Of course, the Cowboys play on Thursday since it's Thanksgiving Day. So it's a little earlier in the week that we talk to the enemy. In this case, it's the fine Dolphins blog, The Phinsider. I sent them five questions and got five answers.
Blogging The Boys: What has happened over the last few weeks that has turned things around for the Dolphins?
The Phinsider: Honestly, the best answer is, the Dolphins started playing better. It's that simple. I really think, for whatever reason, the Dolphins got kicked in the butt harder by the lockout than most teams did. I would like to say its because players weren't in Miami, so coming back to the heat and humidity wore them down in training camp, but I don't know. They had a new offense to install, new players at key positions (i.e., Kevin Burnett at linebacker replacing Channing Crowder), and it just seemed like no one was sure where to go or what to do. But, as players have gotten healthy, things have started to pick up. Jake Long is back to his dominating form after dealing with a shoulder injury from last season. Vontae Davis and Daniel Thomas seem to have gotten over their hamstring issues. And, I think Matt Moore is finally comfortable in the pocket and with the play book. He's getting time to find the right receiver, is making the right decision, and is being effective. Overall, the Dolphins are a much, much better team here in Week 12 than they were in Weeks 1-7.
BTB: Cowboys fans remember Matt Moore from his short time in Dallas. Talk about his progress, and is he a possible long-term solution for Miami?
TP: Matt Moore was a source of controversy in the preseason. Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano promised that Miami would bring in a quarterback to challenge incumbent starter Chad Henne. They brought in Matt Moore. Some saw it as a wise move, some saw it as desperation because they didn't get a free agent or trade for Kyle Orton. Henne was the starter, and actually played fairly well until he was lost to a season ending shoulder separation.
Suddenly Moore was thrust into the starter's role, and no one knew what to think. He didn't exactly light the world afire in his first couple of games, but things have changed over the past few weeks. Moore seems comfortable with the playbook and his receivers. The offensive line finally decided to show up and actually block someone - unless it's anything over a gentle breeze coming towards right tackle Marc Colombo (Seriously, would you guys like him back? We won't ask for much - in fact, we may even pay you to keep him).
I don't think Moore is the "long term" answer at the position for the Dolphins. Miami hasn't drafted a first round quarterback since Dan Marino. I would look for that to end in 2012. However, I think Moore could very well be the starter next year as the team transitions to the rookie.
BTB: Reggie Bush has finally gotten hot. How are the Dolphins using him?
TP: Amazingly, the Dolphins are using him like an explosive, outside runner. Who knew? Really though, a part of it is the offensive line's play has gotten a lot better. But, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems to have realized that running Bush up the gut every time isn't the way to go. If you get him on the outside, and let him have some space, the guy can explode. Then, between the tackles opens up for him, because everyone is looking for the sweeps and tosses. I think the team, and Bush, were so focused on proving he could be an everydown back, they forgot to let Bush do what Bush does best - run to the outside. That seems to be fixed now.
BTB: Is Tony Sparano going to be the Dolphins coach in 2012. Besides some kind of miracle run here at the end of the season, can he survive?
TP: I doubt it - but two weeks ago, I would have said "No." If the Dolphins can keep playing like this, there's a chance he comes back next year. To be 100%. the Dolphins would have to finish 9-7, meaning end the year on a nine-game winning streak. But, if Miami comes out 8-8 or even 7-9, I could see owner Stephen Ross deciding to give it one more year. At 7-9, that would mean the Dolphins went 7-2 over the last nine weeks of the year. That's showing a huge turn around. Would it be enough to save Sparano's job? We'll have to see.
BTB: Evaluating the Cowboys, where do you see problems for the Dolphins in terms of match-ups, and where do you see advantages for Miami?
TP: Anything to the right of center Mike Pouncey. The right side of the Dolphins' offensive line is a mess - as I mentioned above. Colombo is a joke, and no one can figure out why the guy is still starting. I'm fairly certain, Miami could put Chad Henne, injured shoulder and all, in at right tackle and get comparable, if not better, performances.
I like the Dolphins against the Cowboys wide receivers for some reason. With Miles Austin hurting, I think the secondary of Miami might be able to handle the receivers. However, the Dolphins struggle against pass catching tight ends, so I would expect Jason Witten to have a good performance.
I think the Dolphins will be able to get pressure onto Tony Romo, and do a decent job of shutting down the run game. The defense has finally started playing like the top 5 defense Miami fans expected to have this year. They haven't allowed a touchdown in three games. The run defense has averaged 72 yards allowed over this three game winning streak, and held Buffalo, with the NFL's leading rusher coming into the week in Fred Jackson, to 41 rushing yards. Look for Miami to shut down the Cowboy's 10th ranked rush offense.
Thanks for the knowledge. Check in with The Phinsider for more Dolphins coverage.