Now that the NFL season is here, I'm putting a twist on my weekly Blogger on Blogger series. Each week, I hope to enlist a blogger who regularly writes about the Ravens' opponent to help me break down the game. This week, I exchanged emails with Kevin Nogle, who blogs about the Dolphins for The Phinsider.
MV: The Dolphins raised some eyebrows with their offseason spending spree, which including signing former Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. How have those free-agent acquisitions paid off so far?
KN: Ellerbe has been a great pickup. He's currently third in the NFL in tackles, and has been all over the field for the Dolphins. Fellow linebacker Philip Wheeler has been up and down so far this season, and it's mostly down right now. He's got to pick up his play, especially in pass coverage. The other defensive signing of note is former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who is fully back from the Achilles tear he suffered last year, and is playing lights-out football. Most teams are staying away from him, which is putting more pressure on the other cornerbacks, but it's nice to have a corner who simply takes away half the field. On offense, of course, the big name is Mike Wallace, who Miami signed to a five-year, $60 million contract. Statistically, Wallace's performances have been disappointing, as he only has 15 receptions for 176 yards, with nine of those catches coming in the game at Indianapolis. However, his presence alone has opened up the field more for Brian Hartline, Charles Clay, Rishard Matthews and the rest of the offense. So, in that sense, he's been a great addition. He needs more time with Ryan Tannehill to get completely on the same page, but there's still a lot of the season remaining.
MV: Even though they had a rough go of it against the Saints on Monday night, the defense seems to be the team's biggest strength, despite a lack of household names (well, besides Cameron Wake, who is well-known in Canadian households). Please give us an introduction to Dolphins defense.
KN: Wake is obviously the big name, but Miami's defensive line is scary. Along with Wake, the Dolphins start Olivier Vernon on the end, with Derrick Shelby and third overall pick Dion Jordan rotating into the game. Any of them can get after the quarterback, and all of them have at least one sack so far this season. In the middle, the trio of Paul Soliai, Jared Odrick, and Randy Starks is incredible, able to stuff the run in the middle of the line as well as get after quarterback. Soliai really is the heart of the Miami run defense, and, as long as he is out there, it will be tough to run between the tackles.A s I said earlier, the linebackers are up and down, with Ellerbe the up and Wheeler the down. Koa Misi is the third member of the group, and he is a solid if unspectacular player, able to lineup with his hand in the dirt as a pass rusher, or standing up in coverage. The secondary is hit or miss. They will have great moments and come away with interceptions, or they can be left standing there as a double move beats them.
MV: Wake missed Monday night's game. If he suits up Sunday, he could be a tough matchup for Ravens right tackle Michael Oher. Are you optimistic Wake will play?
KN: I don't know at this point. Wake was limited all week in practice last week, but it seemed as though he might be available for passing situations, then he was placed on the inactive list. He has a mild sprain of his MCL, and, with the bye week after this game, it might make more sense to let him rest. But, after being torched in New Orleans, Wake may not stand for not playing. I wouldn't put it past the All-Pro to be back on the field, but I wouldn't predict seeing him out there, either.
MV: The Ravens should probably expect the Dolphins to split the carries between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, even though Miller looks to be the more dynamic player. Why is it a timeshare, and would you like one to get the majority of touches?
KN: A lot of Dolphins fans cannot stand seeing Daniel Thomas on the field, but I believe he has a role. However, I think that role should be a lot less than we are seeing of him at this point. The only thing I can guess is, with this being Lamar Miller's first year as a "feature" back, the team wants to make sure they don't overwork him early in the season, only to see him burn out later. But, at this point, with an offense that is on pace to give up record-setting numbers of sacks, the Dolphins have to start running the ball better and the easy answer seems to be to hand the ball to Miller more often.
MV: In what ways has second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill progressed since his rookie year? And what about his skill set in this offense could concern the Ravens?
KN: Tannehill is clearly in charge of this offense and he is running it well. He's progressing through his reads and making good decisions when and where he throws the ball. The problem is he's holding the ball too long sometimes, trying to wait for someone to get open, rather than throwing the ball away or running with it. He's got to do a better job of protecting the ball, both in the pocket and while running, as he has a league-high six fumbles to go with his league-high 18 sacks. Tannehill has been very accurate with his passes this year, and he is going to take whatever the Ravens give him. If they spend the day double-teaming Wallace, trying to keep the long ball from beating them, Tannehill will simply throw the ball to Hartline or Brandon Gibson all day. If the Ravens let Wallace run inside routes, Tannehill will hit him on shorter routes, letting him try to run after the catch. And he has really taken a liking to Clay, who is second on the team in receptions, so don't be surprised to see the H-back getting targeted in the middle of the field.