If you sit yourself down in front of NFL Network for the replay, your computer screen for a live pirate-cast, or live in S. Fl. and can see the game live, you could fall into the easy trap of watching the team win or lose. Did Chad Henne in his two series of work look like the next Drew Brees or the next Ryan Leaf? And so on. But there is more to watch than the scoreboard…in fact, if all you watch is the scoreboard you may be left feeling a little apprehensive.
QB’s - If you are looking for an answer to the Chad Henne question you won’t find it tonight. Regardless of whether he looks good or bad, he will only play a few series and will be running a very vanilla offense. But if you are set on critiquing the man, do so on his down-field throws and the sideline throws. Don’t read too much tonight into the check-downs. The playbook will be scaled back considerably so many options won’t be there. Look at his throwing posture and his pocket presence.
Matt Moore will see a little more action and it will be interesting to see how he progresses through his reads. Is he a QB who will take chances or is more cerebral in his play? For most Dolphins fans, this will be the first of Matt Moore that they will see outside of Youtube high-lights. Moore can be fun to watch, he has an on-field energy that Henne lacks. You can compare him to a little kid who gets to go play at the park. He runs everywhere. That all being said, it’s important to note that he has only been practicing with the team since August 4th. That’s only eight days and the team has had two days off in that span as well. SO don’t expect much from his timing. Again…vanilla offense.
Pat Devlin and Kevin O’Connell will see second half action tonight. Devlin has been in camp since day one signing as an un-drafted free agent. He should have a better handle on the offense than O’Connell who I suspect will sweep up the game in the 4th quarter. Devlin reportedly doesn’t have long field arm strength so I will be watching to see whether or not the Dolphins ask him to throw deep or if they make him play a “Chad Pennington” style of offense instead. As for O’Connell, this will really be the first time most have seen him play. He has 4 passes in three NFL seasons and a handful of pre-season games.
RB’s – I’m looking forward to watching this portion of the offense. I think it will have more to say than anything else. The offensive line is still being worked on so while many will look at rookie Mike Pouncey to see where he is at, I believe that the Oline simply isn’t set. The battle for those positions will get more intense in the coming weeks. The RB’s however are different story. Why? Simple, they won’t be changing their running styles.
Daniel Thomas is supposed to be a bruiser. That won’t change from this week to next week. How he picks up blitzes in the blocking game or how he runs a pattern in the passing game, those will change and improve, how he hits a hole will not. Does he dance behind the line, does he bob and weave, or does he hit the holes in full stride shoulders down? Is he able to make that quick outside cut when the hole closes between the guard/center gap? Can he move to the outside of the tackle when the tackle/guard closes? Those will be decisions that he makes in mere seconds but will go a long way to tell us the type of runner the Dolphins drafted.
Reggie Bush will likely start the game but don’t think that means a whole lot. He and Thomas have very differing jobs on this offense. The workhorse is Thomas, the ignition is Bush. I want to see if Bush is going to add that exciting flare to the offense. Are the training camp reports about his ability to make people miss accurate or are those reports based on a lack of full contact? We have seen what Bush can do at times from his tenure in New Orleans. Now we get our first look at what he will bring to the Dolphins.
The real fun begins when Bush is put to bed for the night and we start seeing Lex Hilliard, Charles Clay, and Kory Sheets. Each posses some high end talent that simply hasn’t been used yet. The Dolphins will likely carry 3 or 4 runners and a FB…likely to be Clay. That means that while it’s very possible that Hilliard and Sheets both make the team, what they do with the time they are given in all pre-season games will go a long way to determining how many the Phins will keep and more importantly whether the team starts looking at free agents to replace one or two of them.
Hilliard says he is ready to be a starter and he wants to be a starter. Kory Sheets has proclaimed the same thing. It’s a daunting task given the two people in front of them. Which means they should be working that much harder tonight.
WR’s: I already know what Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess can do and I have a good idea of what limitations Brian Hartline has. I’m not really interested at this point in seeing Roberto Wallace or Marlon Moore. I saw them last year. I want to see Clyde Gates. Is his speed the real deal? When pads are on and the contact counts? Can he use his speed off the line and then use his frame to fight for the ball? Can he catch? I don’t suspect we will see him running crossing routes as WR’s traditionally struggle in their first year and this year is unlike any others. But speed is something that you don’t need seasoning to display so how he uses his body and his speed will be something I will watch closely.
Offense: The rest of the offense doesn’t really thrill me for tonight’s game. As I said the Oline is still a work in progress and Jake Long won’t be playing. So in reality it’s a look at the depth at the line and TE is, well, boring. Anthony Fasano returns and tonight game really won’t high-light the position in terms of the other three TE’s the Phins have on their roster. The fact they haven’t been able to find a capable pass route runner at the position makes me believe they will use a flex option from the running back position.
LB - I really want to see what Kevin Burnett will bring to the table. I was a fan of his in San Diego and think that he will be an upgrade of Channing Crowder. Tonight I will get my first look to see if that is a reality. He is supposed to be a better blitzing LB than CC but can he read a play as quickly as CC? We will find out. Another player to watch is A.J. Edds. Edds missed all of last season with a knee injury. He is a cover LB who is supposed to be able to keep with the TE’s in passing situations. In reality, no one has seen him outside or practice so for all his upside, it’s time to take a look and see.
CB’s - Outside of Sean Smith and Vontae’ Davis the CB position is all about depth. It’s important to watch because if something happens to a starter, how will the Phins fare later? I will be watching to see how our depth plays out in the secondary once Smith and Davis call it a night.
S - A lot of questions about the safety position were present at the start of the season. None have really been answered. Yeremiah Bell is steady if unspectacular and Chris Clemons is an unanswered question. The Dolphins need production from the deep secondary so how these guys play will be an indication of how good this defense can be.
D-Line - The Miami Dolphins defensive front is supposed to be their bread and butter. They will be the ones that will make this defense better than good. Because of the depth at the positions, I fully expect to see a full four quarters of solid play from the defensive line. There is really no reason for the front seven to have missteps. Especially as the Atlanta Falcons offense transitions to it’s back-ups.
I will not be able to see the game live tonight and will be out of town this weekend so I will not have a chance to watch the game in it’s entirety until next week. But rest assured I will be writing about these positions and players after I have. Enjoy the game tonight and welcome back Miami Dolphins football!