Were you one of the fans who were excited when the Miami Dolphins pulled some late game heroics in week one of pre-season to beat Atlanta? You know, the late part of the game when the back-ups to the back-ups were in? If so, then last night you should be disappointed with the end result.
If you are one of those who simply shrug the final score off as a pre-season game and then point to the 34-10 drubbing of the New England Patriots by the Detroit Lions last night…then you can at least find your disappointment with the way the team played, not with it’s final outcome.
Last night was the dress rehearsal for the regular season. The starters on both sides of the ball played into the third quarter. On Friday I listed five things that I would be watching for so I am going to take a look at those five things and then some areas that surprised me, good or bad.
Number 5: Brian Daboll – As I stated in the linked article above, I wanted to see how Daboll game planned for the Bucs. He didn’t waste any time opening it up striking for a 60 yard pass to Brandon Marshall for a TD from Chad Henne. Daboll’s offense mixed different patterns well within the play calling. It was far from the excruciating Dan Henning offfense. In fact on one 3rd and long I really felt as though they would run a draw. Instead, they threw the ball. The system that Daboll is using appears to be on that will work. However, I doubt even a third of the system was on display last night. Daboll wants 5 wide sets and motion and last night there was very little if any. So there is a lot we haven’t seen. I suspect he is saving that for New England.
Number 4: Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons – Both players are battling for the starting free safety spot and neither played a better game than the other. The secondary as a hole played well enough but it turned into run support more often than not when Josh Freeman of the Buc’s escaped out of blitzing traffic and moved up-field. The Bucs made no long passes sans one that split the free safety and strong safety for a long gain. Tampa had 15 penalties last night and at one point every other play was called back. I will have to re-watch the game to see who was in on that play but in reality, it wouldn’t make or break either player. Truth is the defense played well, could have played better, and the duo of Clemons and Jones are still battling for that starting spot.
Number 3: Daniel Thomas. I am only going to say a couple of things here. 1 Thomas needs to be far more aggressive in his running and needs to lower his shoulders and rock the defenders on first contact. Like he did at K-State. Last night he ran 7 times for 16 yards and caught 1 pass for 19. Now, go see my thoughts on number 2.
Number 2: Offensive line. The Dolphins did not have Jake Long last night. The first play of the game, Chad Henne is sacked from a bull rush over Lydon Murtha who was playing for Jake Long. After the first series, a 3 play touchdown drive, the offensive line went to sleep. Marc Columbo at the right tackle spot should be canned immediately and Vernon Carey is no more consistent at guard than he was at tackle. Mike Pouncey? Well, he is a rookie and there were no fumbled snaps.
Miami ran the ball only 17 times last night…for a whopping 22 yards. Thomas had 16, Reggie Bush had -1. Once again, the Dolphins failed to convert a first and goal from the five or less. Daniel Thomas on first gained about 3, Reggie Bush lost two, and Chad Henne gained 3 when the pocket collapsed on third down.
This team is not going to play the Carolina Panthers defense every week in a pre-season game. Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland need to be on the phone with any available offensive lineman and working to get them in camp now. Make a trade, whatever. Simply put, the offensive line was horrid in week 1 and they were horrid in week 3. When not making holes for the RB’s, they were allowing a full Tampa blitz attack to crush the pocket. Giving up four sacks in the game. Heading into the pre-season, questions seemed to surround Chad Henne. It’s apparent now that Tony Sparano, the NFL Oline guru still has not fixed this offensive line. And that could be his undoing if they don’t get it together soon.
Number 1: Chad Henne. Last week Henne had a solid game. He has yet to have back-to-back games that are solid. He did last night. Henne showed leadership, energy, poise in the pocket…and…TOUCH on his passes. The sideline pass to Marshall was perfectly thrown with excellent touch. He connected on Marshall later in the game for a huge gain that ended with Marshall fumbling…it led to the only Tampa Bay touchdown against the defensive starters.
