As promised, in preparation for this week's AFC showdown between the Tennessee Titans and the Miami Dolphins, Total Titans exchanged a set of questions/answers with fellow Bloguin NFL site Phins Phocus.
The questions and answers provided insight on several topics pertinent to Sunday's Titans/Dolphins clash, including recent developments such as the Titans acquiring Randy Moss and the Fins going with one Chad (Pennington) over another (Henne) at starting quarterback.
The Total Titans/Phins Phocus Q&A exchange...after the jump.
Do you think it's a good move to go with Pennington over Henne?
Because of the possible ramifications this may have on this franchise's future, I don't agree with the decision to bench a quarterback who the Dolphins have invested nearly a year and a half of developmental time in. If they are really giving up on Henne already, which is way too premature in my opinion, the Dolphins will likely be stuck waiting for another young quarterback to develop in the next year or two.
But enough about the future. You guys care solely about this coming Sunday. I don't agree with the decision for the reasons I named above, but from a short-term perspective this may be what this offense needs to make a playoff push. With Pennington under center, the Dolphins are gong to play conservative, ball-control offense and will likely drastically cut down on turnovers. It's not an exciting brand of football by any means, but it's the same formula that won 11 games and the AFC East title in 2008.
Having said that, there is now a limit to how good this offense can be. Defenses can freely load up the box, which handcuffs what an already struggling running game can do, and sit on the short passing game, because Pennington just doesn't have the arm strength to stretch the field.
How big of a role has the wildcat-offense played this year?
The wildcat offense has played virtually no role this season. The Dolphins have only ran it twice in the last four games, and I think it's about time to abandon the formation all together. It's not like defenses have finally figured the thing out or are doing anything different, though. It's not the gimmick that many people label it. It's simply a power running formation and nothing more.
Power running football works just fine when your interior lineman can create a good push, but when you replace all three of your interior starters from a year ago, like the Dolphins did this offseason, you can't expect to pick up right where you left off. Poor blocking by the Dolphins has killed the wildcat, and in the bigger picture, resulted in the complete fall off of what was a top five ground attack last season.
Ronnie Brown's numbers have been down this year - is it more his performance or that of the offense?
Like I mentioned above, I don't blame Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams for this offense not being able to run the ball like they have in the past. If your going to point fingers, point them directly at this front office for replacing all three interior O-line starters from last season.
Taking it a step further, though, offensive coordinator Dan Henning deserves some blame for abandoning what was supposed to be this offense's idenity. Ronnie and Ricky are both averaging a pretty respectable 4.3 yards per carry, but the Dolphins have quitely turned into a pass first offense, throwing the football nearly 57% of the time so far this season. Even when the running game begins to show signs of it's old self, Dan Henning just refuses to at least stay balanced. Just this past Sunday in Baltimore, Ronnie carried the ball six times for 45 yards and a touchdown on the Dolphins' opening drive, but was only given three more carries the rest of the game.
Something tells me the Dolphins will try to return to their balanced, ball-control ways now that Pennington is back at the helm, though.
What's Miami's game plan regarding the tough task of defending Randy Moss?
I expect Vontae Davis to once again be assigned with the task of shadowing Moss all game long. Davis and Moss have had their fair share of battles already dating back to last season. As a rookie, Davis was able to intercept two passes intended for Moss, but was also burnt on a couple long touchdowns as well. There's really no debate as to who got the best of who in their first matchup this season, though. Although, the Patriots blew out the Dolphins on Monday Night Football in Week 4, Davis was able to hold Moss to zero catches in his last game as a Patriot. Watching the game on TV, it's difficult to see just how much safety help Davis had in that game.
Because Kenny Britt is hurt, I expect the Dolphins to trust Sean Smith in man-to-man coverage on the opposite side, and shade the safety over to Moss' side, all the while attempting to primarily focus on stopping Chris Johnson and the running game.
Prediction Time! Who's going to win this Sunday's Titans/Dolphins battle and why?
There is no denying that this is absolutely a must win for the Dolphins. Obvioulsy, it's very important to the Titans too, as they are right in the thick of this heated playoff race. But they are tied for first in their division. The Dolphins are two games back to two teams that they have already lost at home to. When you add the Dolphins' 0-3 home record to the equation, I don't think there's any secret as to who is the more desperate team.
Dolphins 20 Titans 17
What are your feelings about the Titans signing Randy Moss? Do you think he's worth the antics? What kind of impact do you see him having on the offense?
I'm excited about the acquisition of Randy Moss for a few reasons.
First, signing a player of his caliber sends a positive message to the locker-room from the standpoint that team management is willing to do whatever it takes to provide the team with the ingredients to make a deep playoff run.
As for his antics, I'm somewhat confident that Jeff Fisher will do what it takes to prevent the enigmatic Moss from becoming a distraction.
Lastly, Moss's mere presence should provide more running room for Chris Johnson in the running game. Up-and-comer Kenny Britt was doing a great job as of late by playing the same role but unfortunately, he was recently bitten by the injury-bug, so he's out for several weeks. Moss should have no problem picking up where Kenny left off.
What are you hearing about Vince Young's ankle injury? Do you feel like the Titans' offense loses much of a step with Kerry Collins under center?
Young's ankle injury is a concern, but I'm expecting him to start against the Dolphins this Sunday. He's playing solid football and with each game, he's becoming more of a complete NFL quarterback rather than being just an athlete who merely plays the position.
Having an established veteran signal-caller such as Collins as the #2 is always a good thing for any franchise. However, even with KC's experience and despite his advancing age, the ability to still chuck the ball downfield, the offense is at its best when Vince Young is under center.
Evaluate the Titans' defense through the first-half of the season. Strengths? Weaknesses?
Through the season's halfway mark, the Titans defense has played a tough, physical brand of football that's consistently causing turnovers, taking down opposing quarterbacks and forcing the opposition to constantly keep their heads on a swivel.
Strengths: Creating turnovers, getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks by way of a no-name front four.
Weaknesses: The defense has given up its share of yards in the passing game. Opposing offenses have had levels of success matriculating the ball down the field via the passing attack.
By all means, Chris Johnson is having a very productive year. He hasn't dominated like he did a year ago, though. What are defenses doing differently to contain him a bit?
Johnson's still getting his yards, but it's taking more carries this season. Also, what's missing from his game is a drop in long runs.
I'll attribute CJ's "struggles" to a couple of factors. Opposing defenses are using the eight men in the box strategy to prevent CJ from breaking the big one. Of course, with Randy Moss on board, hopefully, this trend will end.
Also, CJ's had a bit more wear and tear this year. He's carrying the ball more, which naturally, is going to make him more susceptible to nagging/lingering injuries which inevitably, is going to hinder his ability a bit to perform at his highest level.
Finally, who do you see winning Sunday and why? Final Score?
I think the Titans will come out swinging in Randy Moss's much-anticipated debut. Miami's a tough team that win or loss, will keep things interesting but in the end, I'll take the Titans in a close one.
Titans 20 Dolphins 16
*On behalf of Total Titans, a big thank you goes out to Phins Phocus for participating in this week's Q&A exchange.