Thoughts From the Morning After


Funny what a week can do. Just last Saturday the Miami Dolphins were 3-5 and beginning to lose relevance.  Now six days later they find themselves at 5-5, .500 for the first time since week one and a team still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. Last night Miami pulled off a solid win on the road against the Carolina Panthers on the legs of Ricky Williams. Here are a few observations…

Ricky Williams

Imagine around 2004 when Miami was mostly cursing at Ricky for bailing on the Dolphins just days before the season, trying to tell any die-hard that in half a decade, Ricky would actually help bail the Dolphins out. The strange career of Ricky Williams truly has come full circle. Miami again will need to rely heavily on Ricky to shoulder the workload, a concept unthinkable several years ago.

When Ricky left and failed the drug tests, at that moment nobody ever imagined that any team could ever trust, let alone rely on Ricky ever again, especially the Miami Dolphins. To see him come back humbly, work through issues (both on and off the field) and play a selfless role in the Miami offense is impressive enough. But for Miami to actually be in a position where they not only do call his number in a time of need but do so with a high level of confidence is truly amazing. The Dolphins trust Ricky Williams. They’re happy to have him. Last night he showed a large part of why that is. But let’s not lose sight of some of the other significance of last night as well.

Chad Henne

I certainly invited plenty of criticism last week with my critique of Chad Henne. I’m not going to apologize for calling ‘em like I see ‘em. Last week I didn’t think Chad performed well against the Buccaneers save a very sexy game winning drive at the end of the game. But I’ll also give credit where it’s due and last night Chad Henne played a much better game.

For starters, I think Miami put Henne in better positions to throw out of. They did a pretty good job staying out of third and long situations and they left a few more guys in to protect at times. Henne’s mobility is not his calling card so making sure he stayed upright was important and Miami did a great job of keeping Henne comfortable in the pocket and giving him some time to deliver, great game by Jake Long who stonewalled Julius Peppers last night.

Henne himself looked comfortable all night. And aside from a couple of errant throws was generally on the money. What impressed me much more in this game, as opposed to his last, was his decision making. Henne was very good with the ball in this game, whether it was knowing when to take the check down routes or when to simply toss the ball away, Henne was very smart with the ball and didn’t put Miami in any precarious positions by taking dumb sacks or forcing the ball.

And frankly, he made some good looking throws and finally got a little bit of help from his receivers. Ted Ginn wasn’t completely worthless. Funny story about Ginn, after the Bucs game I was sitting with a couple of friends and a conversation about the NFL ended with the statement, “well, that’s what it feels like to have Ted Ginn on your team.” I’m not proud of this but I acted impulsively, I gave him a pretty solid jimmy-tap and he kieled over a bit and wheezed. I couldn’t help it, I told him, “no, that’s what it feels like.” All kidding aside though, Ginn has looked much better on kick returns, running with a greater sense of confidence and giving Miami some great starting field position. He even made a few catches. Not a bad game for the Ginnster.

Injuries Along the Line

It was a great showing of depth and coaching last night as Miami’s line was bitten frequently by the injury bug. Aside from a miscue on a snap the unit played extremely well and managed to block as a cohesive unit when Miami needed it most down the stretch. Hopefully Jake Grove and Nate Garner and Joe Berger will be healthy by the time Miami plays Buffalo in ten days. But in the meantime it’s nice to see when something is being done well and clearly the Dolphins are developing their offensive line extremely well. Just two years ago the Dolphins would have collapsed under the pressure of a night like last night. This year the Dolphins had guys who were poised and ready to step in and contribute.

A Reading from the Book of Belichick

I really do think highly of Tony Sparano but I wonder just what he was thinking running the ball on the 4th and 3 instead of kicking a field goal that was well within Dan Carpenter’s range. If Carpenter wasn’t 100 percent I guess I understand the call but he had made a field goal earlier in the game and seemed to be alright. Miami could’ve iced the game then and there with a two score lead. Instead it was a bit more exciting than perhaps the finish needed to be. I’m sure someone will ask Tony Sparano at his 2pm news conference today. But in the meantime I’m a little bit curious what was going on there.

Joey Porter

I said to a friend before the game that I thought this would be a good chance for Joey Porter to have a big game. Whereas the majority of the players on the Panthers and Dolphins were going on four days rest, Porter had fresh legs. Toss in the fact the Panthers were without all-pro tackle Jordan Gross and that Porter is exceedingly prideful and it seemed like the equation for a good game for Porter. And he showed up with 2 sacks and 7 tackles, including a very big sack on a third down to hold the Panthers to a field goal on their opening drive.

That was an impact play. If Carolina scores the entire flow of the game could have gone differently. Instead the defense seemed to rally and they shut Carolina out for the rest of the half.  Joey Porter still isn’t totally off the hook, he needs to get hot down the stretch for Miami to be successful. But if by chance Tony Sparano pushed the right buttons and gets an inspired performance from Joey Porter for the rest of the season, then Miami just got back an elite pass rusher.

Cameron Wake

Miami has too many good outside linebackers. Jason Taylor, Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, Matt Roth and Joey Porter are all capable of making significant contributions if given enough playing time and even in limited action Wake and Anderson have been impactful. Somehow, some way, Miami needs to get Cameron Wake more involved though. He is a pass rushing force and even if he’s an incomplete player at the moment the contribution he makes in getting to the passer is too massive to ignore.

With the injuries Miami has incurred to it’s defensive line, specifically in the middle, I think the Dolphins may have an opportunity to get Wake more plays by letting him line up as one of the 3-4 ends. Wake is not an ideal fit for a 3-4 end by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have good size (6’3 250) and experience playing as a 4-3 end in the CFL and at Penn State. Last night with both Paul Soliai and Jason Ferguson out by the end of the game, Miami was using Tony McDaniel in the middle some along with Phillip Merling. Though it may be better to go with Kendall Langford, McDaniels, Randy Starks and Merling in run-stop packages, Wake could certainly offer a good pass rush as an end in some of the passing packages and it would allow Miami to keep one of its other outside backers on the field.

Yeremiah Bell

I can always appreciate the level of activity from Yeremiah Bell. He’s not the most physically gifted safety in the league and at times this season he has struggled against elite tight ends. But few, if any, safeties are as active and constantly around the ball as Bell. Last night Bell had a number of good hits to break up passes and offered great support against the run. I really do think Yeremiah is one of the most underrated safeties in football.

Well that’s all I have for now. A few quick hits… I loved what I saw out of Vontae Davis. Steve Smith made a great play on a ball for a touchdown, but Davis played Smith tough all day and never backed down. In fact he mixed it up a bit. Vontae isn’t scared of anyone and that’s going to make him a very good in player in this league… Nice game by Devone Bess including some great catches. Good to see him snap out of the funk he’d been in the last few games… and finally, the Dolphins are finally learning how to use Gibirl Wilson correctly and he’s beginning to factor in a bit more each week, I’m still not sold on Wilson but he does blitz well and he’s a good hitter and lately Miami been putting him in a better position to utilize those abilities without getting exposed as much in coverage.

I’ll have more later in the week. Go ‘Fins!