Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dolphins-Buccaneers Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins' preseason in a downpour, making what would typically be a pretty sloppy game anyway that much sloppier.

The Dolphins' struggled with drops early on and failed to get much going, although they forced a handful of turnovers from the Buccaneers and eventually found the endzone on a Lex Hilliard run.

The teams also traded field goals in the low-scoring affair, giving Miami a 10-7 win and a 1-0 record in the exhibition portion of the season.

Here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Buccaneers:


Offense
  • There really isn't any way to evaluate Chad Henne's performance, as he had numerous drops during his time in the game and he played in the worst weather conditions of the night.
  • It's hard to say what exactly the motivations were behind Tyler Thigpen playing so much and Pat White not at all (except to kneel at the end of the game, which was just mean). The Dolphins could be showcasing Thigpen for a trade, which would open up the door for White to stick around. Or, the team could just be committed to Thigpen as the No. 2 quarterback, and conversely have given up on White's development. We won't know for a few weeks.
  • Ronnie Brown looked good coming off his foot injury and was especially powerful and shifty in the poor field conditions. If he stays healthy, he's going to be very productive in this offense.
  • Another preseason is here, which means it's time for Dolphins fans everywhere to overrate Lex Hilliard. While he did find the end zone, he wasn't that impressive on the ground (eight carries for 19 yards) and simply isn't anything special.
  • With Brandon Marshall dropping his only two targets of the night in his No. 19 jersey, I could have sworn I was looking at Ted Ginn, Jr. There's not need to panic just yet, as the rain was tough and Marshall is a proven receiver.
  • We saw a few signs of life from disappointing third-round pick Patrick Turner, who caught two passes and led the team with 44 yards. Turner could use a confidence boost, and a few more showings like this should solidify his spot on the roster.
  • Marlon Moore and Julius Pruitt each had a few good grabs, although Moore also had a bad drop, which is something undrafted rookies can't afford. Roberto Wallace failed to make much of an impact with one reception. I simply can't see any of these guys forcing Turner off the roster at this point given the team's investment in him.
  • The Dolphins' tight ends were practically nonexistent in the passing game tonight, which is something we saw a lot of in 2009. We did see David Martin immediately inserted into the first-team offense in two-tight end sets, which says a lot about what the team thinks of its three young tight ends.
  • Jake Long was solid in the weather conditions and was a visible leader in the huddle. Backup Andrew Gardner had a much rougher time with a penalty and some missed blocks on the right side, so he could be hurting himself.
  • I saw a bit about what Omar Kelly has said about Richie Incognito's inability to pull as guard, but he's still better than Donald Thomas. It's quite telling that Thomas didn't get most of his work until late and with the third team. Perhaps my prediction that he doesn't get cut might have some legs. I think a lot of it depends on the health of Nate Garner.
  • Joe Berger got the start at center with Jake Grove a little banged up, although Grove did come in with the second team. Grove also had a bad snap that led to a turnover, but I still don't see Berger winning the starting job.

