Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins-Texans Preview

With the Dolphins facing off against the Houston Texans on Sunday, DolfansNYC collaborated with State of the Texans for an in-depth game preview, focusing on the burning topics for each team. We cover the Texans’ offseason; Wade Phillips, Mario Williams and the much-improved defense; the aftermath of the Fins-Patriots game; the match-up problems Reggie Bush and Cameron Wake pose for Houston; and much more.

SOTT answers DolFansNYC questions

The Dolphins have never beaten the Texans. You guys are the only NFL team we have never defeated, Think this will be the year?

I hope it is not the year, but you never know. The Dolphins have been embarrassed and are now on a mission to prove they are a good NFL team. The Texans have to prove they can come back from a good win and continue the success as the season continues. It is up to head coach Gary Kubiak to make sure there is no let down, but that has always been an issue since he has been here in Houston. I think with the addition of Wade Phillips to the staff, he has relieved Kubiak of some unwanted pressure of a faltering defense. We will see if it makes a difference.

Who was the biggest off season acquisition for the Texans in 2011?

I have said it before, even though Johnathan Joseph is the biggest signing in the team’s short history, but it has to be Wade Phillips. Bringing him back to his home state, Phillips has always been successful as a coordinator in his previous stops. He and Gary Kubiak make a nice team together, both have been ok as head coaches, now they almost co-exist as a joint head coach with Kubiak overseeing the team and offense and Phillips with total control over the defense. When I went to training camp, the pace for the defense was considerably different that previous years. Players look like they knew what they were doing and Phillips, LB coach Reggie Herring and DB coach Vance Joseph are not scared to tell players how it needs to be. It has translated to the field since the first preseason game, and Houston fans are in a frenzy because of it.

How has Mario Williams adapted to his new position change?

He seems to be one of the hot topics on Houston sports radio talk shows and fans were very hard on him. When you are the #1 overall pick in the draft uneducated fans expect him to have 20 sacks a season, but he doesn’t play like that. What he does for the Texans doesn’t show on a stat sheet, and as he has played for the Texans he has slowly turned himself into a complete football player in the pass rush and his run defense. Against the Colts he had two sacks and a forced fumble, but Dallas Clark (Colts tight end) was blocking one on one with him, It wasn’t William’s fault the Colts decided to do that, he took full advantage of the opportunity and made two huge plays. Williams will continue to grow and learn in this defense as the season carries on, but I really like the progression of him getting better since his first day of camp.

Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the game, besides the obvious what does he provide to the Texans?

Andre Johnson has to be one of the most well rounder players and individuals that play in the NFL. Texans fans knew last year when he put the “beatdown” on Titans Courtland Finnegan that something must have been said for Johnson to go off like that, because he is so soft spoken and rarely shows emotion. At training camp, he never takes a play off and constantly runs routes like you see them in the game, and sets a bar for his other teammates to achieve. He is the true leader of the Texans, and this game against the Dolphins is important because he is returning to his old stomping ground in Miami. He says buying all the tickets is a pain, 150 total to be exact, and that he just wants to go down and win the game with no distractions. Johnson is a once in a lifetime athlete and gives us Houston fans someone to be proud of.

I keep hearing of J.J. Watt and the noise he is creating on the defense, what can you tell me about him?

When the Texans drafted him #11 overall the fan base was dumbfounded with all of the talent left on the board. Watt has done nothing but good things for the franchise and has worked hard since day one. He instantly upgraded a defensive line unit and has actually made other players around him better. I know we talk about impact rookies, he definitely is one and against the Colts he had 5 solo tackles and a fumble recovery. He could have had close to 8 or 9 tackles if he would have not missed them in the backfield. He provides some great run technique with some pass rush skills but he will be tested by the better Dolphins offensive line than the previous one he lined up against. J.J. Watt is a great piece to the puzzle for the Texans, and at this rate he should be in the mix for defensive rookie of the year honors.

What is the biggest question mark with the Texans right now?

