Welcome to Ask Mike – Week 14



from Boulder

Q –
Hi Mike,
My question is a simple one. What does it take for the Phins to finally beat the Ravens? We haven’t beat them in 5 meetings. Thanks Boulder


First off, we’re a different team, and so are they, so I don’t put a lot of stock in the prior performances.  I think we are a much more complete team than they’ve faced from us in a long time.  I think we have a QB, we have a running game, and we have talent at WR, and we have a defense.  That being said, the Ravens are a good team in their own right, and Justin Forsett has done a great job running the ball for the Ravens this season.


The Ravens are #10 in total offense (yardage), and the Dolphins are #19.


Passing yards, the Ravens are #16, the Dolphins are #22.


Rushing yards, the Ravens are #5, and the Dolphins have dropped to #10, after at one time, holding the #5 spot ourselves.


On total defense (yardage), the Ravens are #16, The Dolphins are #6.


Passing yards defense, the Ravens are #31, the Dolphins are #2


Rushing yards defense, the Ravens #4, and the Dolphins are #21.


Of course, all Dolphins fans understand why we’re #2 against the pass, and now all the way back to #21 against the run.  Teams have been gashing us in the run game, and haven’t had to pass, and in the case of the Jets, weren’t even allowed to pass.  That’s how stats get skewed, and a great reason why stats have to be taken into context, and not used as the only measuring stick.  There are always circumstances that skew stats.


The Ravens on offense have finally found their feature back after losing Ray Rice to suspension.  Justin Forsett has stepped up nicely, in a backfield of Bernard Pierce, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro.  Forsett just went over the 1000 yard mark last week, and with just 179 carries, has 1009 yards, for a very impressive 5.6 YPC average.  For contrast, Pierce is averaging 3.5 YPC and Taliaferro 4.2.  Forsett has 7 TD’s, and also has 35 receptions for 227 yards.  He’s a complete back, and the ravens have a good O-line with LT Eugene Monroe, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Jeremy Zuttah, excellent RG Marshall Yanda, and RT Ricky Wagner.


I think the biggest part of your answer as to how we beat the Ravens is we have to finally step up on defense and stop the run.  Kevin Coyle is well aware of it, I just hope he has the answer.  We went a little smaller this year on the D-line, swapping Earl Mitchell for Paul Soliai.  Mitchell is 6’3” 310, while Soliai was 6’4” 345.  Starks and Odrick are both about 305, so we don’t have the beef in the middle anymore.   More importantly though, we have just missed too many tackles.  Our linebackers and safeties are going have to do better, or Baltimore will do as the Broncos and Jets did, but in addition to running, the Ravens can score through the air with Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and former Panthers WR, Steve Smith Jr.  We just have to control the LOS, and can’t allow the ravens to control the clock and the scoreboard.


On defense, the Ravens are quite different than the old Ravens teams we’re used to seeing.  No more Ray Lewis, no more Ed Reed.  They still have Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, but it’s not the same Ravens defense.  Elvis Dumervil (former Bronco) leads the Ravens with 12 1/2 sacks and terrell Suggs is next with 7 sacks.  The Ravens mix it up with Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw at the SOLB spot.  Upshaw is a big lumbering throwback type (6’2” 270), and Dumervil is a smaller (5’11” 248), faster pass rushing specialist.  We have to make sure Dumervil doesn’t get to Tannehill.


On paper, it looks like the Ravens are weaker against the pass, but I hope we don’t throw the ball all day.  I hope our gameplan is a more even approach.  I think we need to run the ball against the Ravens, and I’m hoping we have some success with it, and run at least 25 times.  Our defense has been on the field far too much lately.  The Jets had the ball for 32:35 last week, and the week before that the Broncos had the ball for 34:17.  Our defense has been beaten up and pushed around, and honestly Boulder, if we want to beat the Ravens, that needs to stop this week.


I want to see a lot more rushing from our offense, and I want to see us control the LOS on both offense and defense.  Let’s enforce our will in a very important game as we march towards the playoffs.  This is a game that if you beat the Ravens, you have to feel like you belong in the playoff hunt.  I think we do.  Hopefully, Lazor drops the pass happy play cards in the locker room, and the team brings some attitude and runs the ball all over that Ravens defense.  On the other side, I’d hope the defense brings their pride to this game, and stops getting pushed around, and starts making those tackles in the backfield, or 2 yards from the LOS rather than 5-20 yards.  This is an attitude game, and Boulder, if we want to win it, we better Bring it!


from Phindog

Q – Mike,
With a dinged up Hartline is it possible that we see Mathews more this Sunday against the Ghetto Chickens or If Clay is healthy do we get to see a 2 TE set with him and Sims ? I hope we see a lot of both.. What Say You ?
Best Regards,


I definitely expect to see more of Rishard this week. As of right now, Hartline is questionable with his knee injury.  I’d also expect to see more of Brandon Gibson.  I think both Rishard and Gibson are guys who fight for extra yardage.  Of course, I expect to see a LOT of Jarvis Landry.  Landry is the go to guy, but if Clay can be healthy, and I hope the weeks rest he got helped, I’d expect a heavy dose of Clay and Landry.


