We check in with Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post to see what’s going on with the Dolphins.
1. What’s your gut telling you, will coach Tony Sparano survive? How hard are they playing for him?
BV: “My gut says Sparano survives this disappointing season. The players love him — Brandon Marshall said he gave Sparano his first touchdown ball this year — he’s extremely organized, he’s been a good face of the organization and owner Stephen Ross seems to really like him, too. Sparano will essentially have a job interview next week with Ross, where he has to present his plan for fixing the offense for next year. There’s little doubt that Sparano will knock the interview out of the park.
But changes are coming. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning will likely retire, QB coach David Lee (of Wildcat fame) could be let go, and Chad Henne definitely wont enter 2011 as the starting quarterback (though he may get a chance to compete for it).”
2. Who is the one Dolphins player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?
BV: “Cornerback Sean Smith. Last year’s second round pick started all 16 games as a rookie but lost his job before the start of this season and played sparingly in the first Dolphins-Patriots game this year.
But Smith earned his job back –former first round pick Jason Allen was eventually cut — and he has been fantastic in recent weeks, playing much better than the much-hyped Vontae Davis. If Smith had any hands, you would have heard from him by now — he has dropped at least eight interceptions this year, at least four of which would’ve gone for touchdowns. But he’s always around the ball and has been a gamer in recent weeks.”
3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Dolphins’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
BV: “Protection, especially at right tackle. Starter Vernon Carey is out with a knee injury, and backup Lydon Murtha, a second year player and former seventh round pick, may miss the game as well with a knee injury. Allen Barbre was signed off the street this week, and whether he or Murtha plays, Tully Banta-Cain and the Pats pass rushers could have a huge day.”
4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Dolphins’ defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
BV: “The Dolphins’ defense is ranked No. 3 in the NFL, believe it or not, so they don’t have too many weaknesses. But they have struggled in covering tight ends over the middle of the field all season, and with Karlos Dansby unlikely to play with turf toe, I expect the Pats to pick on his backup, Tim Dobbins.”
5. Finally, Dolphins win on Sunday if….
BV: “…If the Pats take out Tom Brady after the first series. Seriously, the Patriots are going to terrorize Chad Henne, even the backups. It could get ugly.”