As we continue to inch closer and closer towards our season opener at home against the Jets, it's time to discuss 5 burning questions that I have when thinking about Sunday's battle between these two bitter rivals:
Will Brett Favre's opening week struggles continue?
As much as the media just loves to talk about Brett Favre, they always seem to leave two things out. First, he's just not reliable in the clutch - as we saw last year against the Giants. Secondly, and more importantly in terms of this Sunday's game, he isn't a quick starter. What I mean is that he tends to get off to slow starts to begin seasons. And since the 2000 season, Favre has had some major struggles at times in week one. Between 2000 and 2007, Favre's average stat line in week one is as follows: 21/35 for 208 yards (5.9 ypa), 0.875 TDs, 1.25 interceptions, 2.5 sacks, and 1 fumble. In those 8 games in which Favre has thrown 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, his team is just 4-4. And this includes perhaps his most embarrassing game to open a season, which was back in 2003 against the Vikings at home in Green Bay. In that loss, Favre threw 4 costly interceptions.
Considering those games were all played while he was in the same offensive system and was familiar with most of the receivers, Favre will be in a new system with completely different receivers on Sunday. So is it a reach to suggest he could struggle yet again to begin a season?
Can Miami's secondary make things difficult for Favre?
If the Dolphins do plan on winning this game, then they can't make things easy for Favre when he drops back to throw. One of the questions for the Dolphins entering this season is their secondary. Can they limit mistakes and keep the opposition's receivers covered? Sure, I pointed out that Favre has struggled in opening week games. But if there are open passing lanes and open holes in the coverage, there's no way Brett will struggle at all. I'm confident in Will Allen's ability to defend. But there are question marks all over the secondary when you go beyond Allen. Can Andre Goodman and Michael Lehan make plays in key situations - like on 3rd downs? Will the safeties actually not get toasted by allowing receivers to get behind them - something we saw a lot of last season? Even if the Dolphins can get pressure on Brett, he's still damn good and will recognize passing lanes if you give them to him.
Will Miami's rushing attack get rolling early on?
This is likely the key question for the offense on Sunday. The Dolphins must be able to pound the ball early on in the game with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Not only will it set up the play-action pass, but it will also tire out that Jets defense that is not accustomed to Miami's heat. However, if the ground game gets off to a sluggish start and the Dolphins are forced to put the ball in the air on 3rd and longs, things could quickly take a turn for the worse. Sure, I'm more confident in the passing attack now that Chad Pennington is here. But I still don't want to see Chad have to throw the ball more than 24 or 25 times.
Can Ted Ginn provide the Dolphins with a spark?
Without a doubt, Ted Ginn is actually the player I'm most excited about in 2008. And I say this because I see him flash this potential at times and it makes me anxious to see what kind of player he'll become when he starts to put it all together.
So to begin the season, is Ginn going to be able to somehow spark this team? Can he get behind the defense for a big pass play? Will he take a quick slant and turn it up field for a big gain? Or is he going to have an electrifying return on a kick-off or punt? He can do damage in so many ways that he might even be considered the Dolphins' "X-factor" in 2008.
How will Tony Sparano handle game management?
For the 3rd time in 4 years, the Dolphins have a rookie head coach. We all saw last season what can happen if a head coach has poor "game management skills." How will Tony Sparano fare in his debut?
Some things to keep an eye on in terms of game management include:
- How will Sparano handle "time management" and the use of his timeouts - especially if this is a close game in the 4th quarter?
- How will Sparano handle 4th down situations where the Dolphins are positioned right at the edge of Dan Carpenter's kicking range?
- Will Sparano take risks on 4th and inches and on 4th and goals from the 1 or 2 yard line?
Despite all these questions, one thing we know for sure: Sunday begins a new era in Miami Dolphins football. Let's just hope this era proves more fruitful than the past 4 eras.