Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reader Mailbag: Smiley and the secondary

Here's another email I received from a reader. (If you have any comments for me or questions you'd like me to answer, just send me an email.)
Well, that was a strange game. Ronnie threw another great pass.....too bad Martin fumbled the ball. The offense struggled a bit, however the receivers are starting to play better as a group. How big is the loss of Smiley? Do they have someone capable enough to replace him? The defense played better in the 2nd half and seemed to be the why the Dolphins came away with a win. Joey Thomas was more of a hindrance than a help in the secondary. What are your thoughts regarding him?
Ronnie did make a nice play on that throw, especially considering it was a broken play. You'll see when he was running outside he stopped and looked back at Pennington, which was where he intended to throw it. Pennington then would have looked to throw it downfield. However, I think it was Vernon Carey who couldn't hold his block long enough, and his defender broke free towards Chad. Ronnie did a great job realizing that throwing back to Chad would have been disastrous so he kept the ball, maneuvered around in some tight space and found a wide open David Martin. Martin simply can't fumble that ball, but I won't get on him too much since he has been a hugely pleasant surprise this season. He may be playing even better than Anthony Fasano (at least in the receiving department, not blocking).

The loss of Smiley is a big one. He's probably been the best offensive lineman this year, with Jake Long a close second. Having Smiley next to Long has clearly made Jake's job all the easier, but now Andy Alleman will have to step up.

Frankly, I'm not overly concerned about Alleman since I've been pretty high on him ever since we brought him in. He had a lot of upside coming out of college, and from the limited playing time he's seen here, it's easy to see why. I'm not saying he's going to be as good as Smiley, but he won't be a disaster, and he'll most likely be better than Ikechuku Ndukwe's been at right guard.

It'll also be interesting to see whether Shawn Murphy gets activated on game days now. He has been playing solely at left guard all year, but has never been activated for a game. Thus far, he has been a huge disapointment, considering the team traded up in the draft to choose him. The coaches obviously saw something they like a lot about him, now he may have an opportunity to show it.

As far as Joey Thomas is concerned, it was quite a surprise to find out that Jason Allen would be inactive and Thomas would be taking his spot. Jason Allen has been slowly progressing and he's clearly the team's third best corner, so we can't afford to have him out for too long. There's a huge drop-off from Jason Allen to Joey Thomas and Nate Jones.

Joey Thomas has bounced around this league for his whole career and never stuck in any one place, and he's been out of football for the past two years. It's pretty easy to see why now. The sad thing is, there probaly aren't any better options available right now, so we are going to have to deal with it. I'd like to see Nate Jones take more of Thomas' snaps, but in either case, both those guys will be targeted heavily if the opposing QB knows what's good for him.

The bottom line is Joey will be a liability as long as he's forced to play a lot of snaps. One way to cover up some of that weakness, however, will be to improve the pass rush, which has been really weak this past couple of weeks.

I also don't want to completely crush Joey. He was just brought back on to the team, and with time he should get a little better. Hopefully, Sunday's game was a wake-up call that will get him into gear.

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