Friday, September 4, 2009

Dolphins vs. Saints: Random Observations

The preseason is over (thankfully) and the Miami Dolphins managed to go undefeated through the exhibition round, even if it didn't always look pretty. The wins and losses don't mean as much as how the team looked on the field, and there are still some concerns I have heading into the regular season.

Fortunately there have been some positives too, and a lot of those positives came in the preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints. My overall take from the game was this: The players I thought should make the team but had a chance of being cut (Greg Camarillo, Charlie Anderson, William Kershaw) showed me why they should make the team, while the players I thought should be cut (Lex Hilliard, John Nalbone) did nothing to change my mind.

Game Observations
  • Pennington doesn't have great arm strength as we all know, but man he can throw a pretty ball sometimes. The touch he put on some early passes to Camarillo and Davone Bess was flawless. That guy just knows how to play quarterback.
  • Meanwhile, Chad Henne looked great after a rough outing last week against Tampa Bay. Pat White was...well, let's just pray he doesn't have to play any time soon.
  • Patrick Cobbs looked fantastic out there minus a questionable fumble. You have to like a guy like Cobbs, because he's a hard worker and does lots of little things well. He's not going to get more touches than Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, but he's constantly showing why he deserves some kind of role in the offense.
  • The top receivers looked good tonight, especially Camarillo and Bess which was nice to see. Both made some very good catches, and at this point I have to think they're both safer bets to start than rookie Brian Hartline. All three should factor into the passing game in some form.
  • Some of the younger receivers, such as Hartline, Patrick Turner, Brandon London and James Robinson, struggled or failed to stand out last night. Granted, London and Robinson mostly played with Pat White at quarterback, but I still didn't see much from any of them.
  • Patrick Turner's lack of development has me slightly concerned, especially because he was a projected late-rounder entering the draft and was a pretty big reach by Miami. He was drafted to be what Ernest Wilford was supposed to be, but I'm worried he's going to be what Wilford actually was.
  • Rookie tight end John Nalbone had a really bad drop that went right through his hands and could have easily been intercepted as it popped straight into the air. He hasn't done one thing to convince me he shouldn't be relegated to the practice squad.
  • I'm starting to become a little concerned about Jake Long. It seems he's been beaten more this preseason than he was during his entire 16-game rookie season, and that can't be good. He's a tremendous athlete and and extremely talented player so I expect he'll fix the problem, but Miami can't afford to have a hole at left tackle.
  • Jake Grove got handled a few times as well, which was disappointing because he's supposed to be this strong, hard-nosed kind of guy that doesn't let that happen. Fortunately for Miami, Samson Satele is struggling in Oakland and hasn't even locked up the starting job. Grove's still the better fit here.
  • The Dolphins' defensive line was great again, and I was impressed with just about every member of that unit. Paul Soliai showed flashes of what he's capable of, while Tony McDaniel was a terror for Saints third-stringer Joey Harrington. McDaniel should definitely be able to work his way into a four-man rotation at defensive end and looks to be a seventh-round pick well spent.
  • The Dolphins' pass rush was superb in this game and was the main reason New Orleans couldn't do anything on offense. Jason Taylor and Charlie Anderson especially stood out. I'd considered Anderson a dark horse to not make the team (though I never expected him to be cut), but after last night I'd call him a lock.
  • Quentin Moses and Erik Walden didn't stand out to me last night, so it'll be interesting to see which one makes the team. It's one of the closest competitions left.
  • Reggie Torbor played well, which was good after a stupid penalty last week. He's pretty overpaid as a third inside linebacker, but he should make the team.
  • William Kershaw was all over the place on defense, at one point making the tackle on three straight plays. A quality special teams player, that kind of performance on defense should be enough to earn him a spot on the roster as a fourth inside linebacker. I expect J. D. Folsom to head to the practice squad.
  • How about Sean Smith? That kid is simply a beast. He's been the clear-cut choice to start from Will Allen since Day 1 and it's much deserved. Cornerback is a very hard position and he'll probably have his struggles as a rookie, but I can't wait to see him tested because I feel he's going to win some battles even early on.
  • No word yet on the severity of Vontae Davis' knee injury, but the Dolphins better hope it's nothing big. Miami doesn't need Nathan Jones and Jason Allen seeing more playing time (or in Allen's case, any playing time) on defense than they already are.
  • Speaking of Allen, a drop by a New Orleans receiver on a tough catch was the only reason Allen didn't have a touchdown scored on him last night. As good as that guy is on special teams, he's just as bad on defense. He should have a long career because of that lone talent, but I don't ever expect him to be a contributor on defense no matter where he goes.
  • The Dolphins need a return specialist in a bad way. Davone Bess and Patrick Cobbs can be counted on to hang onto the ball when they're returning, but that's about it. I expect Miami to scour the waiver wire tomorrow for more of a home-run threat.
  • I was content with the special teams unit's performance last night until the punt return touchdown by Rod Harper in the fourth quarter. Long snapper John Denney and punter Brandon Fields were the only guys even in position to try and make a tackle, which is completely unacceptable. This unit was a sore spot in 2008, and if John Bonamego can't get them turned around this year, he's a lock for a pink slip in the offseason.
The deadline to trim rosters down to 53 players is tomorrow, Sept. 5. At 66 players, the Dolphins have at least 13 moves to make, not including more moves for any players claimed off waivers from other teams.

Nothing has really changed for me after this game, so if you want to know who I think will be cut, you can simply read my Aug. 29 article on the subject.

One minor change I have about those predictions is that I feel Brandon London is a strong candidate to be cut too. Problem is, I don't like anyone on my current cut list to keep over him. That's why I'd single out London as a strong candidate to survive final cuts, but be let go if a better receiver (preferably a guy with return skills) can be found on waivers. The same thing happened to Anthony Armstrong in '08 before London was claimed.

Be sure to check back all day Saturday and follow me on twitter, as I'll be tracking all the cuts by Miami and the other 31 NFL teams throughout the day!