Defense
  • Jared Odrick stood out to me, as did veteran Marques Douglas, who went nuts every time he made a play. I was a bit disappointed to see Charles Grant fail to make much of an impact after the recent positive reports on him from camp, although his stock should stay where it is.
  • Paul Soliai was an absolute monster at nose tackle, which was nice to see after his rocky career to date. The guy has a rare body for the NFL and could be a great nose tackle if he had the head to go along with it. He appears entrenched as Randy Starks' backup, which Montavious Stanley and Travis Ivey on the outside looking in.
  • It was a pleasant surprise to see Koa Misi and Cameron Wake get some good pressure last night, and it was also interesting to see Ikaika Alama-Francis rotate series with Misi through the first half. I think both Alama-Francis and Misi could end up sharing time during the regular season as well given their different skills.
  • The battle for the fifth outside linebacker spot wasn't settled, as Erik Walden, who I would have considered the worst candidate, came up with the only sack. Quentin Moses was also around on the play, while Chris McCoy failed to record even a tackle. None of these guys will make an impact in the regular season.
  • We didn't see much of Karlos Dansby during his brief time in the game, and it seems Channing Crowder is going to get a lot more attention because he's the easier target for offense. His three tackles were good, but that was never his problem.
  • Austin Spitler racked up the tackles but struggled in coverage, while Micah Johnson also did a good job against the run. Johnson did have a bad roughing call, but it's hard to fault guys trying so desperately to impress for going all out. Right now, Spitler seems like the favorite to win the No. 4 ILB job, as Folsom didn't really stand out. That could change in a day though.
  • Vontae Davis and Sean Smith each had their down moments, Davis allowing a long pass and Smith a touchdown. Davis still had good position on that play though, and Smith recovered well with some good tackles and a nice adjustment on the ball for an interception. I'm not worried about either.
  • Nolan Carroll was a pleasant surprise in his first professional game, and I can't see any way the fifth-rounder doesn't make the team. Jason Allen got picked on a few times which is nothing new, although his special-teams ability helps his chances.
  • Nate Ness was the star of the night, racking up four tackles, two forced fumbles, and a handful of pass breakups. He certainly did nothing but help himself tonight, but it's important to remember that his good play is coming against quarterbacks and receivers that are very unrefined themselves. He still has a battle on his hands to make the roster and a lot of it could depend on the health of Will Allen, although Ness is going to be hard to sneak to the practice squad if he keeps playing this well.
  • I didn't really notice the safeties too much, although I thought Chris Clemons did a solid job in coverage. It definitely looks like the Dolphins will roll with him as the starting free safety, ready or not. Jonathon Amaya also made a few nice plays on the ball and nearly had an interception, although the Bucs ended up completing it.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter converted his one and only field goal attempt off the infield dirt, which is always an admirable task. He's had his ups and downs in camp, but he's in no danger of having his job threatened.
  • Brandon Fields absolutely boomed most of his punts and also also dropped another punt inside the 20. He looks ready to cement himself among the elite punters in the NFL.
  • We really got to see how little a chance some guys are given to make the team. Tristan Davis got one kick return in the pouring rain and brought it back 20 yards, and was never seen again. It really looks like Nolan Carroll, who had a 27-yard return, will win the job, especially since he doubles on defense.
  • The Dolphins' punt returners did absolutely nothing, as Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen combined for eight total yards. Bess is a sub-par returner, but no one else is pushing him and he'll retain his role since he's going to make the team anyway.
Five Up
  • CB Nate Ness — Played great ball at corner and showed great improvement after being on the practice squad last year. He has guys in front of him, but play like this makes him harder to cut.
  • NT Paul Soliai — Was an absolute beast up the middle. He won't supplant Randy Starks, but he did instill confidence that he can handle the No. 2 job and rotate in.
  • Koa Misi — Got some great pressure on the quarterback and forced some bad throws. Definitely looks sound enough to start as a rookie.
  • CB Nolan Carroll — Was excellent in coverage and had Miami's best return of the night. The Dolphins don't like using roster spot on pure returners, so a cornerback with potential that can also handle kickoffs is ideal.
  • Patrick Turner — It was about time we saw something from Turner, and he showed what a weapon he can be with a big catch and run over the middle. The physical tools are there.

Five Down
  • QB Pat White — It's possible that Tyler Thigpen was being showcased for trade, but it still says a lot the team doesn't care much to see White in a game after the role he had as a rookie. The ability just isn't there.
  • OG Donald Thomas — It's been two years since he earned the starting right guard job as a rookie sixth-round pick, and he has done little in the time since. Playing with the scrubs last night was surprising and it's obvious the team is down on him.
  • OT Andrew Gardner — Had a rough outing with a penalty and some poor blocking. If Nate Garner is healthy, he and Lydon Murtha probably push Gardner off the roster.
  • OLB Chris McCoy — Failed to create much pressure or record a tackle in his debut, and was out-played on special teams by his competitors. May be practice squad material.
  • LB J. D. Folsom — Was outplayed by both Austin Spitler and Micah Johnson, which really hurts his chances. There just isn't much upside there, as both his competitors at least fit into the defensive scheme, while Folsom is a pure special-teamer.

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