The Phinsider's Matty graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about his beloved Phins. (I reciprocated and my answers to his questions should be at his site later on today.) Below you will find my questions with his answers:
The Phinsider: What a lovely way to start your 5 questions, Will. Thanks. But hey, 1 for 2 isn't bad. In baseball, being successful just once every 2 times would make you the greatest player who ever lived, wouldn't it?
In all seriousness, though, if you only judge Cameron's QB expertise on what he did in Washington, then you aren't going to be overly impressed. But you simply can not forget what he did with two quarterbacks in San Diego. He developed Drew Brees when every NFL team, including the Dolphins, passed on him in the draft. He then developed Phillip Rivers behind Brees despite being criticized for trading Eli Manning to the Giants for Rivers. I guess Cameron and Marty Schottenheimer must have known something because, at this point in their careers, I'd take Rivers over Manning any day of the week.
Also, I think you're forgetting about perhaps the most valuable asset that Cameron brings to the Dolphins: his innovative offense and play calling. If you watched any Dolphin games last year, you would have a boring and predictable offense featuring lousy play calling by Mike Mularkey. In 2007 with Cam Cameron, that simply won't be the case anymore.
HH: Cameron has suggested and your stated at your site that Jesse Chatman should share the load with Ronnie Brown on the ground. You cited around a 70/30 load in favor of Brown, which sounds good to me. As we're also running a multi-back system, I'm aware that sometimes even runners as good as Brown and Clinton Portis lack in areas where others might excel. What are Chatman's relative strengths against Ronnie Brown?
TP: Like you said, having 2 running backs who you are comfortable giving the ball to is a great luxury to have in the NFL in this day and age. However, Brown still does need to get a bulk of the carries because, as his statistics show, he's a player who gets better as he gets more carries. So I'm hoping for a situation where, as the game goes on, Chatman gets fewer and fewer carries and Ronnie's workload increases.
As for the strengths of Chatman compared to the Brown, there are really 3 key differences. All three, though, are things in which Brown can improve upon in order to become a more complete back as his career progresses. First, Chatman is very familiar with Cameron's offense as he played under Cameron in San Diego. Cam's offense is vastly different than the one Saban and Mularkey ran, so Brown will need time to get fully acclimated to the offense. Second, Chatman seems to have better vision finding the hole. This has been one of the knocks on Brown early in his career, though the other problem is that there haven't been many holes to locate thanks to poor line play. Lastly, Chatman hits the hole with a burst while Brown tends to sometimes dance around in the backfield rather than burst through the hole. This is something that has been a hot topic among Dolphin fans and, though Brown improved on it as the season progressed last year, still has plagued Brown throughout the preseason.
HH: Last year's Dolphins were really good defensively and really bad offensively. Just looking at their ranking in those categories from last year, my intuition, without being informed by anything else about the team, tells me that they improve offensively and get worse on defense. Is that a reasonable or likely conclusion or am I off (and if so, by how much)?
TP: I think you're off a bit on that assessment. Yes, the offense should improve at least a little. They now have a veteran QB who can read defenses and a coach who brings creativity to the offense. So I think you're right on target with that one.
The problem with your statement is that I'm having a hard time seeing this defense get worse. If anything, they will likely be even better in 2007 than they were in 2006. First of all, this unit was a top 4 defense last year despite having Donnie Spragan as a starting outside linebacker. The Dolphins certainly upgraded at that position with the acquisition of Joey Porter. Now they have Porter and Jason Taylor rushing on opposite sides, meaning that offensive lines are going to have to worry about not one elite pass rusher, but two. How do you game plan for that? Also, Channing Crowder is entering his third year at linebacker and has looked like an absolute beast in the preseason. Many people, including myself, agree that this could be the year Crowder makes a name for himself in this league. Lastly, last year's weak spot, the secondary, has one more year of progress and experience under their belt. For the first time, safety Yeremiah Bell will start on opening day rather than Travaris Tillman, who was terrible last year and got benched midway through the season. Bell is a playmaker who seems to have a nose for the ball. They also have Travis Daniels back and healthy. Last hear, the cornerback was slowed by an ankle injury after starting 14 games as a rookie in 2005. He'll certainly be a key player on this unit. All in all, if I had to predict where this defense will rank in 2007, I'd have to say top 3 is pretty likely, behind the likes of Baltimore and Chicago.
HH: There is a guy on the Miami Dolphins that the Redskins probably don't know much about but will learn a lot this coming Sunday. What is that dude's name?
TP: I'll give you two names; one on offense and one on defense. First, on the offensive side of the ball, Redskin fans are going to get to know David Martin, Miami's starting tight end. Martin comes over from Green Bay where he spent the first 6 years of his career behind Bubba Franks. And remember, Cam's offense is very tight-end friendly and Trent Green has been known to throw to his tight end as often as he throws to anybody else. Martin is a player with good size, speed, and hands. He's no Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez by any stretch of the imagination. But he is a guy who can stretch the seam and keep the safeties from cheating over towards the wide receivers. And look for Martin to also be a force in the redzone.
On the defensive side of the ball, you're likely going to get to learn about Matt Roth, a third year defensive end out of Iowa. He's a player with great strength and who has a nonstop motor. Last year, as Kevin Carter's backup, Roth picked up 3.5 sacks. This offseason, Carter was let go because of how confident Dom Capers is in Roth as a fulltime starter. Look for Roth to get pressure on the quarterback at least a few times. But also watch him play the run. He's very good at taking on two blockers, allowing the talented linebacking core to make plays on the ball carrier. To sum it up, Roth is the kind if player who you are going to find to be quite annoying to play against.
HH: Is Chris Chambers overrated? Football Outsiders says yea but for some reason I can't get it into my head that this guy isn't a really solid WR. I think he must have performed a jedi mind trick on me because I'm totally convinced he's not the droid I'm looking for, in spite of what FO says -- and I consider them a reliable source.
TP: Yes, Football Outsiders, who I also consider a reliable source, hates Chris Chambers. And why not? His 39% catch rate is the 2nd lowest since 2002, when Jason McAddley had a catch rate of 36%. So is he overrated? Right now, I'd say yes. He still drops way too many passes and has a knack for disappearing in big spots or for long stretches in a game. But the public doesn't see that. What they see are the highlight reel grabs that he makes pretty often.
In fact, there were reports that the Dolphins were shopping Chambers but nobody was willing to pay the price tag the Dolphins put on him (which is unknown). And his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, believes that this could very well be Chambers' last season in Miami. I'd have to agree with that unless he finally begins producing. He's had just one real good year in his underachieving career. If Cameron can't jump start him, there's a real chance he's playing somewhere else next year. And Will, since you like him so much, maybe you can convince Dan Snyder to send the Dolphins a 2nd round pick for Chambers. What do you say?