The Miami Dolphins, the NEW Miami Dolphins will take the field tomorrow evening for the 1st time since finishing 1-15. Gone is Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, and what fans and the team alike hope to be a losing attitude. While winning consistently is still a couple of years away at best, it all starts tomorrow.
The laundry list of changes in this organization could fill the Phins new offensive playbook. 43 new faces in two years, a new owner, new GM, all new coaches, well you get the picture and I haven’t even mentioned that “Tuna” guy yet.
The Dolphins have known one thing and one thing only for the last 5 years. Losing. The attitude has been such that even a 9-7 anomaly of a season couldn’t spark a 2nd year resurgence. Most of those players are gone and their replacements are not hacked off the sea-line of Detroit and Arizona cast-offs of the past. Instead, the make up is from teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, NY Giants, and a few other teams that have bred success lately.
While the teams showing this week will not be an indication of what they “can” accomplish, it will give a glimpse as to how far they still have to go. Don’t look for gleaming hopes or your will be disappointed. I am not trying to be negative here, there are positives that can be taken from the first pre-season game. The reality is that even the coaches will tell you, there is a long way to go before September.
Here are the 10 things you should be watching for while watching this game.
10: Ronnie Brown – yes I realize that this should probably be a lot higher on this list, but you will only see him for maybe 1 series if at all. Should Brown take the field, watch to see how he cuts or uses his legs. Is it somewhat tentative or is it with conviction? Ronnie is physically as close to 100 percent as any RB who has suffered a torn ACL. The question is whether or not he is mentally recovered. While this game will not prove one way or another, the fact that he gets on the field and touches the ball will go a long way toward his recovery.
9: Ted Ginn – Last season we only saw glimpses of the speedy WR. Most of those glimpses came in the form of the special teams. Ginn will never be judged as a return man alone and this year he will have to try and fill the void of a number 1 WR. Ted has has a rather quiet camp this season. While not receiving raves on his play, he is not receiving bad reviews either. Ginn should some decent playing time in the 1st quarter and while the question will be who can toss it deep enough, watch the way he runs his routes and how he uses his body off the line of scrimmage. In order for Ginn to be effective he needs to get off the line quickly and with his speed, many teams will likely use their CB’s to try and keep him from getting off the line.
8: Channing Crowder – Crowder will be the new Zach Thomas, the problem is that Crowder is no Zach Thomas. Since he is recovering from an injury last year, the team will not likely keep him on the field for any major length of time, so what should you watch? His leadership. If Crowder is not out there barking orders or audibles, he won’t be in Miami next year, he will be a FA. Crowder must become that vocal leader on the field and in doing so, he will need that his play can be just as inspiring. There are a lot of questions about this defense, it starts with the leadership roll this team is now void of.
7: The Miami Front 7 – On defense last year, the front 7 of the Miami Dolphins was virtually non-existent. New faces and a new scheme have brought hope that it will change. Anchoring the line is veteran Jason Ferguson who thus far has looked like a man among boys. His backups, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, and others will get extensive work against TB. So much so that a couple of names could easily be gone by week 2 should they not perform.
At the LB spot (outside CC), keep an eye on the play of Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses, along with Junior Glymph who has been hearing his name called lately as practicing well. All 3 are trying to not only make the roster but start as well. Matt Roth has the most to lose as he is now being moved back to LB as well. Roth will be given a little more time to adjust but it will be interesting to see how far he has come since rotating back wards.
Don’t expect to see Vonnie Holliday at the DE spot all that much, he is being used as the JT hybrid and will likely be playing more off the line than on it. Should be fun to watch how he has embraced that new play style.
6: Donald Thomas: Thomas is the feel good story of TC. He is very likely to start this game and in fact, it would be a small shock if he didn’t. He has been almost spectacular thus far considering he was a late day 2 draft pick and a walk on at UConn. Thomas has beaten out Trey Darilek for the RG spot, the weak spot entering TC. There is talk that LeCharles Bentley could soon be joining the Phins as well, and that Satele may be tried at RG so Bentley could take over the center spot. So keep an eye on Satele as well and see if he gets off to a good start. Shawn Murphy has struggled quite a bit this TC and watching him on the field in a real game will give us at least a bit of a clue as to how much he really needs to bulk up.
5: Jake Long – Jake has had a quiet camp so far but that will not be the case tomorrow as he will be scrutinized by just about every fan watching the game. From number 1 overall to his first NFL game, Long will be the guy that many a fan will expect to play immediately without problems. Jake has had issues with speedy DE’s but the Buc’s do not have any of those. Look for him to get plenty of playing time.
