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Tuesday Morning Odds & Ends

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We're all still trying to get over Sunday's disappointing - to say the least - loss to the Texans. There have been a lot of interesting takes all over since the defeat that cover a wide variety of topics. I just wanted to take a few moments to highlight a few.

Sean Smith quietly has solid game
This is definitely something that got lost in the shuffle after the game - particularly after that atrocious first half. David Hyde highlighted the very solid game put together by rookie corner Sean Smith - as he was assigned to Andre Johnson:

Early last week, Sean Smith was told by coaches, "You’re on Andre Johnson." It made sense just from a physical look. Smith is 6-3 and 212 pounds. Houston’s Johnson, the best receiver in football, is 6-2 and 228 pounds.

For the most part, he was on Johnson in Sunday’s awful loss, too. Let’s go inside Johnson’s five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, too. Let’s see why the cornerback situation is as good as you could hope after one season with Smith and Vontae Davis.

"I don’t think he got too much,’’ Smith said.

Johnson caught a receiver screen pass. He was put in the slot where Houston coaches evidently saw he’d be matched up by 5-10 Nate Jones on fourth-and-1 for a 10-yard line for a touchdown.

If you’re Houston, you see another big game by Johnson. If you’re Smith, you see the best receiver in the game caught three passes against you for about 40 yards. That’s a pretty good day.

Some good news to come out of that disaster on Sunday? Could it be?

The fact of the matter is that the Dolphins placed their trust in Smith to cover one of the most talented receivers in the game and he responded by allowing him to catch just three passes. That's not too shabby. But with that said, Smith still needs to get more physical and become a better tackler. That shouldn't come as a surprise, though. The big question on Sean wasn't his cover skills when he was coming out of college - it was his ability to tackle. While he'll never be a great tackler, we do have to see some improvement.

Consider this, though. Smith has only been playing on the defensive side of the ball for a few years. He was converted to cornerback while in college. So he's only going to get better.

What's the top priority now heading into offseason?
This has been debated all season long and I think that Sunday's game really highlighted where this team's needs are. They need a big time receiver. They need help at linebacker. They need a young nose tackle. And they need an upgrade at free safety. But what is the top priority?

Dave Hyde thinks that receiver and linebacker are this team's two top needs. Armando Salguero believes the most glaring need is definitely linebacker.

I can't help but agree that linebacker - both inside and outside - should be this team's priority heading into the offseason. Their inside backers are slow and are just not play-makers. And their outside linebackers are old. Is Cameron Wake a potential answer at weakside linebacker? He could be, but it's too soon to tell. He remains a one-trick pony (pass rusher) and he won't ever consistently see the field until he can be effectively play the run and drop into coverage.

How should the Dolphins address this need? It's too soon to tell. At this point, we don't know if there will be or won't be a new CBA by March. If there isn't, 2010 will be uncapped and the field of potential free agents diminishes greatly. The draft, though, does have some very interesting prospects at all of the linebacker positions.

This should be a very interesting offseason.

Sparano takes sloppy play personally
On Monday, Tony Sparano talked a lot about how he was greatly disappointed in how sloppy the team played. This team, for all their faults, have generally been one of the best fundamentally sound football teams over the past two seasons under Sparano and his staff. That's why these past two weeks of mistake-prone play is bothering Sparano so much:

"This is my fault. This is what I’m disappointed in me for, is that I take great pride in the fact that we work our team hard enough, and that our team gets better as the season goes on."

If there's one thing I'm sure of, though, it's that Tony Sparano is the right man for this job. Some have started wondering if he should be the head coach of this team after his team basically fell apart early in critical late season games these past two weeks. But I remain 100% confident that he is the right man for this job and he will get this thing where we all want it to be.

If anyone watched his press conferences from either Sunday or Monday, you would have seen a man that looked like he just got the worst news of his life. He looked disappointed, angry, frustrated, confused - basically all the emotions that us fans felt as well. And that's what makes me believe he's the guy that will get this team where it needs to be.

Playoffs?
After all this, the Dolphins are still in the hunt. But they need a near-miracle to happen on Sunday to squeak in. The NFL released all of the official playoff scenarios on Monday. For the Dolphins, it's simple. They can get in one single way. They must win AND the Jets, Ravens, Jaguars, and Texans must all lose. That's it. That's the only way.

Don't count on it. Instead, just enjoy the final Dolphins football Sunday before we have to go months without any games to watch.