Well the season opener came and went and as far the Miami Dolphins are concerned, there were no real surprises(other then Marcus Thigpen). No one actually expected Miami to beat the Houstan Texans, who were strong favorites to win with a top ranked defense and offense, but Miami started the game strong and looked as though they were headed in the right direction. The O-line looked strong, the running game looked amazing and Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill looked poised in the pocket and confident in his throws. Miami’s defense was holding perhaps the best backfield in the league to minimum gains and started out “OK” against the pass. Then the second quarter started and all hell broke loose.
Everyone saw what developed late in the second quarter so there’s no need to go over it again. Instead, I would rather go over the highs and lows of what the offense, defense and special teams did throughout the whole game, not just the worst part of the game. Miami showed a lot of promise, more then anyone expected to see. Without a few mistakes, Miami was in that game and could have at least made it a closer game even possibly won.
The biggest problem of course is the serious lack of talent at the receiver position. Other then Devone Bess and Brian Hartline there is no real talent at that postion. None of the other receivers could get any separation and make serious attempts for the ball. Tannehill’s first interception could have easily been averted if Legedu Naanee had fought for the ball and not let Houston’s Jonathan Joseph take the pass from him for an interception. There was no deep threat, there was no real YACs(Yards after Catch) and no challenge to the secondary. Tannehill has the tools to become a competitive QB in this league but not without some serious help. Miami must start scouring the waiver wires, the CFL, The Arena League, something somewhere and find talent at receiver or this season is going to be very very long.
This was Tannehill’s first real game as an NFL QB and you could tell. He made simple mistakes like not finding a throwing lane and over throwing receivers over and over again. He did a good job of sliding away from pressure and stepping up in the pocket to avoid sacks and showed off some side arm throws to get around defenders, but it wasn’t enough. He took his eyes off the ball on a snap to watch the defense and fumbled a snap, and in truth, the majority of receptions that accounted for first downs or serious yardage where do to some great catches by receivers, like Bess diving for the ball, Hartline’s backwards leap, and Anthony Fasano keeping his eye on the ball. Bottom line, Tannehill still needs a lot of work and probably should ride the bench a little while before starting, but then again since it appears this is a rebuild year with no real chance, might as well leave him there to get the experience.
The O-line came to life in Houston and did a great job protecting the QB and giving him time to throw. The running lanes were for the most part wide open allowing for the running backs to tear off chunks of yardage at a time. They weren’t perfect, but they played very well and deserve a pat on the back for their great play. Even Rookie Tackle Jonathan Martin looked decent enough for his first real NFL Game. It was his man that batted down three passes, two going for picks, but he is still learning how to play at this level. Center Mike Pouncey and Left Guard Richie Incognito had a couple of great downfield blocks to help get some extra yardage.
The brightest spot on the offense was the running game. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas both had a great showing until Thomas went out with a concussion in the second quarter. Bush could have rushed for over a hundred yards easy if they could have gotten their offense on the field a little more. He still managed to finish with 69 yards rushing and 46 more in the air and showed that he fits OC Mike Sherman’s offense perfect. A few more games like this or better, Miami better extend Bush a new contract or extension to keep their most talented player
Last year Miami’s secondary was one of the worst in the league and so far this year have not done much better. Miami traded away Vontae Davis after he lost his starting job to Richard Marshall a few weeks ago, but instead of improving the secondary it might have gotten worse. The secondary gave up a lot of short yardage plays off comebacks and short routes which led to first downs, which in turn kept Houston’s offense on the field. Also Sean Smith and Marshall were both burned on deep balls, even though Houston’s Lester Jean’s touchdown was called out of bounds and saved Marshall, point is he still got burned. Miami needs to seriously improve the secondary or find at least one new talented corner.
Miami’s Linebacker looked great on Sunday. Koa Misi had his best showing in at least two years leading the team with eleven tackles and great coverage across the middle and coverage of the tight end. Karlos Dansby also had a great game as well with 9 tackles and great coverage in the passing game so far fulfilling his promise that this will be his best year yet. Kevin Burnett also had a good game but not as good as his two counter parts.
The Defensive line looked strong and quick of the ball. The Texan’s O-line spent a lot of time going backwards and had difficulty opening holes for Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Most of their yardage came from sweeps or outside pitches with only a few good runs up the middle. The D-line held their own against a very good offense, and Randy Starks got two sacks while taking advantage of the double team on Paul Soliai and Cameron Wake. Jared Odrick did a pretty good job sealing up the outside edge and driving the running backs and QB back inside. As always the D-line looks like the strong point of the defense and maybe the team, not to mention they where on the field for almost 35 minutes of the game. They stuffed Houston several times before giving up a couple of TDs, but still had a great showing as a unit.
Special Teams Highs
It looks like Miami finally found a great return man in Marcus Thigpen. Thigpen returned 5 kickoffs for 137 yards total and 2 punts one, for a 78 yard touchdown which hasn’t been done since Ted Ginn Jr. was still on the team. Hopefully the defense continues to improve so he can get more chances to run back punts, since it was the only way Miami scored a touchdown.
Miami has a lot of bright spots but also some really dark ones. Unfortunately the dark ones are in positions that can really hurt any chances of winning. In a pass driven league its hard to win with a below average secondary, even harder without a passing game of your own. Miami needs to get some talent at receiver and corner now, if they expect to contend at all this year. It is apparent that GM Jeff Ireland is yet again in a rebuilding year but has left some gaping holes in his foundation.