Under pressure from the Tampa defense, Henne didn’t panic and made good throws and solid decisions. He used the check-down receivers exactly as they are supposed to be used. He commanded the team at the line of scrimmage barking out blocking assignments and even calling audibles. Yes, he did indeed call his own audibles. On the night, Henne was 10 -13 for 175 and a touchdown with no interceptions. More importantly, there were no throws that were in danger of being intercepted. Of his three in-completes, one sailed out of bounds to Brandon Marshall, one was a hard throw to Clyde Gates between two defenders…Gates may have been able to catch it, and the other was a Reggie Bush drop when he turned to run without catching it first.
This was a good night for Henne who took control over the offense and it is very apparent that he is understanding the Brian Daboll system. What’s even more important is that Chad Henne is going to either fail or succeed as Chad Henne. For the first time in two seasons, Henne isn’t being shackled by the coaches. They are letting him play football. Instead of playing not to make mistakes, he appears to simply be playing. And it shows in his energy and believe it or not a little exuberance as well.
This is not to say that Henne will turn a corner, but it is a promising sign that maybe he is getting the right pieces together. The next time we see him for any length of work, will be opening the season against the New England Patriots.
Anthony Fasano had his second straight solid performance. He and Chad Henne appear to be getting on the same page quickly and Brian Daboll actually used him as the dump receiver last night on a play that found Fasano with no one in front of him.
AJ Edds – I really like this kid. He just seems to be everywhere on the field. He is fun to watch and really does remind me of watching John Offerdahl.
Koa Misi – Misi is going to be good in this league. He is still developing but so far this is a very good pick by the Dolphins. What surprised me last night was ability to get down-field into coverage.
Paul Soliai – The man is getting paid 12 million dollars for this season. A lot of players with a history of being sub-par would take the money and slide back. Soliai looks like he will exceed last years performance. He is taking on one and two lineman and still able to push the holes closed.
Brian Hartline – Quite night last night. Hartline didn’t record one reception last night and I don’t remember him being targeted either. I did see Clyde Gates getting some first team reps in there so it may have just been a matter of playing time. Still, if this is week 3 of the pre-season and your number 2 WR isn’t targeted…I want to know why.
Phillip Livas – He lit up the punt return game in week one against Atlanta on a TD and since he has managed maybe 10 yards total. Livas has speed but really is offering nothing else at this point. What concerns me most is that no one else is taking reps back there during the game. The good news is that with the new kick-off rules from the 35 we really don’t need a kick returner. Livas is a long shot to make the roster.
Lousaka Polite – If Polite was interviewing for a roster spot last night, he lost it. On 2nd and goal from the 3, Polite failed to make a critical block instead he was pushed back into Reggie Bush who lost two yards. On a 3rd and short, he never made it through the line. He missed on another block in the game as well. Polite is in a battle to keep his spot from rookie Charles Clay. Last night he gave not indication that he wants it.
Jason Taylor – Taylor is still moving quick to get up field, but it is obvious he no longer has the moves to actually get around the end anymore. He was knocked down several times last night by the tackle and at one point had to get up and chase the play down from behind when he was the outside containment. Taylor is old and worn down. But his value has to be limited to 3rd down situations. Last night he was on the field quite a bit. Maybe he will have a much better time against Tom Brady week 1.
Jeff Ireland – Here it is 10:00 AM on Sunday and the Dolphins haven’t announced that they have signed new offensive lineman…the shame!
Topics: AJ Edds, Anthony Fasano, Brandon Marshall, Brian Daboll, Brian Hartline, Chad Henne, Charles Clay, Chris Clemons, Cyde Gates, Daniel Thomas, Jake Long, Jason Taylor, Jeff Ireland, Lousaka Polite, Lydon Murtha, Marc Columbo, Miami Dolphins, Mike Pouncey, Phillip LIvas, Reggie Bush, Reshad Jones, Tony Sparano, Vernon Carey