Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dolphins at Jaguars: Thoughts & Observations (Defense/Special Teams)

Here are my continued thoughts and observations from the Dolphins-Jaguars game, once again broken up by position.

Defensive line
  • Jason Ferguson's a great player at the interior defensive line spot. His acquisition was huge for the Dolphins because finding a capable starting nose tackle was a keep component in running the 3-4 defense.
  • Meanwhile, backup nose tackle Paul Soliai showed some play-making ability as well, forcing a Maurice Jones-Drew fumble at the goal line. I hate to keep repeating myself, but Soliai has the physical tools to be a great nose tackle and if he puts some effort into it (which it sounds like he has this camp) he'll get there.
  • Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling look of starting at the end spots immediately Langford in particular is a hell of a player. Both players do a great job of disrupting things at the line of scrimmage. As much as I liked him in free agency, I'm quite frankly not even sure the Randy Starks signing was necessary at this point. He'll figure into the rotation and he's capable of playing all three line positions, but right now he's still just a really expensive backup.
  • I'd like it if there were a backup spot on this team for Rodrique Wright, but I'm not sure that's the case.
Linebacker
  • Channing Crowder is separating himself as the leader on defense. He leads both vocally and by example. Dolphins fans won't forget Zach Thomas, but Crowder is a better player for this scheme and will excel.
  • Akin Ayodele should definitely start over Reggie Torbor. Torbor's a fine backup, but Ayodele's got the defense down from his time in Dallas. He had a great diving pass deflection as well.
  • I still don't consider Matt Roth an ideal player in the team's 3-4 scheme, but outside linebacker is where he belongs in it as opposed to end. With Charlie Anderson dinged and unproven, Roth might be the best option to start opposite Joey Porter this season. Quentin Moses will still get his chances though.
Cornerback
  • With Lehan missing a lot of time in camp due to an ankle injury, AndrĂ© Goodman has made a strong case for starting opposite Will Allen with some good plays downfield. The secondary isn't great, but if the Dolphins' line plays well they won't have to be.
  • Joey Thomas, a guy I've predicted will secure the final cornerback spot, had a very nice interception of former Dolphin Cleo Lemon, while Nathan Jones struggled in coverage. I don't believe Jones is in danger of being cut though.
  • Things got pretty ugly late in the game for the secondary. Fortunately, the guys that were playing are bottom-of-the-roster types that won't make the regular season roster.
Safety
  • Yeremiah Bell is a monster out there. Anyone that appreciates football would be be interested in seeing what Bell could do in a full season.
  • Jason Allen was solid once again, but I won't be sold until I see him through a season.
  • Chris Crocker isn't very impressive, but neither is Renaldo Hill. Tie for the roster spot goes to Crocker.
  • Keith Davis nearly made a bonehead play trying to recover Jones-Drew's fumble in the end zone. Let it go out of bounds and take the possession!
Special teams
  • Rookie placekicker Dan Carpenter was a perfect 4-for-4 and is 6-for-6 in the preseason. As long as he keeps this up, you won't hear me complain anymore about cutting Jay Feely.
  • Various Dolphins beat writers have nailed it when they said during camp that punter Brandon Fields can really boom them, but takes a long time to get them off. The blocking better be good.
Conclusion

More important than the win itself, the best thing to take from this game is how well the Dolphins' first- and second-teams played. Preseason or not, the Dolphins' starters far outplayed the Jaguars' starters for a half of football. It doesn't mean the Dolphins are contenders or even that they're going to win many regular season games, but it certainly looks like things are heading in the right direction.