Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dolphins-Jaguars Game Observations

After a nearly two-hour-long delay due to lightning in the Jacksonville area, the Miami Dolphins were finally able to get their second preseason game in against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Dolphins had some lightning of their own early on as the first-team offense excelled for much of the first half. Chad Henne was extremely productive and Brandon Marshall showed flashes of why the Dolphins traded for him in the offseason.

Not all was well with the Dolphins' play, however, and with that I'll turn to my game observations:


Offense
  • Chad Henne was absolutely fantastic last night and showed the potential he has to be a top quarterback in this league. He completed 11 of his 14 passes for 151 yards and two scores, and two of his incompletions were drops. Henne showed everything you want to see in a starter—poise, pocket awareness, good decision-making, arm strength, touch, and accuracy.
  • The Dolphins' backup quarterbacks looked good as well, as Tyler Thigpen did fairly well given his rough pass protection and Chad Pennington did well in limited duty at the end of the first half. Miami has to be one of the deepest teams at quarterback with this trio.
  • Pat White once again saw no action running the offense, and this time wasn't even trusted to hand it off to Lex Hilliard with time running out. White's defenders are running out of excuses, and it's becoming blatantly obvious the Dolphins have given up on the former second-round pick. He should stick around through the preseason in the event of injury, but I don't expect him to be with the team come September.
  • The Dolphins didn't do much on the ground, but didn't really have to as they aired it out for much of the first half. Ronnie Brown was stuffed a few times in the wildcat, but Ricky Williams showed good power on a few runs.
  • I think it's safe to say that the wildcat with Patrick Cobbs leading it is not the same as with Brown leading it. Cobbs is a versatile guy, but he can't carry the load that way.
  • Lousaka Polite was money on third-and-short as always, but Rolly Lumbala was stuffed on his chance to convert a short-yardage play. Lumbala has never really had a chance to make this team and that hurt him even more.
  • Despite one drop, Brandon Marshall was all-around excellent, coming down with a jump ball, showing good run after the catch, and making some devastating blocks downfield. He took out two guys on Anthony Fasano's first touchdown catch in blocking as good as I've ever seen from an NFL receiver. There's no doubt the guy is the complete package.
  • We saw practically no Greg Camarillo last night. I think he'll make the team given how reliable his hands are and how much the staff likes his work ethic, but I'd say there is a very, very faint chance he doesn't make the team. I think in the end he will, though.
  • Marlon Moore excelled more than any of the fringe wideouts with two catches for 32 yards, but his longest reception he was essentially uncovered the entire time. I still haven't seen enough from Moore, Julius Pruitt, or Roberto Wallace to kick Patrick Turner off the roster.
  • Where did that come from? After struggling as a receiver and being asked to primarily block in 2009, Anthony Fasano exploded last night with two big touchdowns. He showed good run-after-catch on his first touchdown with the help of Marshall's blocking, and made a nice grab in the end zone for his second score. We know he can be a productive receiving tight end given his 2008 numbers, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him have a better year than most expected.
  • No one else at tight end really separated themselves, but Joey Haynos and Kory Sperry were working in two-tight end sets late in the game. This says a lot about what the team thinks of 2009 fifth-rounder John Nalbone, who seems to have little chance to make the team.
  • Joe Berger earned the start again at center, but Jake Grove saw plenty of time with the first team and I don't think the battle is over. Berger whiffed poorly on Lumbala's short-yardage carry while Grove had a holding call, so neither was perfect. But Grove is the better player and has the big contract, so if things are close, I expect him to win it.
  • Lydon Murtha was pretty bad as Thigpen's left tackle yesterday, allowing him to be decapitated on a couple plays. He's working as Jake Long's primary left tackle, but he's not guaranteed a roster spot if the team keeps only three tackles.
  • Donald Thomas once again didn't see time until late, and I'm becoming more and more convinced by the day that my prediction for him to be cut could come true. He's living off some imaginary potential with fans from 2008, and it's getting ridiculous. The reality is he's a sixth-rounder who missed all of one season and got benched in his only other one. He's not indispensable and he's not above being cut.
  • It was a tough break (no pun intended) for guard Ray Feinga, who broke his "feinga" last night. Feinga was already a long shot to make the roster, so this probably sealed the deal. He'll probably be waived/injured in the next day or two.

