It's no surprise to this blogger that the Dolphins are doing so well. In fact, during our pre-season "Around the AFC East" exchanges, I predicted the 'Fins would go .500. Why? It was part observation of what was going on, part listening to our SBNation cohorts at The Phinsider, and some gut feel thrown in for good measure. If y'all remember, Bill Parcells rode into town in '93 and sparked the emergence of the New England franchise as a legit player on the NFL gridiron. Much of the praise should be directed at owner Robert Kraft for having the vision to bring in one of the hottest coaches in the NFL at the time. After a very successful stint as NYG's head coach, Bill was a hot commodity. Always in tow, was his #1 protege, Hoodie.
Parcells is the main reason I've been big on the Dolphins. He promptly fired CamCam and pulled Tony Sparano from Dallas to take the HC spot. Parcells also shored up many areas in need of fixing and jetisoned distractions like Jason Taylor. In a very interesting move that seems to be working, Chad Pennington, bumped for His Favre-ness, made the trek from Joisey to warmer weather. There can be no writing off of The Tuna.
So what's the deal? What's the skinny? What's the dope? How do we win? Well, this will sound incredibly simplistic, but the deal is this: keep Cassel upright! Duh! Ya ain't telling us anything new, Einstein. But wait, there's more. Matt is developing that elusive rapport with his receivers. He's also developing a MUCH better pocket presence. He's no longer going sideways and getting jittery; he's going vertical, stepping into the ball even when a linebacker is bearing down on him. He's throwing the ball in the third row when he needs to and he's not forcing it into a favorite receiver's hands. Remember the Jets game? Jabar Gaffney, Sam Aiken and Ben Watson got plenty of looks because NY concentrated on Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Aside from passing yardage, let's not forget Matt led rushing with 62 yards in 8 attempts. Used to a flat-footed Brady, this has been good to see. However, I hate to see him run because a) he couldn't get it to a receiver and b) we don't need another IR'd quarterback. The end result of all this? Give him time and protection, and he'll make something happen.
Much of keeping him upright has to do with neutralizing Miami LB Joey Porter. At 13.5 sacks, Joey leads the NFL and is a serious threat to a quarterback. Keeping him out of the backfield is key and the Patriots showed how to do that in our game against the Colts. Faced with the threat of DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, NE opted to keep their TEs back to perform blocking duties. The strategy worked well. We saw a similar strategy against Buffalo and NY where Matt has seen 226 and 386 yards passing; respectable numbers.
Even though the Jets matchup was a heart wrenching loss, it showed a lot of things, not the least of which was Cassel's improvements. I can't say that without mentioning that our O line has it's starters back, but I do believe our QB is coming along nicely and, more importantly, the team seems to be responding to him. And he's finding receivers when he needs to. Sure, Welker is a freak of nature and, even when covered like crazy, can still throw down108 yards. However, Moss is the TD man. He's the threat. JHR may disagree with me (Moss should be able to fight off DBs), but I do believe the key to Cassel-Moss success is putting the ball past Randy. Use his height and gazelle-like stride and you've got yourself a long ball. We saw that at the end of the Jets game - a highlight reel catch to tie the game and send it into overtime.
More to come on the defense. So much to write, so little time...