Friday, August 28, 2009

Dolphins vs. Buccaneers: Random Observations

Lightning interrupted the Miami Dolphins' preseason contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night, but the Dolphins' offense was far from electric as the team squeaked past the Bucs to move to 3-0. (Don't you love it when things give you the opportunity for clever little intros like that? Thanks, Weather!)

As I've done with the previous two games, I'm just listing random observations from the game as well as any other comments I feel about a player's ever-changing chance of making the roster. I'll be doing videos again when the regular season rolls around, but for now, this should suffice.

And off we go:

Random Observations
  • Chad Pennington finished with a pretty good line due in large part to a long completion with Brian Hartline, but overall I thought it was a weak performance. The third preseason game is when starters play the most, so it was pretty disappointing to see the offense struggle like it did.
  • On the positive side, Pennington made a great play on the touchdown to Anthony Fasano, as well as on the play-action fake that resulted in a 54-yard completion to Hartline while Pennington was throwing across his body.
  • Chad Henne had what I would consider his worst game as a pro. He and Pennington both sat in the pocket too long at times, while pulling the ball down too quickly and scrambling for a minimal gain at others. I don't know if the coverage was just amazing or what, but the Dolphins' passing game was not impressive overall.
  • The running game never really got going last night either. I'm not concerned about the backs, but the offensive line needs to do their job better.
  • Lex Hilliard (or the second coming of Barry Sanders, if you've been reading Miami papers and fan forums) didn't help himself last night and reminded all of us that he is not in fact a lock to make this team. People forget that his good runs have come in the fourth quarter against guys that are going to be cut soon. This guy is not indispensable.
  • Brian Hartline was impressive, and would have had an even better line if he hadn't gotten a fantastic reception taken away on a bogus offensive pass interference call. There was mutual, insignificant hand contact on both parties; it was the kind of thing that happens on every play in football.
  • It was nice to see Greg Camarillo make a big play, though you could tell his speed was lacking a little bit as he recovers from knee surgery. He's not actually a lock to make the team, but I expect he will. Would I be entirely surprised if Miami kept five wideouts and Brandon London made it over Camarillo? Not entirely. It's not likely, but it's something to consider.
  • Fasano showed once again why he's such a good red-zone threat. Little-seen John Nalbone also recorded a reception, but I thought Joey Haynos was more impressive overall and made some good blocks. I think Nalbone's better suited for the practice squad.
  • Nobody really stood out in a positive way on the offensive line. They did give Miami's quarterbacks good protection at times though, and a few of the sacks allowed were coverage sacks rather than protection mistakes.
  • Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham did a little too much running over Miami's defense. I know it was raining for the third straight game, but these guys have to take better angles and wrap-up on tackles. Akin Ayodele had seven tackles in the game, but that total should have been even higher.
  • Despite the run defense's struggles, I was impressed at times with the following guys: Kendall Langford, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson and Paul Soliai. I'm pretty comfortable with our defensive line. Their job is to create space for the linebackers to make tackles, and they are. The linebackers and safeties just aren't following through on their end.
  • Quentin Moses and Erik Walden each had a few good pass rushes, and it'll be interesting to see if either can secure a roster spot. I don't think both will, but one definitely should. If it were me, I'd give it to Walden because he's a stud on special teams and Moses has done less with more time as a pro.
  • William Kershaw had a solid game, while J. D. Folsom was one of five Miami players that didn't even get into the game. That's pretty telling, and I think Folsom might be headed for the practice squad.
  • The Dolphins secondary did an O.K. job, but I'd prefer to see them make more plays when they're in good position. There were some completions that should have been knockdowns and some knockdowns that should have been interceptions. Still, I'm pretty content with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith seeing significant playing time as rookies.
  • Nathan Jones recorded another sack, rushing through untouched just like he did a few times last year. I'm not quite sure if he's just in the right place at the right time or he has a knack for the thing, but either way it can't be bad.
  • Connor Barth didn't get into the game last night, so the kicking competition appears to be over. He gave it a good run, but he didn't show enough to beat out Dan Carpenter.
  • I can understand the team not wanting to use Ted Ginn, Jr. on returns and if they don't I'm okay with it, but he's certainly better at it than anyone on the team. He's really the only guy we have that can take it all the way.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, Davone Bess was painful to watch last night. The guy just does not have the speed to get around the edge. He certainly doesn't need to be running backwards, because nothing good will come of it. I'd like to see a little more Hartline there.
As the preseason winds down and cuts loom, here are some dates to remember:
  • Sept. 1 - Cutdown to 75
  • Sept. 3 - Dolphins preseason finale at New Orleans
  • Sept. 5 - Cutdown to 53
The Dolphins currently have 70 players on the roster, so they won't have to make any cuts until September 5. That being said, it wouldn't surprise me if the team trimmed a few players off the bottom of the roster between now and the last game.

Some of the most likely candidates in my view to be cut before the deadline are: WR James Robinson, WR Anthony Armstrong, G Mark Lewis, DE Ryan Baker, DE Rodrique Wright, CB Will Billingsley, and K Connor Barth. None of those guys has a real chance to make the roster, and it's possible the team won't keep them around until final cuts.

Be sure to check back in the next few days, as I'll take a closer look at the Dolphins' roster and do my best to figure out just who those final 53 will be. Keep in mind though, just because a player survives cuts doesn't mean he's safe. Three players last year initially survived cuts (Anthony Armstrong, Trey Darilek, Rob Ninkovich) only to be waived before the regular season when three players from to other teams' cuts (Andy Alleman, Nate Garner, Brandon London) were claimed off waivers.