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  Perfect Timing for the Bye Week
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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After training camp, four preseason and five regular season games, the Miami Dolphins are ready for a break.


All things considered, the timing couldn't be better.


There are several players, most notably linebackers Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Channing Crowder, and Akin Ayodele, that are beat up. The best prescription for them is rest and healing time. And they’ll need it, because the Dolphins are about to enter a very tough stretch of games versus the Saints, at NY Jets, and at Patriots (.714 combined winning percentage).


This is why coach Tony Sparano is giving his players extra time off. But at the same time, he’s looking for his staff and players to take advantage of the bye week to prepare for the Saints, one of the best teams in the NFL.


"It means a lot to me (that some of the players are watching film on their days off). I think that they're starting to get it and that's important," Sparano said. "I think right now they understand how to use this down time to the best of their ability. They understand that we're a 2-3 football team that has to get better and that this is an opportunity for them to study our opponent, who is a darn good one, and get ahead of the game. That's what we've been talking about but I think that they're starting to get it. They're starting to get what it takes maybe to be good pros."


Keep in mind that the Saints do not get a 'bye' this week, as they face the NY Giants at the Louisiana Superdome. After that grueling match, they have to travel to Miami. The sum of this is that the Dolphins should have a big advantage in preparation and game readiness.


Good thing, because they’ll need it, especially on defense, if they're going to upset the Saints.


The secondary is probably the biggest worry in Davie right now. Their penchant for surrendering long passes is keeping opponents in games. Somehow, the Dolphins need to fix this serious problem.


Right now the Dolphins are ranked 19th overall in pass coverage, with the 3rd most 40+ yard pass plays surrendered; only Rams and the Bucs have a higher per completion average than the Dolphins (8.4 yards per reception). Essentially, this means the defense is wasting the team's huge advantage in Time of Possession (35:29, 2nd in the NFL).


This is the kind of stuff that ruins seasons.


The biggest challenge that defensive boss Paul Pasqualoni and secondary coach Todd Bowles have had in fixing this problem is that every single member of the starting secondary is being victimized via a bevy of blown assignments, poor technique, and physical breakdowns.


At least CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have an excuse to fall back on; they’re rookies going through the school of hard knocks. But what about veterans Will Allen, Yeremiah Bell, and Gibril Wilson?


These vets are just not getting the job done, especially Wilson. If they don’t play better, the Dolphins have little hope of beating the high-powered Saints, to say nothing of qualifying for the playoffs.


Offensively, the Saints have the second-best running attack in the league. QB Drew Brees is third in NFL in passing. RBs Mike Bell and Reggie Bush give them an excellent combination of power and speed. Together with WR Marques Colston and (gasp) TE Jeremy Shockey, the Saints may prove to be toughest team yet for the Dolphins’ 8th ranked defense to stop.


Pasqualoni and Bowles know that another defensive disaster is looming if their guys don't improve, and soon. Hopefully the added prep and healing time will help find a cure to what ails them the most.


Offensively, the sun has come up as the Dolphins ring up back-to-back 30+ point games for the first time in seven years.


Now I’m not someone who anoints anyone based on a one game performance. But no footballer ever aced a test better than QB Chad Henne did against the Jets.


 “What was good in the ballgame the other day was that he had a lot of good, hard test questions. I thought he answered some of those questions very well”, said Sparano.


Let me be more to the point, coach. On a huge Monday Night stage, against a hated divisional rival, Chad Henne delivered. He delivered the ball with accuracy, with velocity, and with poise. The Dolphins won that game in the fourth quarter primarily because of Henne’s quarterbacking.


20 of 26, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, no picks, no sacks. A passer rating of 130.4. A fourth quarter, come from behind drive to win the game, in the face of some of the most challenging blitzes for an offense to defeat.


That, people, is some good playing.


But the thing about Henne that is most encouraging is that he seems to understand that winning is habit, fueled by hard work and preparation. He’s not full of himself, and he intends to put the bye week to good use.


"Yeah, continue on the success that we did have in the previous weeks”, Henne explained. “To take a week off and not study New Orleans would definitely be a step back for me, but I'm going to be in here trying to get ahead of the game and trying to understand some of their blitzes because [Saints defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams is a blitz guy."


Now if the Dolphins can ever figure out how to get ahead of things on coverage teams, and get those deep passes covered, they might have something to holler about.


Hopefully this well-timed bye week will help.


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