Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dolphins vs. Panthers: Random Observations

The Miami Dolphins were forced to battle the elements of a South Florida summer for the second straight week, but they prevailed yet again as they beat the Carolina Panthers 27-17 and advanced to 2-0 in the preseason.

Once again, I won't be doing a video recap of the game as I do in the regular season. Instead, I'll just list my observations of players' performances and any stock changes from after the game.


  • The wildcat was hit-or-miss against Carolina, but we saw a couple examples of how successful it can be when executed properly. The team clearly doesn't view that package as "trick" or "gadget" plays, but rather just like any other part of their offense.
  • Chad Henne had an impressive performance and is looking more and more like a leader on the field. He's also got a laser arm that Miami hasn't had in a decade.
  • The Dolphins' top running backs were good as usual and got more help from the offensive line than they did against Jacksonville. Nothing to worry about there as line as the line does their job.
  • Patrick Cobbs had a quality game all around and you can see why he's a Sparano favorite. His long reception on the wildcat was very reminiscent of one his touchdowns in Houston last year. He's not feature back material, but he's a versatile guy you love to have on your team because he does a lot of little things well.
  • Lex Hilliard was more impressive last night than I've ever seen him since he was drafted. He ran hard and showed off some good moves, even if it was against the Carolina third-stringers. The problem is, I don't know if there's a spot for him on the team. He might go the way of Jalen Parmele and get picked up by another team if he keeps running like that though.
  • Good job by recently-signed fullback Joe Kowalewski on the touchdown grab. He probably isn't going to supplant Lousaka Polite for a spot on the roster, but he's got some potential at fullback and could be worth bringing back in the future or in the event of injury.
  • We didn't see as much of the receivers as we did last week. No one really stood out there, though it's not a real cause for concern because the offense moved the ball.
  • Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline each had their ups and downs, which is to be expected from rookies. Both should play in 2009, but I don't anticipate a ton of production from either early on.
  • For the second straight week, Jake Long got beat badly by a rusher. Last week it was Quentin Groves, this week it was rookie Everette Brown. Granted, both of those guys are talented players, but we pretty much never saw that kind of thing last year. I'm inclined to think this sort of thing is an aberration and not cause for concern. Long should only get better.
  • The notion that Shawn Murphy had a chance to win the right guard job hasn't been more laughable than it is now. Donald Thomas is a monster out there and was a key part of many of the team's big plays last night. If he stays healthy, he's going to be a good one.
  • Connor Barth and Dan Carpenter continue to split the games about evenly, but I'd like to see Barth get a chance to kick a field goal from a longer distance. Both of his conversions so far this preseason have been under 30 yards, though this is likely because the halves each would play have been predetermined.
  • I thought the defense did okay against the run, outside of that ridiculous scoring play by DeAngelo Williams. The weather seemed to play a part in some missed tackles as some guys' hands just seemed to slip off the ball-carriers, but you have to tackle better than that regardless of the conditions.
  • The Dolphins are going to need a young, long-term answer at nose tackle in the next year or two, but overall I am very content with the entire defensive line and feel it's one of the most sound units on the team. Ferguson's still got it and the defensive end is very deep.
  • I was impressed with some of the younger guys fighting for spots on the defensive line, such as Lionel Dotson, Louis Ellis, Ryan Baker and Tony McDaniel. At least a couple of them should make the team and rotate in. I have my fingers crossed Ellis can be developed as the nose tackle of the future on the practice squad. Ferguson was a seventh-round pick once upon a time!
  • Nice to see Joey Porter make some plays against the run, because that's been a huge hole in his game in recent years. We're going to need Porter to be more of a complete player, especially if the shenanigans with Matt Roth continue.
  • Good showing by Quentin Moses, though I don't know if it'll be enough to justify keeping him after he's been pretty much invisible for a few years now.
  • Cameron Wake was cheated out his second sack in as many games, but what's important is how he played. He's looked good on special teams and show good pass-rush ability, and I'm becoming more optimistic about his every day.
  • I was a little perplexed with the cushion Miami's defensive backs were giving Carolina receivers in this game. I can understand Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas struggling in coverage, but Will Allen had some busted plays as well. No one did anything to pass Sean Smith, that's for sure.
  • After a shaky performance in his preseason debut, first-round cornerback Vontae Davis had a very strong showing this week. He made some plays in coverage and really put his strength and athleticism on display with some good tackles at the line of scrimmage. You have to love his physical tools and can see why Miami drafted him.
  • Gibril Wilson, as advertised, continues to be a little rough in pass coverage and better against the run. It's a somewhat odd pairing with the similar Yeremiah Bell, but hopefully the front seven takes the pressure of them.
  • Chris Clemons was in the right place at the right time as he recovered a fumbled punt, but he also had some missed tackles on special teams. He'll make the roster, but he needs to get better on special teams because that's where he'll be playing most of the time.
  • After flashing some speed against Jacksonville, returner Chris Williams took a step back last night. He's got the ability to take one back all the way, but he hasn't been consistent enough to earn a roster spot. Remember, since he won't be playing on offense (like Bess last season), Williams will have to earn a spot purely as a returner, which makes his task much harder.
  • As athletic and fast as he is, Chris Williams sure goes down easy once you hit him. That's what happens when you weigh 170 pounds in the NFL.
  • With his speed, I'd always wondered why Anthony Armstrong didn't get more of a chance to return kicks. He had one chance last night but didn't do much with it. I consider him a long shot to make the team at this point.
  • We haven't really seem recent CFL pickup James Robinson given a shot, and he doesn't really have a shot to make the team. Still, with his blazing speed, I'd like to see him get an opportunity to return kicks.
Miami (2-0) will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers (1-1) this Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. The game will air nationally on FOX.