This is it. The one pre-season game that is supposed to have any meaning at all. Week 3. The starters will play deep into the game and could play into the third quarter. So what should you expect to see? What sh0uld you watch for? The reality is this is still a pre-season game but the Dolphins and the fans will take a lot away from this game as it should be a good barometer of what may lie ahead for the Dolphins.
First, you should head into tomorrow nights game with the realization that a loss means nothing and a win means nothing. It’s the quality of play that you will want to digest. The way the team handles different situations. How they game planned and executed that plan. Did the team improve over last week, did it regress? Are they playing with confidence or confusion? All of this will make-up the final grade on Sunday and it will all direct the coaches to the areas that need more work.
So what should you look at heading into this weekends game between the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buc’s? Let’s take a look.
What to watch number 5:
Brian Daboll – No, he isn’t on the field but the way he game plans the game and calls it will be. The Dolphins have been mired in a mediocre offense for many years now and it’s time to open the game up and see what these guys can do. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano say they have the talent, then let the talent win the games. In the last two weeks the Dolphins seem to have thrown it down field more than the last two regular seasons…I did say it seems that way. Regardless, the point is that Daboll’s offense is what everyone wants to see. It’s will be the catalyst to the season. Were the successes of the last two games simply because they had nothing to lose to take risks or are they good enough to execute a far more aggressive approach?
What to watch number 4:
Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons are battling for the starting free safety spot. The battle is reportedly so close that the fourth game may be the tie breaker. Tomorrow however will go a long way to see who will win the starting gig. It’s likely that the two will swap series or even every third series so that Mike Nolan and Tony Sparano get a solid look at both against the opposing starters. This could come down to the simplest of things. Position and footwork, hands and reads. Dropped INT’s will not win any favors from the coaches. How they perform aggressively is what I want to see.
What to watch number 3.
Reggie Bush will be the starting tailback and while many will want to see if he can replicate last weeks first quarter, I’m more interested in seeing how Daniel Thomas is playing as well as newly acquired RB Larry Johnson. The reality is that Bush for all his extra practice time has yet to play a full season, so it goes without saying that this year could be no different. That puts the load on the shoulders of the rookie who thus far has not looked good. It’s been reported that all of the O coaches and Sparano have been on his rear end the last two weeks, it’s time to see if it pays off.
Thomas tends to run higher than he should and he also tends to hold the ball away from his body a little too much for my liking. He has yet to consistently hit the holes or break for them before they open…in other words running to where the holes will be. Thomas needs to run with more hard conviction. He needs to get up field and use his body to move people in front of him. So while Reggie will be the exciting prospect to watch, I will be more interested in how Thomas handles the extended time against starters.
What to watch number 2.
The offensive line. I know I have only mentioned the defense once, but honestly, the defense doesn’t worry me. The offense does. Last week, the Dolphins line had a very solid game. But it was against the Panthers. This week they have a tougher opponent in the Buc’s. The line play will dictate everything from pace to timing, to gains, and yards lost. Although Jake Long is back at practice, it’s safe to say that he will not make an appearance in the game. So we do again get to see good position battles for the remaining depth spots. Vernon Carey has looked promising at guard, now let’s see how he pulls and runs the inside stunts that will create interior running lanes for the backs.
What to watch number 1.
Yep, you were right. Chad Henne. Last week, Henne turned a few heads but by now those heads have turned back around. Henne’s play has been largely inconsistent and his up and down roller coaster has basically put Henne in the position of never having two very good games in a row. So can he do it now? Last week I was pleased to see the long ball to open receivers. This week I want to see them completed. Henne did well moving down the field with every series and he will need to continue to do that with the same conviction. He needs to be more vocal and the leader in him needs to come out every week not just ones that he is playing well in.
Chad Henne has the starting job on lock-down barring a complete meltdown tomorrow. That is not however an indictment that he is playing like a starter. If he can do this week what he did last week, it will go a long way towards fans rallying around the possibilities of 2011.