Thankfully, we're past the verbal sparring that took place over the last few weeks. I'm amused that Jets HC Rex Ryan engaged in so much invective with Dolphins' LB Channing Crowder, but it shouldn't come as a surprise given his silly comments about not kissing Belichick's rings. Welcome to the bulletin board, Rexxie.
Starting off this week's Around the AFC East, we talk to uber Miami fan and head writer at The Phinsider, Matty I. Matty answers my questions about the end of 2008.
A Divisional Championship after a 1-15 season is nothing short of an astounding turnaround. However, towards the end of the 2008 season, it appeared Miami struggled a bit in "easy" games (I know, no game is easy). Was that a case of the opposition simply having more film on the Dolphins? Were there issues in need of correction? If the latter, what has Sparano and crew done to improve?
That's an excellent question and is really one of the things that have been eating at Dolphin fans this offseason. The Dolphins seem to struggle (but still find ways to win) against some of the teams who, on paper, were not very good last year. And now the Dolphins enter the '09 season with, on paper, one of the toughest schedules in the league. That leads many to believe that the 2009 season could play out as a situation where the Dolphins are a better team than in 2008, but end up with a worse record.
So what was the issue last year against the "lesser" teams? I really don't know. But the one thing I can't help but wonder about is if the Dolphins played "down to their competition" last year. It seemed like the Dolphins weren't as crisp against the Raiders, Seahawks, 49ers, and teams like that as they were in week 17 against the Jets - a team that was clearly in the upper half of the league.
With that said, though, there was one clear issue late in the season that definitely hurt the Dolphins: Joey Porter wore down. It was obvious that he wasn't as effective as he was early in the season. And for that, I blame Miami's lack of another serious pass-rushing threat. Porter was constantly getting double-teamed and just couldn't get the push he was getting previously. But that issue was addressed with the signings of Jason Taylor and CFL pass-rushing star Cameron Wake. So Porter will have some more help in 2009.
But all in all, there isn't any one thing you can put your finger on and declare as the reason why the Dolphins struggled against the "lesser" teams. Skeptics might say it's because the Dolphins just weren't really that good last year. They would add that the ‘Wildcat' wasn't catching anyone off guard late in the season and, therefore, wasn't as effective. And these are the same people who are quick to write-off the Dolphins in 2009.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things shape up this year.
That's an interesting point about Joey Porter and one that could make a lot of sense. The additions of Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake will help in the pass rushing area quite a bit. Hopefully, Matt Light is up to the task of protecting Brady's blind side. Thanks to Matty for the intel. Don't forget to check out The Phinsider for my take on the top free agent acquisitions.