For those of you who have zero desire to hear about Olympic history…sorry. There WAS a game on Saturday night and while I slacked off and only watched the first half I believe I saw enough of what counts to form an opinion. While I will still watch the second half to compare with next week, the fact is that in quarter one and two, our team actually didn’t look that bad, nowhere near as bad as the local media would have you believe. So with that, Olympics aside, it is time to return to our regular scheduled Miami Dolphins content.
There is no question that the first thing you need to talk about or assess is the play of the QB position. On Saturday, we got a look at 3 of them, although McCown didn’t play until quarter 4 with the back-ups. What I saw however was nothing like what I read by fans across message boards and the media who covered the game.
Starting with John Beck who opened the game, the Dolphins took the field in their first game under an entirely new coaching staff and front office, sans Bryan Weidemeier. Beck took the field and didn’t look hesitant or lost as some would have you believe. His check downs were a result of quick defensive reads. The play calling was such that he was asked to float swing passes to the RB’s, designed plays that unlike last year, saw the RB’s getting the ball while running up the field as opposed to their backs turned (thanks G for that well worded observation). It was true. Beck put a nice touch on the balls that got to the WR’s over their shoulders in stride. Yes he threw a couple into the dirt, one was a broken screen play that was a smart decision and the other was at the feet of the WR and should have been thrown better.
That was only two balls though. He lofted a longer ball out of bounds in what was decent coverage and he hit a really nice toss over the middle. He threw no interceptions and really I didn’t see any that should have been int’s. His loan fumble came on a sack as he was hit stepping up and out of traffic in the pocket. He recovered it. His night ended their.
Beck appeared poised and deliberate. He played smart and methodical and as one of our readers expressed, “heady”. All in all, it was a decent night for the 2nd year 2nd rounder, nothing stupid but nothing great.
If Beck’s performance was o.k., then Chad Henne’s performance was exciting. No touchdown passes, no interceptions, no big gains. What there was though, was a swagger. A confidence that I have not seen in a Dolphins QB in some time. He took the field like he belonged there. He acted as though it wasn’t his first time. An errant throw wasn’t met with a shake of the head smack of the hands awe-shucks rookie attitude. No, instead he worked it out with his WR’s.
Henne moved in the pocket well stepping up and out of traffic. His throws were crisp and fast. His release looked more like a veterans than a rookies. It was impressive to watch if for no other reason the fact that you saw a rookie on the field. Last year, we all watched Brady Quinn take the field in Cleveland with that same swagger, that I can do this attitude. That is what Chad Henne had. A “I am the QB” attitude and it showed.
Henne led the team to two field goal drives but the real story was the fact that he didn’t get flustered or look indecisive. Chad Henne has a long way to go, there is no question about that, but for that night, I had to smile that maybe, just maybe, there may be a real QB there who could be around for another 10 years.
Moving on to the RB’s, there is no question that the star on offense was Ricky Williams who looked like he hasn’t aged. I will say this. If Williams stays clean, then I was so wrong for saying we should get rid of him. Ricky ran with authority showing every bit of his ability to cut, change direction, and turn up field. He is going to be a monster this year if he stays healthy.
Ronnie Brown looked good in his few plays. The real test was mental for Brown. Taking some good hits and getting some game time cuts on his knee. It was much needed and Brown came away with no soreness as he expected. First game back, mentally it had to help him.
I only saw a small bit of Patrick Cobbs so I really can’t speak with an opinion on him, but I will say that Boomer Grigsby is going to be fun to watch and fans are going to love this guy. He has an attitude about him that is flippant and fun. Reagan Mauia who caused announcer Nat Moore some serious pronunciation problems, actually caught the ball well and his blocking was actually decent on a few plays. He got hammered on an outside swing pass when he paid far too much attention to Derrick Brooks and not enough on the rest of the defense. The smallish CB that hit him looked like a triple reinforced stud in that drywall he ran through in Hawaii. Wouldn’t want to be him in the film room.
At the WR position, well it was ugly. Ted Ginn caught a nice pass but the two that stood out was Derek Hagan and David Kircus. I didn’t see Davone Bess who played in the 2nd half. Ernest Wilford the name FA pick-up showed nothing. His routes appeared forced as though he wasn’t running them as much as he was timing them. From the comfort of my living room I could tell which way he was planning on going. He looked uncoordinated as well. The Wr’s were not overly impressive and need to improve to help the QB’s. They just seem to get ZERO separation from the opposing CB’s.
The line looked good and more than once I saw Jake Long taking someone out of the play both in pass protection and run blocking. He had a false start but it was more of a turn than a jump offsides, not so much a flinch as much as it looked like he forgot he already had set himself. Satele again looked good as did rookie Donald Thomas who I watched just take guys out of the picture. He had two bad plays that he missed the defensive stunt but he did good. The rest of the line played well considering they are all learning together. Olines take time to gel and they have some work ahead of them.
On to the defensive side of the ball. Channing Crowder was intense. He was jumping all over the field and he really seemed to be relishing the “leadership” roll that he has. He made some nice plays and was out of position on a few as well, but there are a million reasons that could have happened. It’s still game one.
The stud on the defense though is Jason Ferguson who opened the game with a sack. He is a brutal SOB and will do very well to get this team going in the right direction. Very solid pick up it looks like. Paul Solaia played some and truth be told, he didn’t look all that bad. He may actually become something…O.k. he has a long way to go for that to happen, but he wasn’t manhandled like last year.
The DE rookies, Langford and Merling, gave you the feeling like your watching the birth of something special. This duo has the potential to become a very good tandem of DE”s. They played well but of course made rookie mistakes. Still, they don’t look lost and easily match up with the big lineman.
In the secondary on the first unit, Yeremiah Bell and Jason Allen stood out. Bell had an easy interception that he dropped and Allen had a very nice breakup on the sidelines in front of the TB bench. The media got down on the secondary play and I admit that in the 2nd half the statistics are a lot different, but in half number 1, the Phins defense handled the TB offense rather well. The first two series were 3 and outs and the Buc’s didn’t move the ball all that well.
The CB’s need to work on their cushions. I noticed that there were more often than not too much cushion on their WR’s which allows for dink and dunk completions that move the chains. Not sure how this unit is being coached yet so hard to say what scheme exactly they will be using.
Looks like Jay Feely may lose his job. Rookie Dan Carpenter was very good Saturday and his practice performances have been that good as well. I know, it’s a kicker right? But last year Feely was exceptional in his accuracy so this would be somewhat of a surprise if it happened.
The rest of the special teams was o.k. Jayson Foster was returning kicks and he has some serious speed. I hope he makes this team because honestly, he looked as fast as Ted Ginn. They have some serious work to continue before the season begins.
After watching the game I realized that there is some talent on this team and some very good potential in terms of the unit play by the first teams. The defense looked good and the offense looked better than what I thought it would. Of course, this is week 1 of pre-season.
What this team does have that I didn’t see last year was vigor. They were not walking off the field, they were running. They was energy and a sense of purpose. They didn’t go through the motions. It was something that was not seen last year at all. We will see how game 2 works out next week.