The Miami Dolphins will open their 2015 season this Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Originally thought to be the long-awaited showdown between 2012 QB class members Ryan Tannehill and Robert Griffin III, Miami's opener will instead pit Tannehill against another 2012 QB draft selection: Kirk Cousins. Can the Redskins pull off the upset? Is Cousins the guy to do it? Does Jay Gruden and Co. have some tricks up their sleeve this Sunday? We spoke with Alex Rowsey of Hogs Haven to get his take on these and other pressing questions heading into Sunday's opener.
1) Many Dolphins fans were jealous of the Brandon Scherff selection. How's the big guy been for you thus far, and did you approve of his selection? What do you expect from him this season?
Brandon Scherff has been ... a rookie. I'd say a majority of fans have actually been a bit disappointed with Scherff so far, though most everyone can acknowledge than any reaction is an overreaction figuring as he hasn't even played in a real game, yet. After Scherff was drafted, everyone penciled him in as our new starter at RT. After spending some time there at the beginning of camp, the coaches decided to move Scherff inside to RG. That move in-and-of itself has many feeling disappointed. For such a high draft pick, most people hoped he'd be able to play OT right out of the gate. We'll see how he progresses and if he stays at G.
His play through the preseason was just OK. He played especially poorly in our second preseason game against the Lions and pretty much got exposed in pass protection. I'd say he's already average starter quality in the run game, but he has work to do in pass protection. We're all very worried about his very first real NFL test coming against Suh. The Texans visited our team in Richmond, VA for some training camp practices, and you could watch for yourself in Hard Knocks, J.J. Watt made Scherff looks so foolish. I mean, it's J.J. Watt, but still, people had hoped Scherff could be a decent starter from day one. Turns out that just like other rookies, he'll need some time.
As for my feelings on the selection of Scherff, I approved. OL has been one of our greatest weaknesses for the past few years, and he was the best one available. I admittedly thought Leonard Williams would be the choice, but when they surprised and took Scherff, I wasn't the least bit disappointed. He was one of the top players in the draft and helps at a great position of need. He also doesn't have the injury history that Williams does. I expect some rookie bumps with Scherff, he'll probably get owned a bit by Suh, but I expect him to be an average to slightly above average starting G by the end of the year.
2) How do you see the Redskins' offensive line faring against the Dolphins' defensive line? Who's the X-factor on the OL, and how can they help Washington leave Fed Ex field with a win on Sunday?
Honestly, the 'Skins OL has their work cut out for them this week. Your DL is a terrible first assignment as our OL is young, inexperienced, and frankly not great. I think they're going to struggle. Our LT Trent Williams is one of the best OL in the league. I'm confident that he'll consistently win his match-up as he's always been the bright spot on our team. Aside from him though, there are a lot of questions. Our LG and C have experience, but both are really just average players at best. Our C Kory Lichtensteiger is especially bemoaned by the fan-base. He's probably not as bad as most Redskins fans will tell you he is, but he's certainly not very good. The biggest intrigue lies on the right side of the line. The rookie Scherff will play RG and second-year pro Morgan Moses will play RT. Moses was drafted in the third round last year from Virginia and some scouts had him going as high as the first round (in fact I think Todd McShay may have even projected that you guys would take him at #17 last year). He didn't play last year though, and was viewed as a bit of a raw, project player that would need a year or two. Then he broke his foot. People weren't even sure if he'd be healthy enough to play at the onset of this season, much less start. That's why everyone viewed Scherff as the RT. Well, Moses healed fast and somehow also seems to have really improved since last year. He kind of forced himself into the starting lineup. Still, basically no experience really for him or Scherff ... and they get to go against Suh and Wake. It's going to be rough.
The X-factors on the line are definitely Moses and Scherff. No matter what we do to try to help those guys against Suh/Wake, they're going to have to play one-on-one sometimes and they're going to be relied upon heavily to win some of those match-ups. We know they're going to lose sometimes. It's just a matter of limiting those instances. If one or both can really surprise and play well against such stiff competition, it would make a world of difference in how our offense can perform Sunday.
3) Do you feel more confident or less confident with Cousins in there and Griffin on the bench? What are your thoughts regarding RGIII's current situation? Do you regret that 2012 draft deal, or do you think he'll find a way to make it work in Jay Gruden's offense? If not, do you see Cousins as the long-term guy under center? Also, how do you feel about Jay Gruden at the helm?
