Let's put this contest in
perspective – a practice game, on the road, in the rain, the third in ten days
for the Dolphins, amidst a month of two-a-day practices. Not surprisingly, their
energy level wasn't all that great.
Yours wouldn’t be, either.
all-important third preseason game is where starters see the bulk of the action
and are expected to execute some semblance of a game plan in a reasonably
polished manner. Essentially, it’s the last major tune-up before the season
Though there were some nice
individual performances against the Buccaneers, and they did win the game 10-6,
the Dolphins didn't get the job done. Overall, they were sloppy and mistake-prone.
This shouldn’t be the case at this point in the preseason.
Here are my postgame
observations, good and bad:
1) Chad Pennington is ready for the start of the season.
Through three preseason games, Pennington is 21 for 34 for 271 yards, 2 TDs and
0 INTs. That's good for a passer rating of 106.4, among the top 10 of all
projected starters this preseason. Isn’t it time for the Dolphins to talk
contract extension with Pennington's agent? I think so. If I were Sparano, I'd
play him no more than a series or two in the final preseason game. He’s just
about ready to roll, and he seems poised to have a great year.
Hartline strengthened his case to start at WR. One of the big
concerns the Dolphins had going into camp was how Greg Camarillo's knee would
hold up so soon after surgery. While Camarillo
is working very hard, and had a big run-after-catch versus the Bucs, it is
clear (and not surprising) that he is not yet back to full strength. This
has opened the door for Hartline, Davone Bess, and others to challenge for the
starting job. Hartline seems to be the one who is best stepping up to the
challenge. The problem here is that he is a rookie, and rookies make rookie
mistakes. While Hartline has impressed the most, it will take of a leap of faith
for Sparano to trust him in a real game.
3) Defense can
bring the heat. The Dolphins should be one of the best pass rushing
teams this year, a good thing considering the current issues with the
secondary. Defensive boss Paul Pasqualoni kept things pretty vanilla early on,
but found it very easy to toggle the heat when the situation dictated. The
Dolphins have kept the opposition from scoring a touchdown twice in three
preseason games, and the pass rush is a big reason why. Opposing quarterbacks
are going to hate the rude treatment they get from this bunch.
4) The Wildcat is apparently ready
for the regular season. As we
saw last year, there will be games when the Dolphins shelve the Wildcat
altogether. This was one of them. Given the timing, and that this was a
practice game, Sparano must be confident in its readiness for the regular
players who helped their cause: LB Quentin Moses, LB Erik
Walden, LB William Kershaw, and DT Rod Wright.
secondary isn't ready for the start of the season. Rookies Sean
Smith and Vontae Davis need a lot of work. While they will continue to improve, time
is not an ally. The Dolphins may have made a mistake in letting FS Renaldo Hill
go as Gibril Wilson continues to struggle in pass coverage. It's almost as if
he is thinking too much. Big receivers gave this unit fits last season; Maurice
Stovall (6-5, 220) continued that disturbing trend last night. Overall, given
the loss of Hill and CB Andre Goodman to free agency, and considering where the
rookies are on the learning curve, this unit may have actually regressed.
2) Chad Henne took a step back. I think
Henne has made a lot of progress in the past year, but it is not
translating into a good preseason. Henne tossed another bad pick last
night, this time in the red zone, finishing 2 for 8 for 55 yards with no TDs.
Overall, his passer rating in the preseason stands at 69.2. Bill Parcells, Jeff
Ireland, and Sparano have all but handed the crown prince title to Henne, but
he hasn’t really proven his worthiness yet. Dolfans better pray that Pennington
teams stink - again. Haven't we seen this garbage before? Guys
who can't tackle. Lack of lane discipline. Low snaps to the punter. Returners
who dance better than Jason Taylor. Tony Sparano and special teams coach John
Bonamego need to find some answers, and soon, because this group is
embarrassing. A good start would be to utilize Ted Ginn as the full time punt
returner and as a kick returner. No other Dolphin has shown the capability of
returning one for a TD like Ginn. He can handle the extra workload.
players who took a step back: RB Lex Hilliard, OT Nate Garner,
OT Andrew Gardiner, LB Reggie Torbor, and LB Charlie Anderson. I believe veterans
Torbor and Anderson are in danger of not making the team.