As far as the 2 TE set, this goes back to my answer to Boulder.  We must run the ball against the Ravens. I’d hope at least 25 times.  Championship football is won with a good running game, not a non-existent one.  Throwing 40 times and rushing 10-15 doesn’t cut it.  First off, we have been mixing and matching all over the place on our O-line, why put the pressure on them?  Let them get confident running people over and enforcing their will.  I’m guessing Satele will be back under C, but man, we have used about 10 different combos this season on our O-line.  I’m worried about Colledge, it looks he’s ready to hang ‘em up.  If Satele can’t go, that means Pouncey back to C, and Colledge at LG, and Shelley Smith at RG.  Dion Sims looks good lately, so a 2 TE set sounds like the right formula for what I want to accomplish.  It’s time to reestablish the run game boys and girls!


I promise you I’m not saying this to get on Hartline, so before Jahn swoops down on me from the heavens, I mean no disrespect, just giving an observation.  Hartline was a guy I always expected to be great at YAC, and early in his career, he was.  Now it seems like he’s always off balance and loses his footing after he makes a catch.  I’ve seen him go down so many times w/o contact, that I wonder if it’s something he just has in his head,  to just make the catch, and leave it at that, and forget about run after the catch.  Rishard Matthews, who really isn’t the physical Hines Ward type player I thought he was is still better at run after the catch than Hartline.  Gibson last year was more physical and more like Landry, but this year he seems a shadow of that player.  Hartline is still the best at running routes to the sideline, and has perfected getting his feet down before going out of bounds.


Doggy, I want to see plenty of Lamar Miller, and I think this a good game for Damien Williams to get more action.  His “fight” for extra yards is precisely what we need in a physical game like this, but then the question of whether Lazor trusts him or not, remains to be seen.  I have a feeling that behind Miller, it’s more like DT 2A, and DW 2B.  Look, I’m not in practice with the team, so I don’t know what the coaches are seeing, but it sure seems like they only trust  the guys they really know.  Denver is on their 4th RB,  and I’m sure in no hurry to pull C.J. Anderson for Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball.  I’d like to see what Damien Williams can do, and I think this is the type of game he could thrive, but I get the feeling we won’t be finding that out on Sunday.


from Tim

Q –
Alrighty then! How about which Dolphins player needs to step up and be the difference in this game?


If I only get one player, I’d have to say Lamar Miller.  We need to run, I just can’t make it any clearer.  We can jump out to an early lead with a short passing game, but I think we need to control this game with the run.  I would pick Damien Williams if I thought that he would get a fair shot, but I doubt he sees more than 5 touches, if that.  Most likely, if we’re running the ball, it’s going to be Lamar Miller getting the majority of the carries, and he has to succeed, along with help from the O-line, for us to win this game.


In the last 3 games, Miller has 201 yards on 40 carries 1 TD.  That’s 5.0 YPC, and we need to use him more.  In contrast, Justin Forsett in the last 3 games has 400 yards on 66 carries with an astounding 6.0 YPC!    Factor in the last 2 weeks for us on defense, 478 yards rushing allowed), and Forsett spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  We had better be more disciplined and make sure tackles, or we could get, as Son says, “Run On”.


Lamar Miller has yet to have an opportunity to carry the ball 20 times, in fact his closest was against CHI with poor results, 18 carries for 61 yards.  He did however carry 15 times twice, and fared very well with 108 yards (7.2 YPC) and 86 yards (5.7 YPC).  I think Miller can handle the extra carries, but if not, I’d like to see Damien Williams pick up those carries, see what the kid can do.


from Wyoming

Q – There has been discussion whether the “ Misi “ experiment has been a success or not?
What’s your Take?


Like any good experiment, you have to have large enough body of work to make sure the results are correct.  Take for example, the tootsie pop commercial with the owl . . .



I think I like what I see when Misi is on the field.  He’s a guy that when he gets into a tackle, he usually puts the ball carrier down.  He’s OK in pass coverage, but isn’t and shouldn’t be asked to do it often.  I think he’s good, not great, but the biggest problem I have, as many of us do, is he needs to be on the field, and throughout his career, that’s something he hasn’t been able to do.  In 2010, Misi played in 16 games, started 11.  2011 he played in 12, started 9.  2012 he played in 14, all starts.  2013 15 games, 12 starts.  This year, 8 games, all starts.  In 8 starts, he has 38 tackles, 14 assists for a total  of 53 tackles.  He’s missed 4 games this season.  Misi has 1 FR, 1 sack and 1 pass defensed.  While he’s an improvement in a way over what we had with Ellerbe, I’d like to upgrade.  He’s not a playmaker, or a tackling machine like Luke Keuchly.  I see what Chris Borland is doing for SF, and I wish we could have had him here.  Borland has made 9 starts now for SF, and has 69 tackles and 18 assists for a total of 87 tackles.  Borland has 5 passes defensed, 1 FR, and 2 INT’s and 1 sack.  See what I’m saying?  Borland isn’t even thought of as the elite MLB, and look what he’s done so far as a rookie!