I feel much more confident with Kirk Cousins starting at QB than I would have if RGIII were starting. At this point in time, Cousins is definitely the better player and in my opinion, it's not particularly close. The whole situation surrounding Griff right now is insane. Honestly, I think everyone on our end is just about over it. It's easy to look back at the deal made to acquire RGIII and regret it now because it clearly hasn't panned out. At the time, I was for it. I was excited. This franchise has been starved of good QB play for 20+ years now. We needed a QB. And the way the league is set up now, basically any team that wants to have sustained success needs a QB. So I knew we were giving up a lot, but I thought that what we might be getting could really be worth it. I was wrong.
Looking back now, the deal was clearly a failure. I don't think he's going to work out here with or without Gruden at the helm and I doubt we ever see him take a snap as a Redskin ever again. The situation is too toxic and the relationship is messed up. Both he and the team need a fresh start without each other ... and I think it's just a matter of time before that happens.
I can't really speak yet to whether Cousins has a real future here. He's been below average to average in his time here, but he's only started like nine games in his career. So, what I've seen would indicate that he isn't the future, but I can admit that no one has seen him play enough to say for sure. That's one exciting thing about this season. Hopefully, we're going to find out. For Kirk, it call comes down to INTs. He can make all the throws. He's a good leader. He says the right things. He puts up big yards. He can throw TDs. He just has to find a way to not throw so many picks. It's really his downfall. If he can cut down on the INTs, I see no reason why he can't continue to grow and develop here. If he goes out and has a few more 4+ INT performances, then we'll be QB hunting again next year...
4) Similar to your question, how do you feel about your secondary going up against Landry, Parker, Stills, Jennings, Matthews and Cameron? Are Miami's receivers in for a bad surprise on Sunday?
I don't feel very confident in our team's secondary. At the same time, I'm not all that impressed with the Dolphins receiving corps. Personally, I think you guys are a bit too high on your receivers. Still, it might not take a great receiving corps to do work against our secondary. We brought in Chris Culliver to be our CB1 this year and he's pretty good and entering his prime. He's not Brent Grimes good, but he's good enough to be a #1 corner. Beyond Chris, though, we have trouble. Our second best CB is Bashaud Breeland. He was a fourth-round pick last year and had a pretty good rookie season. Unfortunately, he's suspended for this game for Mary Jane. He also hurt his knee in training camp and isn't 100 percent healthy, yet. After that, we still have DeAngelo Hall. Hall has been a very good CB for our team, but he's getting older now. He's also coming off of two tears of the same Achilles within the past year. He hasn't looked good in the preseason. Behind them we have David Amerson and Justin Rogers. Amerson is young and has all the tools, yet somehow has been really bad. We hold out a little hope, but he could be abused. Rogers is just a guy. At FS, we brought in Dashon Goldson. He's 30 and coming off of two pretty bad years in TB. He was great before going to TB, though. So we'll see if his troubles the past couple seasons were more scheme related or if he's just on the down-slope. We haven't had a decent FS since Sean Taylor died. At SS we have Duke Ihenacho. He's excellent against the run and bad in coverage. Simple as that, really.
As far as your receiving corps goes, I think Jarvis Landry is a stud in the slot. He worries me. Aside from him, though, I'm not really seeing it. I think Kenny Stills could be good, but I haven't seen it, yet. He's only potential to me right now. Greg Jennings is old and going down fast. Not worried about him. Jordan Cameron has the one great year and he could be good. But he's also been bad. I say he's average. I like Parker a lot, but with how banged up he's been, I'm really not sure how worried we should be. I mean, he's a rookie and probably not 100 percent ...
Looks like a match-up of two underwhelming units there, in my opinion.
5) As much talk as there's been about Tannehill and the receivers, the Dolphins will also need considerable output from the running game, specifically Lamar Miller. What kind of test is he in for on Sunday?
Honestly, I think Lamar Miller is going to face a real stiff test Sunday. The strength of our defense is the front seven. For as poor as our secondary looks, the front seven has been revamped and looks solid, especially against the run. Terrance Knighton is one of the best NTs in the game, especially against the run. He's got to be close to 400 lbs. and he absolutely eats two blockers every snap. He's very difficult to run at. With Jason Hatcher on one side of him and Stephen Paea on the other, our DL looks pretty stout. I know preseason basically means nothing, but for whatever you want to take from it, teams could not run on us. Ryan Kerrigan is a completely OLB and for as great as he is as a pass rusher, he's also excellent at setting the edge and very strong in the run game. Starting opposite him is Trent Murphy, who excels against the run. He hasn't shown much as a pass rusher, but he's already above average against the run game in only his second season. Very big, very strong, and very hard to run against ... that describes our front seven. I think the Dolphins will find more success throwing the ball then putting the ball in Lamar Miller's hands Sunday.
Thanks to Alex and Hogs Haven for taking time to talk to us. You can read Alex's questions and my responses here.