When it comes to Long, I recommend enjoying his play when it opens up holes in the running game and disregarding his play (for now) when he struggles. Long has a strong work ethic and it has been noted by some of the veteran players that he rarely makes the same mistakes twice.
4: The Defensive Secondary – Was last year a fluke due to the poor play of the front 7 or is the secondary that bad? While it will be hard to tell with a few new players mixed in and Todd Bowles now running that show, we should get a good idea on the philosophy of how that unit is being taught to operate. Bill Parcells has been giving some one-on-one suggestions to a few of these guys. With Yeremiah Bell coming off an Achilles injury last season the question is has he lost a step? There is some really good competition this year in the secondary so keep an eye on the back-ups as well.
3: The Running Backs – Forget about Ricky and Ronnie the “R & R Express”, they won’t see much of the field. Jalen Parmale, Lex Hilliard, Patrick Cobbs, and the two FB’s will. One of those 3 RB’s will not likely make the final 53 and so far that name appears to be Hilliard who seems to be struggling.
Cobbs has played superbly when given the chance and he is one of the better ST guys as well so his chances are improving each day. Parmale will not likely be going anywhere either as he has really impressed the coaching staff.
Of the FB’s, Reagan Mauia needs to have a solid game or he won’t be in Miami for the next one. Missed assignments and dropped balls are causing the team to shake their heads, all the while Boomer Grigsby has been catching everything.
The Phins RB’s are deep and we should get to see plenty of them tomorrow night.
2: The QB’s – And you thought that this would be number 1 didn’t you? While it is unknown (at this writing) who will be the starter, some rumors are that the Phins will only play 2 QB’s this game. I find that hard to believe. I will go off the assumption that all 3 see some playing time.
John Beck – According to some of the local media, Beck has started to get a little better. We will likely see as I can’t believe the Phins wouldn’t give him significant playing time to prove what he has or doesn’t have. The real question will be how he handles pressure from the defense and he likely will see a lot. His problems in TC have usually been when there are players in his face. Tampa will put the pressure on him. Beck can be a Jekyll and Hyde at QB often throwing beautiful touch passes deep or Kilmeresqe ducks that flutter to the defenders. When Beck is on the field, watch his throwing motion and his feet as he tends to get “happy”.
Josh McCown – If Beck gets flustered when someone is in his face, McCown is the opposite as he will get out of the pocket. That is good and bad. Good in the sense that he can avoid the rush with his athleticism and bad because he loses his accuracy and tends to throw off the wrong foot. Like Beck, McCown will likely have an opportunity to work on that this week.
Chad Henne – In reality the only thing you want to watch with Henne is Henne. The rookie QB stands to be the hope of many a fans. He is the hand-picked guy of this regime and while all rookies struggle, the fact that we could be watching him play is in and of itself exciting. Tempered enthusiasm should be the thought process with him. Henne will likely have a few good throws and a few bad as well. After all this is first NFL camp. Don’t expect much and don’t be overly critical. His mechanics are said to be good and that is important so watch that more than anything.
With the QB’s it will be interesting to see if anyone steps out of the shadows and up to the challenge. If someone does, maybe Chad Pennington’s name goes away. If not, the Phins will have him in Miami by Sunday afternoon.
1: Tony Sparano – If there is one thing we learned last year is that poor coaching will have as much an affect on a team as bad players. Tony Sparano is, on the field, the Anti-Cameron, but that does not mean that the Rookie NFL HC won’t have his share of mistakes. Watch for his sideline demeanor. Is he actively involved or passively watching it play in front of him? My guess would be the former. Sparano doesn’t appear to be the passive type and whether this is a pre-season game or not, he will be scrutinizing every single player and every single mistake. What he does not have to worry about is his coaches. Sparano knows these guys and they all fit together beneath the same umbrella.
Davone Bess and the rest of the WR’s. If the QB’s can toss the balls to them, they better be catching it. Drops have been a staple of TC this year. Bess however has been the shining star of the group catching everything. Can he do it in a real game situation?
ST’s were the downfall last year just as everything else. This team went out and signed free agents who excel at special teams. Will that transfer over to the games? While that question is important, the real thing to watch is the players themselves as many of this roster will be made up of guys that can play ST’s. Borderline positional guys? If one can excel on ST’s he will get he roster spot.
TE - Anthony Fasano has all but wrapped up the starting TE job…see if that is truly the case, but more importantly watch David Martin, it could be his last days as a Dolphins if he continues dropping passes.
Tags: Anthony Fasano Bill Parcells Boomer Grigsby Chad Henne David Martin Davone Bess Donald Thomas Jake Long John Beck Josh McCown Miami Dolphins NFL Pre-Season Ronnie Brown Tampa Bay Ted Ginn Tony Sparano