With the season at its midway point, with that first victory now in place and with a schedule that concludes with five of eight games on the road, it’s time to attack your questions and I promise not to deliver any cheap shots.
Q. Andy, that victory over the Jets was something else. I don’t care if the Dolphins win another game this year; they beat Adam Gase and handed it to the Jets. How satisfying was that to cover? @benny23
AC: It was very satisfying for all sorts of reasons. I’ve watched first-hand how hard these coaches work and the job they have done incorporating so many new players into this roster, several arriving only a few days before they played in a game. I’ve also seen how hard this team plays every week and that’s a credit to this staff as well. Yes, it was also nice to get that first win over an arch-rival like the Jets, certainly made even sweeter with Adam Gase on that side of the field. I understand you don’t care if that’s their only win, but I can also tell you based on the way this team in general has improved, that I don’t believe it will be.
Q. Andy, we lose Preston Williams to a season-ending injury and Mark Walton to a four-game suspension. That was our No. 1 receiver and No. 1 running back. How can we overcome that? @rafaelgomez77
AC: When you think about what this team already has had to overcome this season, replacing Williams and Walton doesn’t sound quite as imposing. Having said that, I’m less concerned at receiver because of the depth at that position than I am at running back. I expect Kalen Ballage to get more carries, but I also see this being a great opportunity for a pair of rookie backs, Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird. You never know, sometimes one player’s misfortune paves the way for the emergence of another.
Q. When P. Williams comes back healthy, do you think he can become a receiver that a defense has to plan for? @KING\SURTAIN\SR
AC: A resounding YES. I have seen enough of Williams to know that this is a player who has a chance to be special for a long time. I mean you just can’t teach 6-5, 218-pounds with that kind of speed. The recovery from knee surgery takes patience and perseverance. Who knows exactly when he’ll be 100 percent again? But I can tell that when he does get there, he’s going to once again become an important part of this offense.
Q. Did Kenyan want out like Minkah? Start of the season he said he was all in? Loved Coach Flo’s system! What happened? @TheresaG
AC: No, I don’t believe Kenyan wanted out, but I do believe that he was going to test the free agent market after this season and that the contract he was seeking exceeds what the Dolphins were willing to pay a player who truthfully never showed more than occasional flashes of excellence. I like Kenyan. I just don’t think he fit into the long-range plan.
Q. What are your thoughts on our special teams play? Seems like we’re really missing Coach Rizzi and John Denney. @JeffHerman1
AC: I have a lot of respect for both Rizzi and Denney. But until giving up a 78-yard kickoff return against the Jets, the special teams had played reasonably well. Now that he is reaching full health, I fully anticipate Jakeem Grant having a strong second half of the season as a kick returner. As for Denney, as consistent as he was for so long, from what I’ve seen the Dolphins haven’t missed a beat with Taybor Pepper handling the long snaps.
Q. Andy, do you draft a QB in the first two rounds? If yes, which one? @FCL52
AC: Yes, 100 percent I would draft a quarterback in the first two rounds. I personally wouldn’t wait until the second round. As for which one, I’m asked that so much and I’ve never been good at reading the mind of General Manager Chris Grier. I can tell you this: If they have a conviction that one is far better than the others, I believe they will do whatever is necessary to get him.
Q. What was the key to the Dolphins finally being able to play four quarters? @NYROCKERSBLUM
AC: I probably sound like Brian Flores, but the fact that the Dolphins didn’t turn the ball over had more to do with this victory than anything else. Look at the close losses this season. In each instance, a turnover led to this team’s downfall. But when you play a clean game, you’ve got an excellent chance of sustaining for four quarters. Sure, that hasn’t been the case in seven of the eight games, but at least now we have evidence that it can be done.
Q. Do you think the Dolphins could turn the win versus the Jets into a run of wins to end the season or do you feel this is a one off due to the opponent and the home field advantage? @KilliX84
AC: If they can maintain the level they performed at against the Jets, and not lose many more key players to injuries, there’s no reason they can’t win games, certainly given the way quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is capable of playing. A run of wins? We’ll have to see about that.
Q. Now that Albert Wilson is healthy why aren’t the Fins utilizing him? @dennisgriffin7
AC: Because you can be physically healthy and not full-go football healthy. When you miss as much time as Wilson did, it takes more than just flipping a switch. It’s a slow, sometimes agonizing process. But the good news is that Wilson is at the tail end of that process, just in time to become more of a factor given the injury that has ended Preston Williams’ season. I expect to see Wilson’s role in this offense significantly increase and there’s no reason to believe he won’t have a productive second half of the season.
Q. Andy, I really enjoyed your story about Ryan Fitzpatrick and, yes, he does seem almost too good to be true. Wouldn’t he be the perfect mentor for the quarterback the Dolphins take in next year’s draft? @manoftroy22
AC: Assuming he wouldn’t mind having that role, I certainly agree. Fitzpatrick could be an excellent resource for a young quarterback. I mean think about it: What hasn’t he seen in his 15 seasons? As I said in my column, we should feel truly fortunate that his football journey brought him to South Florida. Would personally love to see it continue beyond this season.
Q. Mr. C: How’s the switch of Bobby McCain to safety working out? @pindlertom
AC: Mr. P: Looking good so far. McCain has been one of the only constants in the secondary this season and he is growing more and more comfortable in his new role as literally the last line of defense. I believe you’ll see him remain at safety, his skillset ideal for what this defensive staff is trying to accomplish.
Q. Andy, we hear so much about the plan that’s in motion to rebuild this franchise by adding draft choices and making smart financial decisions. In your mind, how is that plan going? @blich1973
AC: Well, look at this way. The Dolphins now have a minimum of 13 selections in next year’s draft including three first round picks and appear well on their way to having more salary cap space than any team in the league. Sure seems to me that this plan is unfolding just as the team had hoped. No doubt some painful decisions have been made, but all with the goal of creating long-term stability.