Pre-Season Game 2: What I Will Be Watching For


The Miami Dolphins will play tomorrow night and there will be plenty of people watching.  No not the crowd that will show up at Sun-Life Stadium, the entire NFL will have their eyes focused, albeit through highlights, on number one overall pick Cameron Newton.  Newton will be making his first NFL start tomorrow against our very own Miami Dolphins.

No, that is not what I will be looking for when the kick-off rolls around.

Last week I wasn’t overly concerned with the play at QB or for that matter much of anything else.  I simply wanted to see the team working towards becoming a unit on both sides of the ball.  I was more inclined to watch the simplicity of the Brian Daboll offense.  While I came away with some concerns, namely the play of the offensive line and running backs, I wasn’t overly concerned given the fact that the team had only been together a short two weeks.

That all changes come Friday night.

Traditionally, NFL teams will play their starters more in week 3 of the pre-season and rest them in week 4.  Week one is a non-scripted scrimmage and week 2 is the first game that coaches game plan for, to a small degree.  Still, there is an opportunity to gauge improvement.  Consider week one as the baseline vital signs.  You got a look at what the teams heart rate is at rest.  Now we ramp it up a bit and see if they improve.

QB – There is no doubt that it is time to start looking at the QB position.  Chad Henne tossed two INT’s and a TD while Matt Moore tossed two TD’s and an INT.  While it was clearly obvious that Moore displayed much more “energy” on the field, it doesn’t always equate to rhythm.  Tomorrow, he will face his old team.  Henne on the other hand didn’t look as lost as he did at times last season, but with a scaled down playbook it should have been a better showing.

Chad Henne is the starting QB but a poor showing at home will not sit well with the fans and it will not be shocking if “We want Moore” isn’t screamed early in the game.  Henne has to win more than the trust of his teammates, he has to win the approval of fans and that is going to take a lot of time.  Unfortunately for him, Miami fans are done with flashes of something more…they want the more.

Matt Moore is going to get his shots Friday night.  Tony Sparano has given off-handed indications that his starters will play into quarter number two.  So at some point before half-time, Moore will likely take the field.  I want to see his progression.  He is another week into the system and let’s face it, if Henne fails, and that isn’t a very big “IF”, Moore will be the QB at some point this season.  It’s very likely that Henne will be on a short leash, after all, the job of Tony Sparano is attached to it.

OL – The offensive line was putrid last week.  No running lanes, poor pass protection, a false start by Lydon Murtha, but they were not pulling or doing much in the way of stunts.  The Oline basically played man up drive blocking which hindered the progression of the offense.  They will need to step it up this week.  They must start opening running lanes for the running backs.  If they can’t open holes the Dolphins have no chance this season and the Tony Sparano merry-go-round of personnel will continue.

RB – I wanted to see what Donald Thomas could do last week.  He didn’t impress.  Was it the oline or something else?  None of the backs actually impressed and tomorrow we get to see Reggie Bush for the first time.  I suspect we will see quite a few dump passes to him.  If I were Carolina I would be expecting that exact play every time he is in the game.  If history serves a purpose for this team, it’s that Chad Henne will dump the ball off early…so expect a good dose of Bush.

TE’s – The TE’s seemed almost non-existent last week.  Disagree with me if you must, but the first Chad Henne INT was more the fault of Anthony Fasano than Henne’s pass.  Truth be told, Fasano is one of my favorite players on this team but it’s becoming apparent that he simply is too inconsistent to become great.  He has the tools and the frame to be a solid pass catching TE but he simply needs to be more productive.  Outside of Fasano, the Dolphins who should be running more two TE sets simply lack the personnel to get it done.  Mickey Shuler may be their next best TE and he is on the proverbial roster bubble.  Why?  Because he is battling it out with Brett Brackett an undrafted rookie, Jeron Mastrud, and Dedrick Epps who are both entering their second seasons in the NFL…and haven’t made an impact.

I want to see more from this position for two reasons, one, they simply lack the production from that part of the field and without it, opposing LB’s are free to one on one cover the running backs, and two, because the team decided it was in their best interest not to pursue a TE through the draft or free agency to make that position better.  So that tells me they see something in what they have currently on the roster.  I want to see what they see.

On the defensive side of the ball, improvement from the starting D-line would be nice to see but honestly, DC Mike Nolan isn’t going to show his cards right now.  He will blitz the younger guys like CB Jimmy Wilson, A.J. Edds, and Austin Spitler from time to time, but the real work is going to be done at the edges by Koa Misi and Jared Odrick.  Odrick missed last season with an injury while Misi improved over each week.  With the addition to Jason Taylor this off-season, it will be interesting to see if they have learned anything from the veteran in terms of getting off the line blocks.

It may be easy to say progress will be made if they stop the running game of the Panthers but I want to see how these younger players position themselves once the play goes in motion.  Are they taking themselves out of the play or forcing the play to go elsewhere?

I’m not too concerned about the corners.  Yes they didn’t play that well last week and they may or may not play well this week.  If there was one thing I learned from coaching defenses is that your corner really need to get into a groove.  Vontae’ Davis and Sean Smith should get better as games progress as well as the season, but a couple of early series and the rest of the night off won’t get them in that groove.

Deep in the back end of the defense I simply want to see positioning and angles being taken by the safeties.  By now they should be able to make simple reads of the offense and know what angles they need to make in order to make a play.  That’s the one thing I will be looking at more than whether or not they are picking the ball off or defending the run at the line.

Tomorrow should open up a little more of the window into this team and especially the offense under Brian Daboll.  The third week should really show us what is behind the curtains as the team will then look towards it’s opening night against New England.

My recommendation is don’t expect a lot but expect more than you saw last week.  The key here is improvement in the areas that they failed at last week.  Then we re-evaluate it again next week.