was far from midseason form. It was sloppy, somewhat ugly even, but
also totally expected from a team that had just seven practices.
the start of the Miami Dolphins 2011 preseason was all that. But it
was also fairly encouraging. Actually, all things considered, it was
a solid start.
know; the starters looked pretty bad against their Atlanta
counterparts. It didn’t help that coach Tony Sparano was resting
three of his best offensive players (RB Reggie Bush, LT Jake Long,
and WR Brandon Marshall), as well as a few notable defenders. So
remember that when Falcons QB Matt Ryan is tossing a TD pass against
the likes of Nate Ness and Tyrone Culver.
mid-August, it’s also important to remember that the sum of the
parts cannot be judged yet. Rather, it’s the individual
performances that matter now, together with the expectation that the
whole gets better as the regular season approaches.
what stood out for me? Mostly it was the abundance of talented young
players, big and small. I especially liked the young talent at the
offensive and defensive skill positions.
Phillip Livas, a 5-7, 175lb. competitor, returned a punt 75 yards for
a TD. This electric kick returner is going to be a difference maker
right away; his score provided the winning points in Miami’s come
from behind 28-23 win.
Roberto Wallace, 6-4 and 225lbs, whose game has come light years
since his rookie season, racked up 60 yards on 3 catches, including a
seventh round CB Jimmy Wilson, who has overcome great personal
adversity, was a one man demolition machine (five tackles, a sack, a
forced fumble, and several defended passes). And first round rookie
center Mike Pouncey got his feet wet from the start, always a good
thing for your top pick. He was “really solid the entire evening”,
according to Sparano.
2010 draftees who had no chance to make a contribution last season
due to injuries also flashed. It was encouraging to see that neither
DE Jared Odrick nor MLB AJ Edds appeared to have any ongoing physical
issues. Odrick was very active and Edds was all over the place with a
team-leading seven tackles (six solo) and a sack, showing why the
Dolphins were comfortable in letting Channing Crowder go. Edds and
Odrick will further solidify a potentially dominant D.
that was the good news…new pieces that provide a badly needed
infusion of talent. But there is still a lot of work to be done in
order for the Dolphins to have a shot at beating the New England
Patriots at SunLife Stadium on September 12. So keep an especially
close eye on three key areas on the team: the offensive line,
quarterback, and special teams. This is where the team’s fortunes
lie this season.
offensive line will feature three new positional starters while a
fourth, All-Pro Jake Long, will have to come up to speed quickly with
a planned short preseason of work. Clearly, Sparano learned a hard
lesson last year when he needlessly gave Long extended minutes and
got him hurt in the final preseason game. It was Sparano’s single
biggest act of incompetence in his tenure as Dolphins coach. He seems
determined not to repeat it.
continuity is essential for good OL play and the Dolphins don’t
have it yet. Against the Falcons, the collective members of the
generated less than 50 yards rushing by the RBs versus a weak Falcons
it’s early and Long did not play. The worry is that, in years past,
these struggles didn’t seem go away. Will they this time?
QB, the issue of inconsistent play continues to hang like a pall over
this franchise. Against Atlanta, Chad Henne tossed two picks almost
immediately and reserve Matt Moore a third later on. One can only
imagine the reaction from the faithful had this happened at home.
was quick and correct to absolve Henne of his two, pointing out that
the first was due to a drop by TE Anthony Fasano and the other on by
WR running the wrong route. Fair enough. Henne did hit Brian Hartline
with a pretty 50 yard TD pass, a throw that he has struggled to
complete in the past. So for now let’s continue to look for signs
that 2011 will be better for Henne.
watch out for Moore. Against the Falcons he was accurate, creative,
and threw two nice TDs. He is going to push Henne, which is good and
necessary. But is either man the long term answer these Dolphins
need? Probably not, but “average” might be acceptable this year.
I think Sparano would gladly take Moore’s numbers (11 of 18, 123
yards, 2 TDs 1 INT over two quarters of work) just about every week.
pay attention to the special teams. The improved depth on the roster
has to be a difference maker. The Dolphins already have two good
kickers and, with Livas, Bush, and rookie Clyde Gates, they have a
chance to be very dangerous on returns. Unfortunately the Falcons
didn’t give the coverage teams much of a look as their returners
were mostly ordered to fair catch Brandon Fields’ punts.
we saw progress last night, a solid first preseason effort. But it
continues to be a race against time for these Dolphins. They’re a
team in transition dealing with a shortened offseason, with so much
to do to fully implement their new offense and be ready to face a
settled and mature Patriots team.