In this segment, we posed five questions to The Phinsider, and Kevin Nogle responded.
1. How has Reggie Bush looked since his knee injury? Back to his early season form, or has he slowed down?
The knee injury clearly has had an impact on Bush. He has not been as explosive in the second three games as he was in the first two and a half for Miami this year. With 14 days to let the knee heal, I think Bush will be looking to prove that it's ready to go, and to prove than LaRon Landry is not in his head.
I think a big benefit to Bush could be the return of Daniel Thomas, who missed the Dolphins' week six game with his second concussion of the year. Bush played nearly every snap against the Rams (50 of 54), with rookie Lamar Miller getting the other four snaps. Thomas, who is averaging about one-third of the snaps this season, has served as a solid change of pace back for the Dolphins, and has been able to give Bush a breather. If both Bush and Thomas are back and healthy, the team should be able to find the running game again.
2. Ryan Tannehill has looked a bit better each week, from what I've seen. Now that nearly half the season has passed, what is he doing differently from when he started the year?
I'm going to give you the cliche answer - the game has slowed down for him. I think that's exactly what it is. Over the past few games, Tannehill has shown that he is in full control of the offense, he knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he audibles the play and the protection scheme to fit what he wants to do. He's started being able to look at a defense and adjust the play as needed. And, he's cut down the turnovers. He's developing very nicely, and he should continue that development over the rest of the year.
Even without the injury report having been officially released yet, Marshall is "out" of the game. He's been fighting a back injury all year, and after the Arizona Cardinals game in Week 4, it was so bad Marshall was on crutches. It's supposedly progressing, but he is expected to miss his third straight game for the Dolphins.
The team will use Nolan Carroll as the starter opposite Sean Smith. Carroll is still developing, but he is playing well above most Dolphins fans expectations as a starter. Carroll started his college career as a wide receiver, but always wanted to be on defense. In his third year in college, he started to see time at cornerback. As a fourth year junior, he played primarily corner, then broke his leg in his fifth year and missed almost the entire season. Now in his third year with the Dolphins, Carroll finally seems to be comfortable as a cornerback, and his play is elevating because of it. He's going to allow some big plays, and he won't be confused for a "shutdown" corner at any point this season, but he's also not a liability most of the time.
4. Since Darrelle Revis has gone down, the cornerbacks for the Jets have all been playing at an extremely high level. Brian Hartline too has become quite the good receiver as well. What do you expect to see from him this week?
Hartline has become the focal point for defensive secondaries over the past few weeks, and rightfully so. He's a highly talented wide receiver, with the speed to get behind defenses and the hands to make the tough catch. But, as he has emerged as a weapon, he's also been taken away by double coverage and extra attention.
Two weeks ago, the Dolphins last game, Hartline was only targeted once during the game, drawing a pass interference penalty - and no official stats. Tannehill has shown he's able to read what a team is doing to Hartline, and is not afraid to go to secondary or tertiary targets as needed. I would expect Hartline to be a little more of a weapon this week as the Dolphins try to get him back on track, but if he's covered, Miami will look in another direction.
5. If you had to pick out the biggest weakness, on offense or defense, for the New York Jets to exploit, what would it be?
The defensive secondary is still the weakness for the Dolphins, even if Marshall is playing. Against the Rams, the Dolphins rush defense was gouged, but I think that was a bad day for Miami more than a blueprint to how to beat them. If the Jets are to succeed, Mark Sanchez is going to have to make accurate passes into the secondary - and make them quickly as Cameron Wake and rookie Olivier Vernon are bearing down on him.
On offense, it's tough to tell you how to exploit the Dolphins. Not because they are so superb that there are no weaknesses, but because they are becoming really good at simply taking what a defense gives them. If you shut down the passing game, but give up the run, the Miami offense will simply turn to the run. If you stack the box, but give up deep passes, the Miami offense will try deep balls. If they have to stick to dink-and-dunk, Chad Pennington type passes, they will do that. Whatever way you try to shut down the Dolphins' offense, they will adapt and try something else. They may not be overly successful all the time, but that doesn't mean they can't try something else until they find something that does work.
Don't get me wrong, the Dolphins have weaknesses on offense - a rookie right tackle, limited depth at wide receiver, the need for a tight end to develop and become a passing game threat - but it's just hard to tell you where to attack, since it seems like they have a different offensive scheme every game - and most of the time a different scheme from one half to the next.