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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
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
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.
THINGS TO WORK ON:
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
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
Darryl Gardener and Baron Tanner were steady in the middle,
with Gardener actually getting some pressure up the middle on passing
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.