Last Friday, the Miami Dolphins lost a pre-season game to the Carolina Panthers but it was no ordinary exhibition. I cannot recall ever being as excited as I was for an August NFL game. The Phins’ rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, was making his first start and was going to make a decade of frustrations vanish. With his golden arm, he was going to usher in a new era of prosperity.
Unfortunately, the team performance was abysmal and the Miami fan base was deflated. I spent the weekend picking up the pieces. As Sunday came to an end, I snapped out of it. Alas, young Tannehill still stands!
It was one half of football.
Matt Moore has experience dealing with the speed of the NFL but Tannehill’s physical tools compensate for that. With a strong performance, Tannehill would have been named the opening starter this Tuesday. Now, Joe Philbin will see how the rookie rebounds this week and will decide if he is worthy of another start this Friday against the Atlanta Falcons. I believe Tannehill will start the next exhibition game and win Miami’s quarterback duel.
Getting back to the Carolina game.
Our defensive performance was bad on Friday but is the Dolphins’ defense really that poor? Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby, and Kevin Burnett did not play. Those are our two best linebackers and, arguably, our best defensive player. Sean Smith had an interception unfairly turned into an interference call. Vontae Davis was assessed a personal foul that should have been called on Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith.
This is a Dolphin defense that ranked 6th in the league in points allowed last year, and 3rd in rushing yards allowed. The run-stoppers are still here. Most of our defense is intact. Yes, we lost safety Yeremiah Bell but we added cornerback Richard Marshall, who has looked solid so far. New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle‘s strength is preparing the secondary. On paper, Miami should improve on an already formidable defense.
The Dolphins also have a strong and deep offensive backfield, composed of Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, and Lamar Miller. Make no mistake, Bush and Miller are game-breakers that will also aid the Phins’ passing attack.
The offensive line should be better than last year. As long as he’s breathing, Jonathan Martin will be a better right tackle than Marc Colombo. The common criticism is his lack of strength but he anchored a powerful line in Stanford. He was a left tackle on a good team in a good conference. I think he’ll be fine. As far as right guard, we have a lot of competition. Artis Hicks, John Jerry, or Eric Steinbach will prove to be serviceable. Jake Long, Mike Pouncey, and Richie Incognito are studs.
Miami’s glaring hole is its receiving crew and Jeff Ireland has not responded. His best attempt, yielded Chad Johnson and we all know what happened there. This will likely be a weakness until next year, barring a trade or the unexpected ascent of one or more of our young receivers.
Then we have the HUGE question mark. Is Tannehill the real deal? If he is, that’s a major piece of the puzzle. If he is, then why not the Dolphins? Why not now?
Let’s look forward to this Friday and the Falcons and not allow one half of the pre-season to ruin our momentum.
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