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Dolphins Beat Redskins 19-16 - Aug 8, 1998
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The Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins 19-16 on Saturday night in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicated. Since it was a preseason game, Dan Marino only played for one series and most of the first string only played for the first half.

However, during that first half, the Dolphins totally controlled the ball, the clock and the game. On offense, the Dolphins ran the ball effectively, with Karim Abdul-Jabbar gaining 46 yards on 8 carries, which averages out to about 5.8 yards per carry. The Dolphins controlled the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half and had 94 yards rushing in the first half alone, which is about what they averaged last year for a whole game.

The first drive was about as good as you could expect in the circumstances. It consisted of 7 runs and 7 passes, with Abdul-Jabbar getting all the carries. While he didn't break any runs for more than about 5 or 6 yards, his best carry was on third and 4. In the past, the Dolphins would have passed the ball in this situation, but on Saturday they ran behind Jeff Buckey and Mark Dixon - at Dana Stubblefield - and picked up the first down.

The opening drive lasted for over 9 minutes and covered 70 yards, ending in an Olindo Mare' field goal. Marino looked razor sharp and the only incompletion he threw was when he hit Drayton in the hands and Drayton dropped the ball.

On defense, the Dolphins completely shut down the Redskins, holding them to 12 yards rushing and 30 yards passing in the first half. Zach Thomas had the only sack of the first half, but the quickness and aggressiveness of the defense was very much in evidence as they really disrupted the Redskins offense.

The only downside to the performance of the first string offense was that they didn't score any touchdowns. Some silly mistakes, along with some questionable holding calls, kept snuffing out drives in the Redskins' end of the field. However, Olindo Mare' was perfect, hitting all 4 of his field goals, including one from 50 yards out.

Following the first drive, Marino came out of the game and Erickson replaced him. After 2 carries in the second drive, Karim sat down also and Jerris McPhail took his place. Again, they drove down the field, but Erickson was not very sharp and they had to settle for another field goal.

The second team offense finally did get a touchdown in the second half, when Ray Nealy dove over from 4 yards out, but after that, when the third stringers started to get their time in the game, it kind of deteriorated into a mess.

Overall, it was a very impressive debut for the "new" offense of the Dolphins. A couple of things stood out - the Dolphins are using a 2 tight end set a lot more and are working Ed Perry into the game. He and Drayton had a lot of passes thrown their way.

Also, the offensive line - even without Richmond Webb - was more than capable of handling the Redskins' defensive line. After the game, JJ had special praise for both Mark Dixon and Kevin Donnalley, saying that the guards played better than any other guard tandem that he's had in Miami since he's been there.

So without Webb or Avery or Green - the Dolphins' offense more than held their own and really did a fine job.

The defense looked every bit as good as we've hoped in the pre-season. They were fast, aggressive and disciplined. Zach Thomas looked like the Tasmanian Devil again and was everywhere on the field. The coverage was tight and the pass rush has clearly improved. Most of the players on defense had their own moments and even without Shawn Wooden and Tim Bowens, the defense was dominating.

I have to say that I was about as pleased with the Dolphins' play as I've ever been in pre-season and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year.


The offense, while not putting together a touchdown drive in the first half, dominated the line of scrimmage and, as a result, the time of possession.

The "new" offensive line, anchored by Donnalley and Dixon, looked very good. They controlled Stubblefield and Wilkinson just fine and were opening holes for the running backs. Also, they were getting downfield and continuing their blocks well into the Redskins' secondary. Even without Richmond Webb, they looked like a very talented group of players.

Another indication of their play is the fact that the Redskins' leading tackler was their safety Jamal Williams. When the safety is the leading tackler, that indicates that the offensive line is doing it's job blocking the defensive line and the linebackers.

The running game averaged 4 yards per carry for the game and KAJ had 5.8 ypc. That's about as good as you can hope for and was a serious improvement over past running games. When Avery gets healthy, he's going to have some major holes to run through.

The passing game - when Marino was playing - looked very precise and dangerous. Marino is clearly more comfortable with his receivers now than he has been in a long time. The tight ends are going to be a bigger part of the offense now than they have been in the past.

The defensive line looked good, although I would have liked to have seen them get more sacks. However, the pockets were closing on the Redskins quarterbacks pretty effectively and the defensive line certainly didn't allow much in the way of running lanes, especially against the Redskins' starters.

The linebackers were all over the field, pursuing and attacking - disrupting the Redskins' offense. JJ will have a very tough decision to make about who to keep and who to let go from this group.

The defensive backs played very well, with close coverage and good pass defense. There were a number of deflected passes and Sam Madison had an interception, although he has to learn to hold on to the ball after he steals it.

Special Teams did a fine job, providing good kick coverage, a 53 yard punt return and 4 field goals.


The Dolphins were penalized 13 times for 105 yards and while some of the penalties were questionable, there were at least 3 holding penalties on the first string offensive line. That needs to be worked on in practice.

Also, the Dolphins need to work on finishing those drives in the endzone with touchdowns. They probably should have been up by about 17-0 at the end of the first half, instead of just 9-0.


