The Miami Dolphins pre-season is over and the next team they face will be in eleven days when they kick-off their 2011 season at home against the rival Patriots. Focus will not turn to the roster as it stands today as the team readies itself to reduce to the final roster size of 53. By Saturday evening, over 800 NFL players and hopefuls will be looking for work. Some will return to ordinary lives, others will look to continue their football careers in other leagues.
The task won’t be easy as cuts are always difficult, especially when you get to the bottom 10 and even they are not safe once players end up on the waiver wire as teams will begin moving around through the cast-offs of other teams looking for a gem…or as Jeff Ireland calls them, “acorns”.
Last nights pre-season finale ended with Miami victorious over visiting Dallas. So let’s jump into the five observations that I said I wanted to take away from this game.
To start the game, Chad Henne did not play. That duty was shouldered on Matt Moore. Moore was not one of my five observations but his 149 QB ranking last night had many in the media tweeting not to ready anything into it. Moore looked solid and it appears that he will be a capable back-up and could develop as time moves forward.
Number 5: Clyde Gates – I really enjoy watching Gates play. He doesn’t stop and he doesn’t take plays off that are not designed with him involved. That being said, the Dolphins need to find a way to get him in the best possible coverage schemes to increase his opportunity to make plays. He has the speed and if Brian Daboll can find a way to get him mismatched in coverage, watch out. When it comes to making the final 53, the Dolphins will have to decide if they want to keep 5 or 6 receivers. Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace are the two players on the bubble of those numbers. Last night, Moore really stood out and had a good game. He only registered one reception but he was all over the field. Wallace added 2 catches of his own. Tough decision for Sparano on Saturday.
Number 4: Phillip Merling had 3 tackles last night and to be honest, I really didn’t see most of the game. It’s difficult sometimes to justify watching the fourth pre-season game on a Thursday night when the wife is home. In an attempt to run back and forth to the computer I missed a lot of the defensive series so it wouldn’t be proper to dissect Merling’s night. Still, I suspect the Dolphins will not cut him. If they can’t trade him they will find a place for him on their roster. He has too much upside to make him a roster casualty.
Number 3: Daniel Thomas I did see. Thomas finished the game with 8 carries for 36 yards and he ran with conviction. It was the first time that he seemed to run with vision and purpose. Thomas still has a way to go but it’s obvious that he has talent if he can get over what perhaps could best be described as “his own short comings”. He added seven yards on one reception as well. To me, Thomas needs to get hit a few more times. I’m not saying that he runs with fear but up until last night he did run timid. Maybe a few jolts will get him rolling. He looked good last night.
On the other side of that coin is over 30 Larry Johnson who was brought in a short week and half ago. Johnson carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards including a 22 yard touchdown run. The team failed to score yet again from a first and goal on three consecutive running plays. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that either the Dolphins intend to pound the ball into the endzone or they simply do not want anyone knowing what their goal line package will look like. It’s the third week in a row they have not thrown a ball at the goal line. They did attempt to throw a pass last week when Chad Henne opted to run it.
For Sparano, the question now becomes an over thirty running back or a much younger Lex Hilliard?
Number 2: Lousaka Polite is almost done in Miami. He registered no carries last night and his blocking simply isn’t at an NFL average level. While rookie Charles Clay is not at an NFL average level either, he is far more versatile in that he also plays TE. I will not be surprised if Polite’s name is on the cut list. I will be if it is not.
Number 1: The bottom if the roster was what I wanted to watch the most. Some of the position battles, unfortunately, life got in the way of that happening and to be honest, by tomorrow what I wanted to look at won’t matter because most of those players will be gone. In other words, I won’t likely review this game in depth as I normally would. Instead, I will give you my two cents on what I did see last night.
1: Will Allen wants to play. He looked good and in the early stages of the game made three big plays. The Dolphins may find it hard to cut him and I’m not so sure they need to.
2: The battle for the starting free safety spot will come down to the wire…as in sometime next week when the Dolphins announce their official depth chart.
3: The tight ends behind Anthony Fasano are simply taking up roster space. Nothing against them, but the Dolphins need to be looking at more explosive players at the position and frankly hoping that Charles Clay will be the answer isn’t going to cut it.
4: The Dolphins defensive line is strong and deep and the team needs to find a way to trade instead of cut. Solid defensive lineman are hard to find, even back-ups.
5: I liked Austin Spitler but think this is it for him. AJ Edds will take a spot and he really is becoming one of my favorite defensive players.
6: Would like to see more of Jimmy Wilson. He wil lm