Well, Matt has responded to my questions, and now I'm going to share what he said to me. Once again, the questions I asked The Phinsider are in bold, while Matt's responses are in italics.
I've been a Dolphins fan for as long as I can remember, so I would estimate for about 17 years,
since my first Dolphins memory was in 1989 watching a Jets/Dolphins game. Living in New Jersey, the Dolphins are obviously not my closest team. I think my attraction to them came from watching football highlights and always hearing about how good this Dan Marino character was. And it helped that my first football card I ever got was a Mark Clayton.
2) Daunte Culpepper is one of my all-time favorite Vikings, and someone whose career I still follow closely. Obviously, he wasn't fully recovered from his knee injury when the season started. How much of an adverse impact do you feel he's had on the Dolphins' season in 2006, and how do you think he'll do when he's fully recovered next season?
This is a tough one to answer for me, mainly because I have liked Culpepper since he was drafted by Minnesota. So, of course, when they got him, I was so excited. So to say he had an adverse impact on my team really does kill me to say. However, there's no way around it. Not that Harrington has been playing well (he's been average, at best), but I certainly feel that if Culpepper wasn't rushed back for opening night against the Steelers, Miami probably would have a better record. How much better is questionable. But Daunte certainly hurt this team. I, however, do not blame him for it nor will I hold it against him. He's a competitor and he wanted to go out and try to help his football team win. I can't blame him for that. I also can't blame the coaching staff for that, either.
As far as when he returns, which I think will be in 2007, I look for him to be our quarterback for the near future. The man has a great arm, is a great competitor, and is a tremendous leader. He may not have the complete explosiveness he had while in Minny, but I think he will at least be able to avoid the rush better than he did this year. Basically, I look for great things from Daunte in the future with the Dolphins.
3) The Dolphins have lost a lot of talent on their defense over the past couple of years. . .most noticably Pat Surtain and Sam Madison. . .yet their defense is still outstanding (currently #2 overall in the NFL). How have they been able to maintain such a high level of play?
Well, I think there's a couple reasons for this. First of all, Miami still has the two players who are the true leaders of this team and have been for years: Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. Taylor, in particular, has been playing with a fire under his ass the past few games. The man has simply dominated football games and may have almost single handedly climbed the Dolphins out of the HUGE hole they were in.
Another reason for the defensive resurgence would be the guys that Nick Saban has brought in, either
through the draft or through free agency. Channing Crowder has been an absolute stud for Miami. Drafting him in the 3rd round was a steal. He makes plays in the running game and in pass coverage. Recently, Miami has also used Crowder blitzing, which has been very successful in creating more pressure on the quarterback. There's also guys like Travis Daniels, Andre Goodman, and Will Allen that he brought in. Granted, they aren't shut-down corners like Surtain and Madison were, but they are perfect fits for Saban's system. Surtain and Madison lacked in the tackling department. Saban brough in corner's that can cover but can also help in run support.
One last reason why is the play of safety Yeremiah Bell. Saban has just recently began starting him in place of Travares Tillman and the man makes plays. In fact, in his limited playing time, he has 10 pass deflections, which puts him just 4 behind the leader. You will see tomorrow that he makes plays all over the field.
4) Nick Saban has been on the job in Miami for about a season and a half now. How do you feel he's done as the Dolphins' head man?
I'm very happy with the jobhe has done so far. His first draft was outstanding. Drafting Ronnie Brown over Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams will prove to be a great move, as Ronnie is definitely the best all around back of the 3. Also, he brought in Crowder and Daniels in the draft. Some might say that this year's draft wasn't a good one for Saban, but I would disagree. First round pick Jason Allen will be a future starter at safety. He is simply still learning. Many Dolphin fans wrote him off because of his early struggles. However, many rookie safeties strugggle. Troy Polamalu struggled, Roy Williams struggled, and Bob Sanders struggled. However, if Allen turns out to be like any of them, I'd say he's a pretty good player.
Also, Saban is a master gameplanner. Every week, the team looks well prepared and ready to go. We
especially saw this last year when he took a team that had no right going over .500 and got them to a 9-7 record. The man is just an excellent football coach. He knows how to win. He's done it at every level he has coached at, and I expect nothing less than a Championship during Saban's tenure.
5) How do you see tomorrow afternoon's game playing out?
Much like you said, I expect a low scoring, ugly kind of football game. Both defenses are very good and I think that the difference will be which quarterback makes fewer mistakes. Luckily for us Dolphin fans, I think that will be Brad Johnson. The Dolphin pass rush has been outstanding recently. I expect Jason Taylor to get to know Johnson very good this game and I think this will force Johnson to make poor decisions. In the end, I see something like a 17-13 or 13-10 kind of game with Miami coming out on top.
Well. . .we see the game the same way, anyhow. For us, that's bad news.
Game preview thread either late tonight or tomorrow morning. Have a good rest of your Saturday, folks!