That’s why we turned to Omar Kelly, who covers the Dolphins for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was nice enough to shed some light on the 'Phins. Check out what Kelly had to say about Chad Henne, the Wildcat and the moving parts on the Miami defense.
NESN: Did Chad Henne use last season's victory against the Patriots as a real jumping-off point in his development?
Omar Kelly: I don't think so. In fact, that Patriots win was Henne's last good game as the starter in 2009. He lost his final three, and struggled mightily in the fourth quarter of those losses. Henne is still a work in progress. But his performance against the Jets last week was one of his best of his career. He's reading the field better and making touch throws, which has been his weakness at times.
NESN: How much Wildcat are the Dolphins running this year, compared to the last two seasons?
O.K.: The Dolphins use the Wildcat about a half-dozen times a game. It's really just a formation, like the I-formation they use. While it's produced big plays throughout its three-season lifespan, the Wildcat's main purposes are to convert first downs in third-and-short situations and to score in the red zone. It's a run-based formation that gives the Dolphins an extra blocker in the box. Nothing more, nothing less. However, it's been waaaaay more successful in past years. This year, it seems opponents have had its number.
But the Dolphins always save something special for the Patriots. In 2008, they unleashed the Wildcat against Bill Belichick's team. In 2009, they unleashed the Pat White option package. We'll see what they have up their sleeve Monday.
NESN: The Dolphins had some uncertainties at outside linebacker heading into the season. How is that position shaping up?
O.K.: The outside linebackers are the weak link on defense. Cameron Wake is a pass rushing demon, but he's not versatile enough to drop back in coverage and has been exposed as a marginal edge setter. Koa Misi, the rookie from Utah, is a big energy guy who flashes from time to time, but he occasionally disappears. The Dolphins are hoping Ikaika Alama-Francis, their best edge setter, is healthy enough to play. He's missed the first three games because of an illness that made him lose 15-20 pounds. His presence will help the unit improve, but everyone is a specialist. Nobody is a jack-of-all-trades, and that's a problem because it telegraphs their intentions.
NESN: Did Jason Allen win the starting job at cornerback, or did Sean Smith lose it?
O.K.: Both. Jason Allen had a strong camp, and Sean Smith has a lackluster exhibition season. Allen has talent, but his technique and fundamentals were always lacking because he'd gone back and forth from safety to cornerback nearly a half-dozen times. He's a decent athlete, which explains why he's a good special teams performer, but he's never been able to hold down a starting spot until now. Smith, who is big and athletic, lost his confidence due to some struggles in the exhibition season. He's presently being used in the dime package to defend tight ends. He's a good player with a ton of athletic ability. If Allen struggles like he did against the Jets again, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the field returning to his old spot.
NESN: Was the defense able to recover from the loss of Gibril Wilson?
O.K.: Losing Gibril Wilson was a blessing because he was a strong safety pretending to be a free safety. This regime cut him because they knew it wouldn't work with him paired next to Yeremiah Bell. There was a lot of concern about the fact they replaced Wilson with a fifth-rounder who has sparingly played as a rookie, but Chris Clemons is big, athletic, fast and has proven he can get the job done. He's not a ball-hawking safety, but he has shown he can cover a great deal of range in the first three games.
Thanks again to Omar Kelly from the South Florida Sun Sentinal for his contribution to this piece.
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