Behind Enemy Lines

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Behind Enemy Lines: An Inside Look at the Dolphins

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are scheduled to travel to Miami this weekend to take on the Dolphins.

The Titans are coming off a 27-20 loss to the Texans. The Dolphins, meanwhile, lost 22-7 to the Bengals last Thursday.

This week, I caught up Armando Salguero, who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. You can follow Armando on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero. When I talked to Armando he was making preparations for Hurricane Matthew. Say a prayer for the folks in the line of the storm.

OK, let's get to our conversation about the Dolphins:

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Wyatt:** The Dolphins, like the Titans, are 1-3 and they've lost a couple of close games (losses by 2 points to Seattle and 7 points to the Patriots). What's the mood of the Dolphins as they start a four-game homestand?

Salguero: If you had talked to me a week ago, before their Thursday night game at Cincinnati, I would have told you it was just fine because they had lost to Seattle in the opener and they just could easily have won that game. At New England, they fell down 31-3 but lost 31-24 and they had a chance to tie if a last-second throw into the end zone to DeVante Parker wasn't two inches too high. They thought that they were OK.  But the Cincinnati game was a butt-whipping, and it was disappointing for them because they didn't really compete on offense or really on defense. A.J. Green dominated and the Dolphins didn't convert third downs and they couldn't stay on the field, which has been a problem for them, and they couldn't stop the run. So right now the mood is not good. This is a disappointed team at 1-3, and I might even say a frustrated team.

Wyatt: It's early, of course. We're just one-quarter into the season. What's gone well for the Dolphins and what are fans most optimistic about?

Salguero: Wow. Do you want to hear what they believe their strengths are? Because they have said, 'We have a lot of offensive line depth' but that was tested against Cincinnati and it didn't work out very well. They have been without (center) Mike Pouncey, and they didn't have (left tackle) Brandon Albert and they didn't have Mike Pouncey's back-up, so they started a third-team center. They had to move Laremy Tunsil, who didn't go to the Tennessee Titans with the first overall pick, from left guard to left tackle. It was just a makeshift offensive line and they gave up five sacks, so that wasn't great. They have said their defensive line with Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams and Cameron Wake and Andre Branch and Jason Jones is going to be a strength, and it hasn't been. They've had issues. So all these plans have not worked as well as they said, or hoped, they would.

Wyatt: I want to ask you about new head coach Adam Gase, who is in first year with the team. What has he changed so far and what are your early impressions of him?

Salguero: I like him a lot. I think he is many things that Joe Philbin was not. Adam Gase is a leader, he is a motivator. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy, and I don't know that Joe Philbin would be described in those ways. He has changed the offense, obviously the defense has changed under him as well -- they are playing the wide 9. He is trying to change the culture, but I would say to you the culture has not changed yet. The offense has changed but it is not working yet. The defense has changed, and it is not working yet.

Wyatt: You brought up Tunsil earlier. There was a lot of attention on him during the NFL Draft, of course. How was he initially received when the Dolphins picked him in the first round and how has he performed in his rookie season?

**

The Titans close out the 2016 preseason against the Dolphins in Miami. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

Salguero:* *He has settled in great. He earned the starting left guard job in the preseason. Brandon Albert was the left tackle and he continues to be the left tackle and he's a pretty good left tackle, with some accomplishments in the NFL. Once Brandon moves on, Laremy Tunsil will be the left tackle for the Dolphins. How was he received? Well, the day of the draft didn't go that great. Dolphins fans have come to expect the worst, and they thought that day that they got it. I mean, here's a guy that's in a gas-mask, bong video and everybody ran away from him. But once he got on campus, and once he got in the building, he's been great. He earned the job, it wasn't handed to him. He wasn't the starter the first day of camp, and he wasn't the starter the week of the third preseason game although he did start that game. So he had to earn it. He is improving. Is he a Pro Bowler? No, he is not a Pro Bowler, but we're a month into the preseason. He's fine.

Wyatt: OK, I have two more for you. I want to ask you about a pair of former Tennessee Vols – right tackle Ju'Wuan James and running back Arian Foster. How are those guys doing?

Salguero: I have to tell you, Ju'Wuan James has been a big disappointment. He has basically collapsed the last two games. He came in as a rookie and he started and everything was fine.  And he was so good that when Brandon Albert got hurt, they moved him from right tackle, which he played at Tennessee and was playing with the Dolphins as a starter, and put him at left tackle. And he was fine, he was certainly not a horror show. Last year he was hurt, which wasn't good, and this year he started out fine, but the last two games has been a horror show. He got benched in the fourth quarter of the Cleveland game because he had given up multiple quarterback hits, and they had just seen enough. And this last game, (Bengals defensive end) Carlos Dunlap just used him up a little bit. It was not a good performance for him. Foster has missed the last two games, so he is his old self I guess you could say. He came to the Dolphins as an oft-injured guy with a great reputation when he's healthy, and he was healthy the first two games and he's missed the last two games. So I wouldn't say that he's gotten on track by any means. He has a groin injury and he's supposed to play this game against the Titans. But they signed a guy with a history of being injured and he's injured.

Wyatt: Last thing here. It sounds like the Dolphins are still working through some things early. What do you think the best-case scenario is for the 2016 Dolphins, and how do you think this season will end for them?

Salguero: I am not down on the team. I am just telling you the reality of what has happened so far. I still think that once this offensive system catches, it works. If we are talking a month from now after the Dolphins have played three games at home, and had a bye week, if they are still in the same spot then I would say to you there is no hope for anything. But I don't think that is going to be the case. I think the offensive system just takes time to install and for guys to stop making mistakes. On defense, it's a little bit more worrisome because they are also making mistakes. On defense it is more a case of: Is Mario Williams done, or not? Because there is no other choice there. The question is: Is Cameron Wake still an elite player coming off an Achilles rupture, or not? Is Ndamukong Suh a $19 million a year player, or not? It is not so much about the system, it's the guys. Are they the people everybody thought they were, or have they moved to a new stage in their careers? It's all about time with this team, and unfortunately the NFL is not stopping for them.

TitansOnline.com looks back at the team's all-time series against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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