Regardless of how last night's game turned out in the win column, however, the Dolphins' play was as inconsistent as ever and is very much a cause for concern heading into the regular season.
I'll have my last 53-man roster projection up later today with final cuts looming Saturday, so be on the look out for that.
Until then, these are my observations from last night's loss to the Cowboys.
- The Dolphins' quarterbacks were all solid at the very least, and the pass protection didn't give any of them much help. Chad Pennington was solid but only threw quick, short passes, while Tyler Thigpen continued to show off his excellent athleticism and escapability. Pat White was nowhere to be seen and may have donned a Dolphins uniform for the last time.
- The running backs did a solid job, with Ricky Williams having the best run of the night with a 42-yard burst straight through the hole. As with the quarterbacks, the running backs are not the concern, but rather the offensive line.
- Davone Bess made a few nice grabs at receiver on some good throws by Henne and should continue to rack up the catches even with the arrival of Brandon Marshall. Brian Hartline pitched in a good touchdown grab.
- Patrick Turner had a good 29-yard reception after being a ghost over the past few weeks, but he was still outplayed by undrafted rookies Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace. Both Moore and Wallace had a drop, but otherwise made some nice grabs and both found the end zone. This is an intriguing part of the roster, so you'll want to check back for my 53-man roster projection for more on how I see the receiver spot shaking out.
- John Nalbone actually showed up in the stat sheet with a 30-yard reception, but I wouldn't get too excited.
- That sound you heard during the early second quarter was a collective gasp from Dolphins fans everywhere after Jake Long got rolled up on and appeared to injure his knee. All reports have been positive though, as he didn't even limp to the trainer's table and spent the entire game on the sideline without ice or a brace.
- Long's injury scare is something that makes you realize just how little the Dolphins can afford to lose him. The Dolphins have zero depth at tackle behind Long and Vernon Carey. Both Andrew Gardner and Lydon Murtha have been consistently bad this preseason and neither has truly earned a spot on the roster.
- Cory Procter played center in relief of Joe Berger, but I do not believe it is a death sentence for Jake Grove, who did not travel with the team due to a shoulder injury. Procter has experience at center and was the natural backup choice with Grove unavailable. If anything, this simply shows that Procter's versatility will help him make the team, and that Andrew Hartline has no shot.
- The Dolphins' run defense was not as good as it should have been playing against the Cowboys' backup offensive line and backfield. One thing I will give Jared Odrick credit for, though, is running 34 yards down the field and making a tackle on Tashard Choice. For a defensive lineman, that's unbelievable.
- Nose tackle Paul Soliai didn't show up for the first time all preseason and that hurt the defense a lot. It's that kind of inconsistency that has prevented him from becoming a starter in the NFL.
- Ikaika Alama-Francis and Koa Misi both made some nice individual plays against the run and should continue to split time on defense into the regular season. Both offer different skill sets and neither is ready to be an every-down guy, so a platoon is best.
- Rookie Chris McCoy was flagged for offsides to cap off a very uneventful preseason. He's battling just to make the practice squad at this point. Quentin Moses finally showed up a bit, but probably too late to beat out special-teamer Erik Walden.
- Charlie Anderson and Tim Dobbins had solid nights, but none of the other inside linebackers really did much and could all be cut if the Dolphins like Anderson inside. Micah Johnson did have a nice tackle on special teams, so it'll be interesting to see if Miami deems him worth of a spot.
- A few of the cornerbacks had some individual good plays, namely Nolan Carroll, Kevin Hobbs and Nate Ness, but as a whole they struggled for most of the game. Sean Smith was scored on yet again, although he had great position and stuck with his receiver well on what turned out to just be a perfect throw. He might have given up a touchdown on that play, but trust me, it's good for the future that he was in position.
- Reshad Jones is pretty shaky in coverage and just ready for playing time on defense yet. He racked up seven tackles, but that's not a good thing.
- Placekicker Dan Carpenter and punter Brandon Fields both had good nights, which is par for the course for them. It's a luxury to not have to worry about that unit.
- Nolan Carroll didn't do anything special at kick returner, but he didn't lose his job, either. The Dolphins are absolutely lacking at punt returner, though. If Marlon Moore is going to make the team, it'd be nice if he could be even a slight upgrade over Bess and allow him to focus on offense.
- The kick and punt coverage has to get better. The team has a few good players on the unity (Jason Allen, Tyrone Culver, Hilliard, Walden) but those guys can only do so much. Too many times this preseason, you'd have 10 guys going for the big hit and all fail to make the tackle. Not fundamentally-sound.
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