If we can draft a better, playmaking ILB, I’d do it in a second.  We can move Misi back to SOLB.  Misi is an average player, and I don’t see any reason to think he’s more than that.  This is Misi’s 5th year as a pro, so I would suspect we’ve seen his ceiling already, so my thought is to aim higher!


from Son

Q – In the last couple of games I’ve noticed out interior D line rotation shrink. Earlier in the year we were seeing Johnson and Fede,once he returned,now it seems to have shrunk to Odrick, Starks and Mitchell, can this have something to do with the run yards piling up recently?

Thanks, John


It’s possible, but then again, I guess you can make the argument that rotating fresher guys in more certainly couldn’t have hurt as we gave up 479 yards rushing in 2 games.  I have to admit to almost always being puzzled by the way this staff uses players.  It’s not all players, and it’s not every position, but I would start with the RB’s.  I see RB’s all over the NFL, 3rd, 4th, 5th string RB’s that were undrafted get playing time in the NFL due to injury.  We had Daniel Thomas for 3 + years, and we cut him, and still, he gets the lions share of carries over guys like Damien Williams or LaMichael James.  Why is our staff so afraid of playing inexperienced players?  Maybe Damien Williams is the next C.J. Anderson?  Do we not know what DT is by now?


I’d also say this about Dion Jordan.  We’re all aware the kid was the #3 pick that Jeff Ireland traded up to get.  By all accounts, he was a top 5 pick on almost every single team’s draft boards.  I know he’s had issues, such as a shoulder injury, illegal performance enhancing drugs, but the kid is HERE, ON OUR TEAM, SO PUT THAT TALENT ON THE FIELD!!!!  He blocked a kick last week, he can make things happen.  Wheeler is underwhelming, give Jordan snaps at LB!  Hard to put him in ahead of Wake or Vernon, actually, not hard, but silly.  Those guys are balling, but Wheeler is just slightly below average at this point, can’t we try for better?


Fede showed a lot of promise in the preseason, and also early in the season as you mentioned.  Now he’s hardly ever used. Same for Jordan Tripp, who I believe is now healthy after suffering for weeks with a pectoral injury.  Anthony Johnson was also promising, but he’s only played in 2 games.  Fede has played in 5 games.  Tripp has played in 1 game.


I was searching for snap counts for players, and here’s one that makes me sick.  Yes, you all laughed, so I’m going to take some credit on this one.  I wanted to draft Seantrel Henderson, and you guys laughed!  12 games 787 snaps for Henderson.  Worth a late RD flyer?  Anyway, back to why Terrence Fede and Anthony Johnson haven’t been playing.  My guess is we’ve had to carry extra O-linemen due to all the injuries so at times Jason Fox, Nate Garner, Shelley Smith and Dallas Thomas have eaten up those game day roster spots.


from Stanger

Q – Top 3 from ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

1 — Packers
2 — Patriots
3 — Broncos

Beat one and lost to the other two close.   If you were planning a push for this team to be elite, what year would be your target?
And no fair saying every year; there are certain cap and personnel moves that you make to maximize your chances when you really think you are ready for the run for the ring.



I don’t think saying next year is wrong at all.  I think we’re close to being where we want to be.  Just some tweaks on the defense, upgrades at LB, and better depth at CB, and hopefully, a TE that can really run and catch.  Not sure if we could accomplish all those things next year, but even if we get a couple, I think we’re ready.  Obviously, it would help lots to get Branden Albert back healthy, and be able to move Ja’Wuan James back to RT.  I think we also need to draft an interior OL, because I think Colledge is done after this year.  Not sure if Dallas Thomas is going to be good to play G, but ideally, that’s where he would be with Branden Albert healthy.


On defense, we need another CB, and first and foremost, a game changing LB, whether it be inside or outside.  Someone on the defense has to make some plays, so that has to be a priority.    Trying to figure how to best use Dion Jordan should be a priority as well.  Insane to me to have that kind of talent untapped, and unused.  They better work hard with that kid somewhere,  and get him on the field.


I really think next year, as long as Tannehill continues playing as well or better as he has the last 8 games, we’re a contender for real.  We need to get better depth at RB, or at least see what we have in Damien Williams, but even so, we need another RB.  It’s a 2 back league these days, and as most teams can attest, sometimes a 3 or 4  or 5 back league.  Make sure the guys up front can block, and in many cases, it doesn’t really matter who’s back there.  Take into account that some guys on our defense aren’t getting any younger (Wake, Starks, Grimes, Finnegan), so our window with some of these elite players is closing, so we best be prepared to make our run ASAP!


And now for the cheerleader of the week . . . .



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