I think there are more than one, but the fact we cannot keep running back healthy has to be one and the fact that our defense needs a real test especially the secondary. In camp the hamstring bug got to every running back on the roster, Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Steve Slaton, then Derrick Ward had a concussion and is now ruled out on Sunday with an ankle injury. One of the positions we considered healthy is now a question mark with all of the injuries. One of my fellow bloggers, Mike Kerns, said the Texans would keep 4 running backs because of this heading into the season and he was right and proved to be a great decision.

As for the secondary the Colts haven’t tested them and I expect the Dolphins to put pressure on them with their size with Marshall and speed with Bess at the slot. This will prove if the Texans have overcome the bad memories of a terrible 2010 defensive year. I think it will be a great match up to see if the Texans are ready to take the next step as a team.

Who on the Dolphins, do you think, will give the Texans the biggest issues on Sunday?

I hate to say this but Reggie Bush and Cameron Wake. Bush scares me with fact on what he can do catching the ball. I don’t know if DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing and match up with him is pass coverage so Glove Quin will have to help with this task. Bush poses a real threat and with his 20+ touches he will give the Texans D something to worry about. As for Cameron Wake he will probably be rushing from Eric Winston’s side and Winston has had some issues dating back to last year with his overall game. The offense needs Matt Schaub to stay upright and it will depend on Winston and Duane Brown’s ability to control Wake. It should be interesting on Sunday.

Have to ask the question is the year the Texans make the playoffs?

I will be bold and say yes. This year has been the perfect storm with all the change in the AFC South. That is how the NFL is, beggars can’t be choosers and we will take it the way we can, but it is a long season and anything can happen. I still the Texans have what it takes to finally get it done.

DolFansNYC answers the SOTT Questions

What do we make of the defense after the first game disaster against the New England Patriots?

The Dolphins are only one starter removed from the #6 defense last year and that defense would have been a lot closer to #1 if it weren’t for the hurt the Patriots put on them last year. The Dolphins have troubles with tight ends which is one of the reasons Kevin Burnett was brought into replace Channing Crowder but clearly they have not solved that problem. Honestly I think this defense will come around sooner rather than later. We brought back Will Allen and released Benny Sapp after last week and I think that will help a lot. I am positive this is a good defense and I think by week 8 people will realize that the New England game was a fluke.

Has Reggie Bush, in your opinion, made a big enough difference on the Dolphins offense?

Absolutely. Can he be the full time answer at running back? I doubt it. But he makes “Checkdown Chad” Henne much better instantly. Henne loves to dump it off to a running back and having Bush there makes even a little 3 yard dump off a possible big play. Ronnie and Ricky were pretty good inside runners but you never got the idea they were going to go the distance. Reggie also makes it a lot harder to double Brandon Marshall because if you put a safety on him you have to cover Bush with a linebacker and that spells trouble. Let’s just hope he can stay healthy.

Has Chad Henne made the step to become a better quarterback? He looked pretty good on Monday night.

I think a number of small things have come together to make him a better quarterback but he had some flashes of greatness the last two years he just couldn’t do it consistently so only time will tell if he can keep this play up. He led the team in off-season workouts and everyone has been talking about his leadership this year. He was elected captain for the first time in his career. He played four years at Michigan and was never a captain so I have to think that is a pretty big deal. As I mentioned before having Bush is going to make him a lot better and his relationship with Brandon Marshall has improved greatly. They didn’t have an off-season together last year and had a falling out towards the end of the season. Their chemistry seems to be there this year. They also have a new system under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll that Henne seems to love and Daboll trusts Henne and is letting him call audibles at the line. All of it have made Henne a lot more confident and if his brain can work with the outstanding arm he has he should be a force.

To me the strength of the Dolphins offense had to be the offensive line, what can we expect from them on Sunday?