As I said before, Dan Marino was razor sharp. His passes were crisp, accurate bullets that struck the receivers exactly where they needed to be. The only pass he didn't complete hit Drayton in the hands and Drayton couldn't hold on.

Neither Craig Erickson (1 for 8) nor Damon Huard (2 for 6) had particularly good nights. Erickson overthrew a wide open Lamar Thomas on a sideline route that would have been a sure touchdown because Thomas had his man beaten by at least 5 yards. To be fair, though, Erickson had some guys drop passes.

Karim Abdul-Jabbar had a good night, rushing 8 times for 46 yards (5.8 ypc) and catching a pass for 4 yards. He had two runs for 15 and 11 yards.

Jerris McPhail displayed some of the speed that he's known for, but ended up with 10 carries for 39 yards (3.9 ypc). No mistakes, but nothing spectacular either.

Ray Nealy had 8 carries for 27 yards (3.4 ypc) and the only Dolphins touchdown. One thing about Nealy stood out, though, in that he was the only running back who really broke any tackles. On his longest run, he broke two serious tackle attempts and sprinted outside. I would have liked to see him run behind the first string offensive line.

OJ McDuffie had only two catches, but he looks poised to really have a great year. He is getting open over the middle and catching those Marino bullets with ease.

None of the other wide receivers really stood out, although Lamar Thomas did get wide open down the sideline and if Erickson had been able to get the ball to him, it would have been a sure touchdown.

Ed Perry looked very good, catching 2 passes for 17 yards and doing some nice blocking.

Troy Drayton also caught 2 passes for 15 yards, but should have caught at least one more.

The entire offensive line did a good job, with Jeff Buckey filling in for Richmond Webb on the first team and looking better than he did in the first two scrimmages. But again, the stars of the game on the offensive line were Donnalley and Dixon. The play of the two guards really helped the entire offensive line.

Over on defense, Zach Thomas seemed to be everywhere on the field at the same time, making tackles, breaking up passes and getting sacks.

Darryl Gardener and Baron Tanner were steady in the middle, with Gardener actually getting some pressure up the middle on passing situations.

Kenny Mixon started at left defensive end and continued his good play there, but his best time of the game was when he was moved in to defensive tackle later in the game and got some serious pressure up the middle. He also had an interception on a batted ball that he snagged out of the air.

His fellow rookie defensive lineman Lorenzo Bromell also had a good game, and provided consistent pressure on Redskins' quarterbacks. He too was moved inside to play at defensive tackle for much of the game and it was while he was at defensive tackle that he took on a Redskins double team and pushed them both back far enough for him to dive over the guard and drag down Jeff Hostetler for a sack.

Jason Taylor, Trace Armstrong, Danny Stubbs and Shane Burton all had good games as well, but didn't do anything to really stand out.

Robert Jones had a couple of good plays, as did Derrick Rodgers when he broke up the very first pass of the game by the Redskins.

None of the defensive backs really stood out, although Sam Madison did get an interception in the 4th quarter on a pass over the middle. However, he then fumbled the ball back to the Redskins on the return.

Patrick Surtain struggled a little on some plays, including one where he got faked the wrong way and almost gave up a touchdown because he lost coverage. It would have been a Redskins touchdown if the receiver hadn't stepped out of the endzone and then came back in bounds.

Calvin Jackson started in place of Shawn Wooden, who is recovering from bruised ribs and played very well. In fact, he played well enough that he won the starting strong safety job.

Olindo Mare' had an excellent night, hitting all 4 of his field goal attempts and putting 2 kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. But the highlight of his night came when he tackled the Redskins kickoff returner - and tackled him well.

Klaus Wilmsmeyer did a good job punting the ball, averaging 48.4 yards per punt.

And Charles Jordan did a fine job on punt returns, breaking one return for 53 yards.


Brock Marion sprained his ankle and will probably be out about a week. Jay Hagood also aggravated a knee sprain and will probably miss about a week.

My Comments:

This game went about as well as I could have expected. The offensive line, in particular, showed a lot of improvement from last year and certainly set the tempo for the offense. Kevin Donnalley really makes a difference on that line and Mark Dixon may be the answer at left guard.

And all this happened without Richmond Webb, without Yatil Green and without John Avery on offense and without Tim Bowens on defense.

Of course, one preseason game does not a season make. It would be a mistake to assign too much importance to this game, because it is a preseason game and the players all know this. The veterans, especially, will not be playing at their full potential until September.

Still, about the only thing that didn't happen that could have was that the Dolphins could have scored more points. And while that would have been nice, that's not the goal of the pre-season game.

You know, I was looking at the pre-season schedule today and it occurred to me for the first time (light dawns on Marblehead - duh!) that the Dolphins have a pretty tough pre-season to play. They play the Bucs, the 49ers and the Packers over the next 3 weeks and that sure ought to give them a chance to look at their team against some quality players.

How the team plays well against these next three opponents will give us some real indication of just how good this team can be this year. But if Saturday was any indication, I would say that the Dolphins will play very well this year.

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Curt Fennell
DOLFAN in New England