AFC East Q & A Segment: Part 1

Normally, as fans we know how it goes.  We don’t like them, they don’t like us and we’re not about to start exchanging Christmas cards and well wishes anytime soon. 

But after all, we’re in the final day of May and with the regular season over three months away, there’s certainly no reason not to be cordial or tolerant for a moment with one of our fellow division rival bloggers.

I’ve had the opportunity to pick the brain of Cody Strahm, who runs Phins Phocus, a blog dedicated to all things concerning and covering the Miami Dolphins.  We exchanged in a friendy Q & A segment regarding the offseason and free agency, the 2010 NFL Draft and what’s to come in the not so distant future for both teams.

I’ve broken it down into 2 parts, so without further delay here is Part 1 of my interview with Cody Strahm.


Bills Gab:  Let’s begin by hitting the rewind button since we didn’t get a chance to catch up after free agency.  It was a busy offseason in South Beach, the headlining moves obviously being the signing of LB Karlos Dansby and the trade for WR Brandon Marshall.  How would you characterize the moves made by the Dolphins in free agency?  Filling two huge needs at inside line backer and getting one of the best receivers in football isn’t a bad way to spend an offseason, right?

CODY:  Absolutely a great way to start an offseason. There’s no doubt expectations have skyrocketed with both acquisitions, and by all accounts, on paper, the Dolphins are a significantly better football team. I am a little surprised by how aggressive this front office was, especially with all the money they dished out, making Dansby the highest paid non-rush linebacker in the league, and Marshall the richest receiver in NFL history, but both moves were almost necessary to compete with what the Jets have done, and who the Patriots already are.

Bills Gab:  When you have a chance to go after and land a guy like Marshall, there’s no doubt you do whatever it takes to get him, so I commend Miami’s aggressiveness.  We’re talking about one of the premier wideouts in the NFL.  3 straight years with over 100 catches, 3 straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons and last year despite being in and out and then back in Josh McDaniels’ dog house, he caught a career high 10 touchdowns.  How dynamic will he make Miami’s offense?  Before, defenses would stack 8 players in the box to focus squarely on stopping the run, now that won’t be the case?  How excited must offensive coordinator Dan Henning be to have a player of Marshall’s caliber implemented in the offense?

CODY:  Despite defenses being able to focus solely on the run, by loading up the box, and really not having much respect for any of Miami’s receivers, the Dolphins still managed to produce the league’s fourth best rushing attack and seventeenth overall offense. For the first time since probably the Marion era, the offense was the strength of this football team, and the defense became its downfall. Now when you throw Marshall into the mix, this unit has the weapons necessary to make the jump from a middle of the pack type offense to potentially one of the better offenses in the league. There is finally a receiver teams will have to respect and game plan around, and defenses will no longer be to throw everything at this running attack. Ronnie and Ricky should see more room to operate than they have had their entire career in Miami, and Chad Henne now has the weapons to develop into a franchise quarterback. Dan Henning must be as ecstatic as the fans, as he now has the resources to open up the playbook. Last year the offense was still designed around Chad Pennington, with a lot of short to intermediate routes, but now Henning can adjust things to utilize Henne’s arm strength and one of the best receivers in the league.

Bills Gab:  Now with Marshall as his No.1 receiver, what type of year do you expect to see from Chad Henne in his second season as Miami’s starting quarterback?  What do you see in his game that Henne needs to improve on most in order for him to take that next step in becoming a better quarterback?

CODY:  Henne now has all the weapons around him to emerge as the franchise quarterback the Dolphins are counting on him to be. And in order for them to become a legitimate contender, that’s exactly what needs to happen. While I wouldn’t make him your first round pick in your fantasy draft, simply because the Dolphins will likely still rely heavily on the run, I don’t see why Henne can’t throw for over 3,000 yards and twenty touchdowns. One area where Henne needs to make progress in his second year as starter is his ability to consistently be accurate. He has the arm strength to make all the throws in football, but will let some throws get away from him from time to time. One minute he will make perfectly placed passes, like on that final drive on Monday Night Football against the Jets last year, and then at times he won’t even come close. But the combination of this being his second season under center, and the fact that he now has a true number one target to throw to, should contribute to Henne taking that next step as a quarterback.

Bills Gab:  With the Dolphins washing their hands of Tedd Ginn by trading him to San Francisco, Miami’s competition for the No.2 wide receiver comes down to Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo.  Miami opted not to take a wide receiver in this year’s draft, so they must feel comfortable having those 3 players battle it out throughout training camp?  When the dust settles, who do you see becoming Miami’s No.2 receiver?

CODY:  First off, I think Davone Bess was emerging as a fantastic slot receiver before the Marshall acquisition. Now, with a true number one receiver on the outside for defenses to worry about, I envision Bess having the same sort of role Wes Welker has had in New England. Obviously, he won’t put up the same type of numbers Welker has, with the Dolphins still being a run first team, but I think the Marshall-Bess duo has the potential to cause secondary’s the same headaches Moss and Welker have caused over the years. The battle for the starting number two should be interesting with Hartline and Camarillo each making a strong case for the job. I see Hartline winning out however, as he put up over 500 yards and led all Dolphin receivers with three touchdowns, despite only starting two games last season. Camarillo should still see plenty of action though, being as sure handed as they come, not dropping a pass in 09’.

Bills Gab:  I hate giving out draft grades mere days once the draft concludes, so let me ask you a couple of questions regarding Miami’s 2010 draft class;  What did you like? what didn’t you like?, best pick? biggest reach?  If you had the GM hat on, what’s the one thing you would’ve done differently in the draft?

CODY:  Overall, I like what the Dolphins did in this year’s draft. Things didn’t go down like I anticipated, but nobody really expected Starks’ move to nose tackle. If he fares as well as the Dolphins think he can on the inside, I love the Odrick pick. What better way to replace Starks’ production from the end position, than to take the best 3-4 end in this year’s class. In the second, Misi was a little surprising as well, with Kindle still on the board, but this front office believes in his ability to drop back into coverage, along with rush the passer. If you think about it, Misi is the better fit, considering how horrible the Dolphins’ linebackers fared in coverage just a year ago. While I think Jerry could be the last piece to one of the best offensive lines in the league, I might have gone safety in round three, considering they already had a solid O-line, but didn’t have an answer at free safety. I would have preferred they traded up to get Morgan Burnett but could have taken Major Wright by staying put. In rounds four and five, I thought they may have reached by trading up for both A.J. Edds and Nolan Carroll, but I like the coverage abilities Edds brings to the table, and the value they got with Carroll, who may have been a day two selection if he didn’t break his leg last season. Like I said earlier, I love the value they got with Reshad Jones as well, who could have went as high as round two, and think he can at least be a solid backup at strong safety, but will compete for the starting job at free safety. In round seven, I like how they continued to load up on linebackers, and keep an eye out for Chris McCoy who is my favorite to be a late round sleeper, and has reportedly been told he will compete at weakside linebacker.

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