I have to say that you are way off on this one. Tony Sparano was an offensive line coach before he was a head coach and his biggest failing so far has been the offensive line. He has invested a ton of money and draft pics on players that haven’t worked out at all. It’s been a disaster. This year he moved Vernon Carey from RT to RG and signed Dallas cast off Marc Columbo who has been awful so far. The left side of the line is a lot better with Jake Long, our undisputed best player at LT and Ritchie Icognito at LG. Ritchie has had a history for being a total scumbag but he was always a pretty good player. So far in Miami he hasn’t tried to stab anyone yet so I have to say he is working out pretty well. Mike Pouncey looks like he is going to be a pretty good player but he is still a rookie and has a lot to learn. He also has issues with shot-gun snaps going too high so look out for that. I would say over all that the Texans will be able to get a lot of pressure on passing downs on the right side and we are not really built for running between the tackles but if Bush gets behind Jake Long… watch out.

Mike Pouncey, the team’s 1st round pick, how has he made the Dolphins better and is there added pressure on him because of his brother’s play and being from University of Florida?

I am sure there is a lot of pressure on him as a competitive twin but honestly the Dolphins have a lot more to worry about than Pouncey. I think he is fitting in nicely and the kid seems to have a lot of confidence. I think with him and Jake moving forward our line could be pretty special for the next decade or so… Assuming we can figure out the right side…

Brandon Marshall had a big game against the Patriots, how has he adapted to the Dolphins entering his second year with the team?

Brandon Marshall had a pretty intense off-season. His wife got arrested for stabbing him but he refused to press charges and they were eventually dropped. It came out later that it was pretty clear he was responsible for the fight and he decided he would do anything he could to get his wife back. He got therapy and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which everyone should google to find out more about it. I don’t want to gloss over it, but it is a pretty serious condition that tends to lead to suicide and physical violence. Marshall held a press conference and was very open about it and is working on a documentary to help shed light on the disease. It was a pretty impressive move on his part and I think a lot of people understand him a lot better now but of course we are all worried that something bad could happen at any minute. Having these realizations about his disease has helped him deal with coaches and players a lot better and that seems to be paying off. On the pure football side Marshall had his first healthy off-season since he came into the league and is in the best shape of his life. He worked all off-season on improving his speed and quickness and everyone in camp has been really impressed with his new-found burst.

Who are some players on the Dolphins that the Texans fans should keep an eye out for?

As a pure dark horse have this fourth string receiver named Clyde Gates who is just flat out fast. If he gets behind your defense and Henne hits him he could break for some big plays. It’s going to happen at some point this season but I don’t know when or how often. Some of the more established players that Texans fans might not be aware of is another one of our receivers Davone Bess. Marshall calls him D Bess as in The Best because he is one of the best route runners Marshall has ever seen. The guy is an amazing slot receiver and always shows up on third downs. He will move the chains a lot. On defense if you guys don’t know about Cam Wake already you should. He got beat up pretty bad last week and still had our only sack. I have a feeling he is going to be looking for blood this week.

Is this a make or break year for Head Coach Tony Sparano?

Last year was a make or break year and he broke. Our owner Stephen Ross tried to get rid of him and failed much to the embarrassment of the franchise. I would say that if Sparano doesn’t win 10 games he is a goner. Personally I like the guy and the players seem to be behind him. I just don’t think our owner agrees with me.

What is it like without Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the backfield in 2011 and how has the offense changed without them?

The whole philosophy of the offense has changed after Sparano decided that he needed to adapt to a post Parcells era. The Dolphins are going to be a lot more pass heavy this year and that starts with a much more agressive offense installed by Daboll. As much as I loved Ricky and Ronnie they were slow and this team has done everything it can to get faster. I am sure everyone wants to know about the Wildcat and I think it still has a place in Miami. We didn’t see it last week but I think that’s because Daniel Thomas was injured. He is back this week and Daboll ran the Cat with Josh Cribbs. I am pretty sure Bush has it in him to run it… he just needed a guy like Thomas to give the ball to. This week could be interesting…

A special thank goes to State of the Texans for helping out, you can visit their homepage or visit the Facebook page.

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