career, but do you take any positives from what you saw from him? And how much of the blame for those interceptions fall on him?
"I think the biggest part of the first game was getting Tannehill out there and getting him the experience. It was against the Houston Texans, who have an amazing defense. It wasn't going to be an easy day for him. But, he may have been banged around and bruised, but he came out of his first game still standing and with his debut behind him. Now, it's time to make corrections. His interceptions are partly on him, but it's also on the offensive line, the play calling, and on the Texans simply making good plays. Tannehill has to make corrections, sliding into better passing lanes, not staring at receivers, but the offensive line also needs to hit the defensive line to keep their hands down, as well as Mike Sherman calling more passing plays other than quick, three step drops. There's a lot that can change to make the Dolphins' passing game better this week."
2. I get the distinct feeling the Dolphins gave up on this season before it started in favor of building for the future. Do you feel like that may be the case as well?
"I don't think they have. I mean, obviously, they aren't going to be winning the Super Bowl this year, but I don't think it was all about planning for next year. I think they are trying to find that happy medium of rebuilding under new offensive and defensive schemes, while trying to find a way to win as well. Right now it looks like they have missed - but as guys develop, they are going to be more competitive than people realize."
3. Have any of the Dolphins' receivers stepped up and looked like they could be a viable number one receiver?
"The Dolphins' receivers are clearly the area of most concern. Davone Bess is a good-to-great slot receiver, and could fill the Wes Welker role nicely in this offense, but he needs a supporting cast around him. I think the team is looking to Brian Hartline and Anthony Armstrong to be "the" guys. Hartline missed all of the preseason rehabbing a calf injury, then came out last week and led the team with 50-yards receiving. Armstrong joined the Dolphins as a waiver claim at the 53-man roster deadline, and needs time to adjust to the offense, but he was out there last weekend, and I would expect his role to grow as the weeks pass.
"Miami is also going to rely on running backs out of the backfield a lot too, with Reggie Bush leading the team in receptions last week with six. Don't be surprised if that keeps up."
Note: Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong is officially listed as doubtful for this game.
4. What are the three strongest areas on this Dolphins team?
1 - Run defense. The Dolphins are able to clog the middle of the field with Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, making it difficult for opponents to find a rushing attack.
2 - Run offense. The Dolphins are able to run the ball, It started off slowly last week, but Reggie Bush ended up averaging 4.9 yards on 14 carries. If the Dolphins are able to get him involved in the game earlier than against the Texans, Bush could have a big day.
3 - Special Teams. Miami has a great special teams package, both in coverage and in returns, and with both punter Brandon Fields and kicker Dan Carpenter. Field can change the field possession game himself. The Dolphins may have found something special with running back Marcus Thigpen as the team's return man. He returned a punt last week for a touchdown, and looks dynamic with the ball.
5. What are the three weakest areas on this Dolphins team?
1. Wide receivers. Like we discussed earlier, the Dolphins have to find a receiver to compliment Davone Bess. Until then, Ryan Tannehill is going to struggle.
2. Secondary. The Miami secondary is thin. They are only carrying four cornerbacks right now, although safety Jimmy Wilson played cornerback last year, and was out there at corner last week as well. Sean Smith can be a beast, but is on the cusp of reaching that right now - he could still fall back into a player that tries too hard and ends up out of position too often. The rest of the secondary has to step up.
3. Tight end coverage. This has been a constant problem for at least a decade now. The Dolphins cannot cover tight ends. I don't know why coaching staff after coaching staff can't seem to find a solution to this. A tight end running up the seam can run free all day on Miami.
Miami 24 - Oakland 20. I really think the short week, the 1pm east coast game, and the black uniforms in the Miami heat will all give Oakland problems, allowing Miami to squeak out a win.
To see my answers to his questions, Click here.