Really sorry about the delay on this...
I had a chance to talk to Matty, who runs the whole show down there in Miami. We talked about the Bucs, the Fins, and a few other things to boot. Here is our conversation as we warm you up to the Bucs- Dolphins game this Sunday at 1:00 PM EST.
And now for the interview....
Niko: Todays NFL fan thinks WILDCAT when he thinks Miami Dolphins. In years past, it was Ricky Williams (Bad), Dan Marino, Don Shula. What identity does this Miami Dolphins team have?
Matty: Great question. I'd say that the identity of the 2009 Miami Dolphins is exactly what you said above - the 'Wildcat.' Obviously, the media plays a big part of how fans perceive NFL teams. And whenever anyone in the media talks about or writes about the Dolphins, they almost always bring up the 'Wildcat.'
In my opinion, though, I think the Dolphins should be known for their power running game - and not just the 'Wildcat.' Outside of Miami, I think that many feel the 'Wildcat' is a gimmick and I feel like the term 'Wildcat' now has a negative connotation because of this idea that it's a gimmick. But the 'Wildcat' is just essentially a power running formation. There's very little "trickeration" about the formation. So referring to it as a gimmick just isn't fair and doesn't do the formation - or the team - justice.
Niko: Speaking of Wildcat, why do you think Miami runs it so well compared to other teams, and do you think its run is almost over?
Matty: The Dolphins run the 'Wildcat' so well because they believe in it and they practice it. To other teams around the league, the 'Wildcat' is a gimmick formation. But to the Dolphins, it's part of their basic offense. They view it no different than the 'Power I' formation. And when it comes down to it, it's still a formation that, to work, has to be executed well - just like any other offensive play. When the offensive line blocks well, the formation will work. When they get beat, it doesn't work.
Is its run almost over? I don't know. I don't think it'll ever be completely abandoned by these Miami Dolphins. The players and coaches all believe in it and I still think new twists and wrinkles still remain to be seen. But I think opposing teams will continue to put up to 9 guys in the box to defend it until the Dolphins prove that they can pass out of the formation. And I suspect that we'll see more passing opportunities for Ronnie Brown (and Pat White - but I consider a play with White taking snaps as more of a spread option than the 'Wildcat'). He's been very accurate passing the football - especially for a running back. And if he continues to complete passes, teams will be forced to at least respect the passing threat, which could open things up more for the basic power running plays out of the formation once again.
Niko: Its tough to replace a legend. Not trying to compare the two, but we know how hard as we are trying to fill in for Warren Sapp, John Lynch, and Mike Alstott to name a few. Is Henne going to be the successor finally to number 13?
Matty: It's too early to tell if Chad Henne is the long-term solution to ongoing quarterback problem that we've had since Dan Marino retired. But I will say that I haven't seen any reason to not believe in Henne through his first five career starts.
Henne's arm has come as advertised - it's a cannon. He's also shown both physical and mental toughness. More importantly, though, is that we saw a glimpse into the kind of quarterback Henne can be when he led the Dolphins to a fourth quarter comeback victory over the Jets on Monday Night Football in just his second career start, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that had held Drew Brees and Tom Brady to their lowest QB ratings of the season.
With that said, Henne has been average at best since that game. Granted, he doesn't exactly have many weapons to help him out in the passing game (Miami's receivers are not very good). But even still, it's too early to tell if he is definitely the long-term answer. It's important to point out, though, that Henne's first five career starts have all come against teams who rank in the top six in the NFL in opposing quarterback's combined passer rating - meaning he's had a very rough start to his career in terms of who he has had to go up against. Tampa's defense isn't as daunting, at least on paper, which means Dolphin fans everywhere are hoping for a solid effort from their young quarterback this week.
Niko: In 1979, former Dolphin owner Joe Robbie stopped playing the Bucs in preseason because he felt the Bucs players were taking the game too seriously and injuries were happening. Do you agree with playing a team in preseason that you play during the regular season?
Matty: I guess I'd rather not play against a regular season opponent in the preseason. And for the first time that I can remember, every opponent the Dolphins faced in the preseason they will also play in the regular season this year. I can't say I'm thrilled about this. But even with that said, I'm not particularly angry over it, either.
The bottom line is that even if you're facing a team that you won't see in the regular season, you still won't show too much of your offensive and defensive schemes because you don't want to give your regular season opponents any film to study. The main point of the preseason is to get the players into shape, evaluate those players on the roster bubble, and practice some basic offensive plays. So I don't think it matters much if you're facing a regular season opponent or not. I don't really think it changes too much.
Niko: I ask this of every teams blogger. If you could have anyone on the Bucs, who would it be? and who would you trade for him?
Matty: There are a couple of guys that come to mind. I've always been a big fan of Sabby Piscitelli dating back to Oregon State. I also like Barrett Ruud a lot but I'm not sure if he'd be a great fit for a 3-4 defense. So I think it comes down to two players - both of whom would help the Dolphins bolster their weakest area - their passing attack.
Antonio Bryant, if he could just stay healthy, is the kind of big-play receiver that this offense needs. However, he has an "interesting" history with Parcells so I'm not sure how he'd fit in. But if Bill and Antonio were over their "issues", I could see the Dolphins making a run at the receiver this offseason in free agency.
The other player, and the one that I would trade for, is Kellen Winslow. No, I've never been a fan of his sometimes "cocky" attitude. But he's only 26, he's got great size and speed and would be a weapon all over the field for the Dolphins - especially in the red zone. I'm sure he'd also enjoy returning home to Miami, where he spent his college years. But I'm just not too keen on his contract. He's scheduled to make over $8 million in 2011, which is a lot for a tight end. Even so, I'd be willing to part with a player and a pick for him. But I'm not too sure this front office in Miami that absolutely loves draft picks would be willing to part with a high draft pick.