I had the opportunity to speak with DophinsGab Editor Cody Strahm to get his take on this weekends matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. Have a look.
JE: The Dolphins ran the ball 23 times for just 20 yards last week – is their offensive line that bad, or was this an anomaly? What should we expect on Sunday?
CS: No, I don’t think their offensive line is that bad. That’s just not possible. The Dolphins’ biggest problem along their offensive line is that they don’t have the ideal personnel to run a zone-blocking scheme. Richie Incognito at right guard, John Jerry at left guard and Tyson Clabo at right tackle are all glaciers who don’t have the mobility the system requires.
But their ineptitude on Sunday in Cleveland will prove to be an aberration. This much, I’m sure. There shouldn’t be any excuses for their pitiful effort on the ground against the Browns, but there is an explanation as to why it was that incapable.
First off, Cleveland may have the league’s most underrated front seven, led by perhaps an elite nose tackle in Phil Taylor. Most teams will have difficulty running on them this season. Also, the Browns refused to deviate from their base 3-4 defense on Sunday, even when the Dolphins lined up in three or more receiver formations.
The Browns were basically selling out to stop the run and were forcing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to beat them. Most teams won’t employ the same logic.
I’m expecting a much improved running game this Sunday against the Colts, which shouldn’t be difficult seeing as merely averaging one yard per carry would be improvement.
JE: It sounds as if the Dolphins may be banged up in their secondary with Will Davis and Jamar Taylor sitting against the Browns and Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson seemingly hurt during last week’s game. What is their status for this week? Any updates?
CS: Will Davis has returned to practice this week and will likely make his regular-season debut on Sunday. But don’t expect much of an impact from him, as the starting boundary positions and nickel slot are already established.
Jamar Taylor remains sidelined with a groin injury, and it’s becoming rather obvious that he likely won’t earn much of a role as a rookie outside of injury.
Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson each hobbled off the field in Cleveland, but Carroll returned to the game and has been a full participant at practice this week. Patterson, meanwhile, sat out Tuesday’s session, but returned in a limited role on Wednesday. It’s likely Patterson will play against the Colts, however, and the Dolphins’ secondary should be fairly close to full strength.
JE: Most people in the NFL have the Patriots as a lock to win the AFC East. I’m not so sure this should be a given. What has to go right in 2013 for the Dolphins to contend for the AFC East title?
CS: As far as the Dolphins are concerned, to win the AFC East, Ryan Tannehill must show significant improvement and become much more consistent than he was as a rookie. Also, Kevin Coyle’s defense must validate themselves as an elite unit that is capable of giving any offense fits this season.
Both keys look to be legitimate possibilities after Week 1 in Cleveland. But it was the Browns. Looking the part against the Colts would actually foster some genuine optimism and hope that Miami has a shot to dethrone the Patriots.
But I only think they have a chance to do so if New England is as flawed as they looked in the opener. If that close call proves to be an anomaly, and the Patriots are the same dominant team they’ve been for over a decade, the Dolphins will only be competing for a wildcard spot this season.
JE: Just how good is the Dolphins defensive line? They recorded 6 sacks and a fumble against Cleveland. Are they the real deal and are they good at both pressuring the quarterback AND stopping the run?
CS: Honestly, this Dolphins defensive line might be the best in football. And I genuinely believe I don’t just feel that way because Miami is the team I watch play every week.
It all starts with Cameron Wake, obviously, who is arguably the most explosive pass rusher in the entire league. There’s a realistic chance Wake can challenge for 20 sacks this season and take home DPOY honors.
Opposite Wake is an unproven commodity in Olivier Vernon, who was a third-round pick in 2012. But Vernon has displayed a nice combination of pass rushing and edge-setting ability so far. And he’ll be spelled more and more by third-overall pick Dion Jordan as the season progresses. Jordan has elite pass rushing traits, but must demonstrate the physicality needed to play the run at the NFL level. An extensive role on passing downs is where he’ll be the most dangerous this season.
On the interior, the Dolphins might have the league’s top three-man rotation at defensive tackle. Randy Starks and Paul Soliai are Pro Bowlers and Jared Odrick is a former first-round pick, who is finally playing his ideal position after spending time at defensive end last season.
As a whole, the line is capable of being a top-five unit against the run in addition to fielding one of the most dangerous pass rushes in the entire league.
JE: Ryan Tannehill is growing as an NFL quarterback. What do you expect 5 years from now? What current NFL quarterback do you think Tannehill will most resemble in 5 years?
CS: That’s still difficult to say. Tannehill certainly looks improved at the offset of his sophomore campaign, but there is still a bit of uncertainty he needs to shake.
He passes the eye and gut test with me, however. Tannehill has the arm to make every NFL throw and the mobility to keep plays alive with his feet.
His skill set rivals that of a poor man’s Aaron Rodgers, in my opinion. But the game still needs to slow down a bit for him if he’s ever going to be mentioned in the same class with the greats.
Will Tannehill still be the quarterback in Miami five years from now? I think he will be. And if that’s the case, he likely lived up to his billing as a top-10 pick.
JE: Okay – one more question. Predicted score for Sunday?
CS: From top to bottom, I think the Dolphins are a more talented football team than the Colts. But Andrew Luck trumps Ryan Tannehill until proven otherwise, which makes this game a tossup.
Make no mistake about it, though, this Dolphins team isn’t the same squad that took the field last November at Lucas Oil Stadium. Their defense is substantially improved and should be in Luck’s face all game.
I see the Dolphins winning this one, 24-17.
JE: While I disagree on the final score Cody, we do appreciate your time. Best of luck to the Dolphins on Sunday.