Defense
  • The Dolphins' defensive line did a good job stopping the run early. Kendall Langford made some good plays as always, and Randy Starks was dominant against the run. He also contributed a sack from nose tackle, which is no small feat. Some people have questioned how well Starks will transition to nose, but I am zero percent worried. He's a great player no matter where he plays and has plenty of bulk for the position.
  • Charles Grant had a very good game and got good pressure from the defensive end spot, so it looks like he should have no problem earning a roster spot.
  • It'll be interesting to see who wins the fifth defensive end spot though between Ryan Baker, Lionel Dotson, and Tony McDaniel. McDaniel has the most experience but wasn't that great in 2009, but Baker can double as a nose tackle and looked good last night. I just haven't seen Dotson do anything in two seasons and I think it's time for him to go.
  • The Dolphins' outside linebacker didn't record any sacks, which is a cause for concern given the team's struggling secondary. Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, and Erik Walden all got some pressure on the quarterback.
  • Ikaika Alama-Francis was pretty quiet last night and actually really whiffed on a run play, so it's obvious his transition from the defensive line is far from complete.
  • Tim Dobbins did well in place of Channing Crowder, and it seems to me that anyone that plays next to Karlos Dansby is going to get quite a few tackles. It wouldn't surprise me to see Dobbins take some of Crowder's playing time in the regular season, especially if he can be better in coverage.
  • The battle for the fourth inside linebacker spot is very heated, although Austin Spitler seems to be losing the most ground. Spitler hasn't looked good in coverage, while J. D. Folsom did well on special teams and against the run. Micah Johnson also racked up three tackles, although his range and athleticism is obviously his weak point. Folsom looks like the favorite at this point.
  • Sean Smith had a rough day and was burned by Mike Sims-Walker a few times, although one of those plays he was picked by his own teammate off the line. Smith and the rest of the secondary struggled for a lot of the game though, and it's a bit concerning at this point.
  • Nolan Carroll had a very rough game on defense and allowed a touchdown on an out route. I still like his upside though, and his special-teams ability should secure him a roster spot while he develops on defense.
  • After a huge game in the preseason opener, cornerback Nate Ness was a bit quieter last night. He replaced Vontae Davis when he left with a chest injury though, so it was nice to see him get a chance earlier in the game. I still don't know where he fits onto the roster unless Will Allen misses significant time. You can't cut Carroll and Jason Allen is phenomenal on special teams (he forced a fumble on a kickoff last night).
  • Chris Clemons wasn't great at free safety, but he still isn't really being challenged by anyone. Reshad Jones made a few plays last night, but I don't think he's ready to start.
  • Yeremiah Bell made a great tackle in space against Maurice Jones-Drew and is probably the only reliable part of the secondary.
  • Undrafted rookie Jonathon Amaya made a great play for an interception, although I don't know if he'll be able to make the team. However, Tyrone Culver hasn't really flashed in camp and Amaya has good upside for an undrafted player, so he may be worth hanging onto over Culver.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter was perfect with two field goals and three extra points, so there doesn't appear to be anything to worry about despite some struggles in camp.
  • Despite two blocks in tow games for Brandon Fields, I'm not concerned about the Dolphins' punter. He's got an elite NFL leg and isn't to blame for either block this preseason. Chris Clemons was actually the culprit last night when the Dolphins allowed a blocked punt and safety while pinned back against their own end zone.
  • Nolan Carroll tightened his grip on the kickoff return job with good burst and vision. Patrick Cobbs simply can't threaten to take one all the way like Carroll can. Tristan Davis was nowhere to be found and might not get another shot before he's cut.
  • Davone Bess fair-caught a punt with plenty of empty room to spare, so that was disappointing. He's not a good return man at all, but he'll probably keep the job in 2010 due to lack of options.
  • Say what you want about Jason Allen as a cornerback, but the guy can play special teams. He laid a perfect hit on the Jaguars' kickoff returner to force a fumble that Tyrone Culver recovered. I don't see any way Allen doesn't make the team given how valuable he is as a special-teams ace.

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