So after four days on an island off Hilton Head, SC, I have returned and watched the first pre-season game that was played last weekend between the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons. There was plenty of doom and gloom going around following the game as I recall. Much like watching a movie for the first time after hearing horrible reviews, you tend to not expect much, I didn’t expect much.
While it’s accurate to say I hardly came away impressed, excited, or optimistic, I did come away thinking that it really wasn’t all that bad considering the fact that the NFL is only a few weeks old at this point and there was no off-season workouts or mini-camps. I guarantee you will hear a lot of people use that excuse throughout the season in explaining why teams are playing poorly that were expected to play well.
For me, teams got a pass last weekend, now excuse time is over.
So what did I come away with? Well, some good and some bad.
Call me a pessimist for putting the bad before the good here. I consider myself an optimistic pessimist. If I look at the very worst case scenario or observation, then I can expect it to be better or at the very least, what I expected. So in a sense, I’m optimistic that it could never be worse. I also would rather end an article on a good note rather than a bad one.
The offensive line:
Simply pathetic. Yes, it’s the first game, yes they haven’t been practicing much, yes there are some new faces, yes Vernon Carey was playing guard, and yes Jake Long was not in the game. The Dolphins need to be able to win without Jake Long. Period. The fact is, the Dolphins couldn’t open up a running lane anywhere. The rushing yard totals were sickening. This is a team that has prided itself on running the football. Tony Sparano was an “oline genius” in Dallas but his teams in Miami have been a shuffled deck of cards.
Sparano needs to get the pieces in place now and let them play together throughout the pre-season to get some continuity. He can’t afford to bounce lineman back and forth to see who fits where and whether they would be a better fit elsewhere. May not be a bad idea for Jeff Ireland to kick some of the acorns over that are sitting on the free agent list.
I don’t think it’s necessary to go over individual play here. They all struggled at some point. The good news is that it is fixable…or should be.
Running Backs -
Sorry but Daniel Thomas did not impress. On the out pattern from Chad Henne, he looked good in the open space but let’s not forget, Thomas was brought in to be the bulldozer not the outside threat. That’s what Reggie Bush is for. Bush didn’t suit up for Friday’s game so the running duties were left to Thomas, Lex Hilliard, Kory Sheets, and the fullbacks.
Looking at the Dolphins running squad today, it seems they are missing a piece. Maybe they can go into the season with what they have, we surely haven’t seen enough from Sheets or Hilliard to form a solid opinion and it’s hard to do so when the offensive line couldn’t open holes. But the RB’s lacked conviction in their game. Daniel Thomas did not look explosive hitting the holes. First game jitters perhaps?
Sorry but I saw nothing out of our TE’s that made me feel as though they could be something special. And in a few paragraphs, I’m likely to start a major debate once again.
I liked what I saw out of our WR’s even without Brandon Marshall in the game. Hartline looked good on the long TD pass but has to keep his feet. If he was 20 yards up-field, he gets tackled, if he keeps his feet he takes it the distance. The ball was not under thrown enough to cause him to lose his footing. I also liked what I saw in Clyde Gates. He looks like he could be explosive down the road. He used his body well to get off the line of scrimmage but will find it harder to do against better corners. But there is no denying he has speed.
Davone Bess? Well, he is still the most sure handed player on the roster.
The entire defense:
Sure the first team squandered 17 points early after looking good on the first series. The Dolphins were however putting a few of last years guys in there. Jared Odrick saw his first action since week 1 last season, AJ Edds saw his first action ever, the Dline gave up some yardage and didn’t take on blocks all that well for a unit that is supposed to be the best on the team. I’ll watch them closer this week and next but I’m not going to get too upset over what they did in their first quarter of action.
The corners didn’t play horribly and it take a bit to get used to coverage schemes again…even ones you’re familiar with. Sean Smith and Vontae’ Davis have their spots locked down and there were some timing issues and a couple of coverage mistakes that left receivers open but again, I will be more interested in how they play in the next two weeks. I liked what I saw out of Jimmy Wilson, the 7th rounder, and Benny Sapp looks like he wants to really up his game…we will see.
And here it comes. Throughout the first quarter and first half all I heard was how pathetic the Dolphins QB’s were. So I was actually surprised when I took a closer look (as opposed to watching the Oline fail). All in all, while I wasn’t impressed enough to say the Dolphins have a starting QB, I hardly would say that Chad Henne or Matt Moore looked horrible. There is still hope…even a little.
Chad Henne, sorry folks, but here it comes, was not responsible for the Anthony Fasano pass that resulted in his first INT. Was it off the mark a bit? Yes, it could have been thrown about a foot to Fasano’s right, but the ball hit Fasano in both hands inside the back shoulder pad. He dropped it. Good TE’s make those catches, great TE’s make them all the time. Fasano’s drop and bobble was what led to that INT. Sorry, I will not blame Henne for that…flame away.
Henne sailed a pass on a route when he and Davone Bess were not on the same page. It wouldn’t have been caught if Bess had run a post. It just wouldn’t have been so ugly. His 44 yard TD pass had nice touch and Hartline needs to keep his feet. The ball was marginally under thrown but not enough that it should be a concern and any WR should be able to make that grab. Hartline did but he also fell.
The second INT was all Henne. It would have been a nice completion if he had lofted it about 2 more feet. This is the area of the game that Henne needs to improve on. Everything is a matter of inches and feet. Fasano play – 6 more inches to the inside, Hartline – one more foot longer and inside, Bess INT – a foot and a half higher. All three could have just as easily gone a different way if 6 more inches were put into play. That’s something he needs to find in his game.
I did like how he got into Lydon Murtha for a false start.
Matt Moore looked much like he did in Carolina. He has a non-stop motor that I like but when he runs out of the pocket, he tends to miss his targets because he rarely will try and reset before he throws. One thing I will say about Moore is that the offense has more energy when he is back there. Of course that could simply be a visual mirage due to the fact that Moore never stops moving. Where Henne is methodical, Moore is a mover. Henne will plant his feet in the pocket, Moore will never stop moving his feet.
I didn’t watch Pat Devlin or the late part of the game. At that point it’s not really something I need to focus on…not in pre-season one. I would rather spend that time rewinding plays from the first half over and over again. Which is what I did.
All in all, it was a first pre-season game played like a first pre-season game. It could have been better and could have been worse, but it wasn’t as bad as I suspected.
The real tape will be in the next two games. The Dolphins will actually start game planning for them and that is when we will see what the team has to offer.