If you walked away from the pre-season impressed then you obviously saw something that many other didn’t or you’re a homer like my brother who believes the Miami Dolphins can do no wrong. While I was far from impressed, I was far from unimpressed as well. The truth is, I and many other fans, were left with both excitement and uncertainty.
Last night the Dolphins wrapped their exhibition season and in the process rested most of their starters. The games meant nothing outside of the younger players trying to make the roster or impress other teams enough to get invited to theirs. By the end of tomorrow 22 players currently with the Dolphins will be looking for work. League wide some 700 or so players will be out of work looking to make a teams practice squad. While the focus for the present is on the next two days, it can’t be dismissed that the New England Patriots are coming to town a week from Sunday.
That is what makes you wonder if this team is ready for 2014.
The Dolphins kicked off their pre-season with a new look offense that scored immediately on their first series and while they looked great on that drive the rest of the series throughout pre-season were up and down. Especially with the starters.
Not including end of half or end of game kneel downs, the Dolphins had the ball 41 times during pre-season. The starting unit played nine of those drives and scored 16 points. Three field goals and a touchdown. The numbers are not bad or good, just average. The reality is that the first team offense looked good at times and others looked bad and inconsistent. At least two other drives could have ended with touchdowns if not for execution. Is it enough to give hope ahead of the season?
Not a lot of stock is put into how back-ups perform. They are not the starters and they don’t play with starters. A few players may step up from time to time and line up with the starting unit but overall when the back-ups are in they are generally playing alongside other players trying to make the roster. The back-up units ran 32 offensive series this pre-season and of those thirty two scored two field goals and six touchdowns. Of those six touchdowns, four came in the second half when the third and fourth units were in the game.
Again, the numbers are not bad nor good they just show there is a lot of room for improvement and we can take comfort in knowing that the first team unit plays better when they have more time on the field and that the back-ups don’t all come it at once to spell the starters. Instead we need to look at execution and design.
Last night it is very well possible that we saw little to nothing of the Bill Lazor offense. Not with New England a week away so chances are the team has practiced their plays inside the practice bubble away from wandering eyes. We should expect to see a good portion of what Lazor has been installing in week one. After all, this game is big for a lot of reasons and we will cover those over the next ten days as the game approaches.
Defensively the Dolphins have looked great against Dallas in pre-season week three and non-existent in their opening drive in week one against the Falcons. All told the starting unit played well but still leave questions as the seasons start nears.
Tackling is still an issue from the starting linebackers to the back-ups. The defensive line is stout and deep but the support from the second tier isn’t allowing the team to progress the way we expected them to. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle has blitzed quite often this pre-season with mixed results albeit most of the play was from the back-up units. The issue here is that no one really stood out as reliable challengers to the starters.
I know this sounds like a rant of sorts and it really isn’t. The team showed a lot of different formations and looks throughout the pre-season and it’s building excitement without a doubt but this team looks as though they need another week or two to get on the same page and that really isn’t time they have. The good news is that training camp is over and pre-season is over so there will not be as many players on the field and there won’t be practice time devoted to getting younger guys reps. The focus will finally turn to game planning and preparation for that game instead of conditioning and weeding out the bottom end of the 53 man roster.
The Dolphins enter a critical season in 2014 as Joe Philbin could be coaching for his job and Ryan Tannehill could be doing the same for his long term future. Of course the best news is the fact that the season is ready to start and traditionally starters don’t put the same kind of effort into the few drives they play each week leading to the regular season.
The Dolphins may or may not be ready for the start of the season but honestly I would tend to believe they are. It might not start out pretty but I think the end result may be one that all of us will enjoy.