Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dolphins-Bills Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins are at it gain, winning their third consecutive game much to the delight of some fans and to the chagrin of others like myself that are hoping for a higher draft pick come April.

Now at 3-7, the Miami Dolphins are currently projected to pick eighth in the coming draft, and while only a few of the teams ahead of them are locks to draft a quarterback, falling any further could do some real damage to the team's future and ability to land a franchise signal-caller.

Nevertheless, the Dolphins are playing some pretty good football right now and there are a lot of things to talk about. Here are my observations from the Dolphins' route of the Bills.

  • It's hard to find much wrong with what Matt Moore did on Sunday. Aside from a few bad throws including one that should have been intercepted on the goal line, he was pretty accurate and made some nice reads and touch passes. He still has a tendency to make a boneheaded mistake here and there like taking a sack instead of throwing it away, but he easily played well enough to win. Under contract for 2012, I'd say he is the most likely candidate to start next year assuming the team drafts a quarterback high.
  • Reggie Bush appears to be back to his old self and really couldn't get anything going on the ground. Daniel Thomas was a little better but wasn't all that impressive either. I would chalk this up to the fact that the Dolphins were well ahead for most of the game so they were running the ball a lot in obviously conservative situations.
  • Brandon Marshall was practically invisible, failing to get his feet in on a potential touchdown and reeling in only one pass for five yards. The rest of the passing game wasn't all that impressive either, although Davone Bess made a nice touchdown grab. Charles Clay was the real standout here and he continues to show that he has good hands and can be a mismatch in the passing game. I don't see him as a pure starter anywhere, but he's a nice piece for an offense to have.
  • Overall this was a very up-and-down performance by the offensive line. They did a good job protecting Moore for the most part, but they didn't block the run particularly well and did a horrible job on the safety play. I would say if anything, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has done a good job of molding the offense into something that compensates for the Dolphins' pass protection issues on the right side.

  • The Dolphins defensive line did extremely well early, shutting down Fred Jackson until the Bills had to abandon the running game altogether. Players like Kendall Langford, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick also did a nice job of putting pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick from up the middle. Odrick in particular has really come on of late and looks like a quality starter.
  • The pass-rushing linebackers were overshadowed by the big guys up front, but Jason Taylor has a good day with a sack and Cameron Wake drew numerous holds that weren't called. The fear of a Wake hit is also what led to Nolan Carroll's interception. I do think Wake is having a bit of a down year and the lack of long-term prospects at the position is a bit concerning.
  • Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby continue their hot play and that duo is really a big reason why the unit has turned things around oveer the last month. They shoot gaps well and are really stuffing the run. Dansby also contributed to Yeremiah Bell's interception.
  • This was probably one of the best days the secondary has had in a long time. The starting corners played very well and didn't allow much of anything in the passing game, while Vontae Davis also had a huge hit on C. J. Spiller on the goal line for what should have been an easy touchdown.
  • Yeremiah Bell made a nice play on a deflected ball for an interception, but continues to be unfairly slapped with personal foul penalties. On the other hand, Tyrone Culver made a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that was justifiably flagged, and he'll likely be fined within the next day or so. I'm all for a guy trying to break up a catch, but what Culver did was stupid and dangerous to both the receiver and himself.

Special Teams
  • The Dolphins' stellar offense didn't result in a field goal attempt all game, but injury fill-in Shayne Graham nailed all five extra points and looks completely capable in the interim. He didn't boom his kickoffs very far, but I think this was intentional and the Dolphins did a good job of covering kick returns.
  • Brandon Fields' average of 39.6 punts may not look impressive, but he most certainly was with a long of 64 and five of his seven punts landing inside the 20-yard line. He has become consistently great and if he's not the best punter in the league, he's in the top three.
  • Davone Bess continues to be useless on punt returns, but that's okay. It would be nice to see someone with some home run ability like Clyde Gates get a shot, but obviously the team wants to play it safe and avoid turnovers.
  • For all the offense did to control this game, Chris Clemons made one of the biggest plays of the day by blocking a Brian Moorman punt that Lex Hilliard recovered for a touchdown. It had been 31 years since the team blocked a punt for a touchdown and it was an absolutely huge play.


I think some of the Dolphins' performance of late is a result of playing some bad teams, but it's at least nice to see the team doing good things. The defense is finally playing up to its talent that we all knew it had, and hopefully that can continue into next year. You also can't complete about seeing young players like Charles Clay and Jared Odrick do well.

That being said, I am still not on the bandwagon for winning games because I simply don't see any point. More than they need to beat bad teams to inch closer to mediocrity, the Dolphins need a franchise quarterback and they are currently on the cusp of hurting themselves too much by winning.

The way I see it, the Dolphins probably have two wins at most the rest of the way, and I'd much prefer them to win as few as possible. If we can see some positives from our young players in losing efforts and land a potential franchise quarterback in the draft, then I'll be happy.

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