Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dolphins-Raiders Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins are crushing my dreams of a top-five draft pick and franchise quarterback, but I have to admit they are playing well right now. It's easy to say "where was this team the first seven weeks of the season?" but one thing the Dolphins have not been in recent years is consistent. Nevertheless, they are firing on all cylinders right now and can seemingly compete with anyone.

Now, onto the observations from the blowout victory over the Raiders...

  • Matt Moore had a mistake-free day at the offense and did basically everything well. The lack of pressure from the Raiders' defense helped immensely and Moore took advantage, finding open receivers and making accurate throws all day. He also made some plays with his legs which is something Chad Henne was doing more of this season as well.
  • Reggie Bush is playing well right now, taking advantage of holes opened by the offensive line and playing with a physical, "me-against-the-world" attitude that I do admire. That being said, rookie Daniel Thomas is clearly the more complete back and is outperforming Bush between the tackles, so I'd really prefer to see Thomas get more playing time.
  • It was a typical day for the Dolphins' receivers, as the ball was spread around and no one really stood out. Davone Bess hauled in a nice touchdown while Anthony Fasano and Brandon Marshall had the biggest impacts in the passing game. Meanwhile, Brian Hartline didn't see many targets.
  • Practically the only guy on the Dolphins that didn't have a good day was Charles Clay, who had two really bad drops. Clay has really come on of late and has a lot of versatility, so I won't fault him too much for a rough game in his rookie campaign.
  • The Dolphins' offense line deserves to be taken out for a nice steak dinner after this performance because they were a key to the team's success. The pass protection was stellar and they all did a fantastic job run blocking. Richie Incognito was strong and even the disappointing John Jerry had a great day in his first start of the year, though I'm not sure why Nate Garner didn't get the nod. Given how well the team played and the Dolphins' record, I'm not sure I'd even both giving Vernon Carey his job back when he's healthy, as I'd rather see what Jerry can do and if he can compete for a starting job in 2012.

  • The defensive line was absolutely fabulous in this one and is finally playing up to its talent. Kendall Langford and Tony McDaniel in particular had great days. The Dolphins completely shut down a very hot Michael Bush and disrupted the entire Raiders' offense as a result. Langford also showed great effort and made a key block on Kevin Burnett's pick-six, so bonus points for him.
  • I thought the pass rush did a great job in this game even if it doesn't show on the stat sheet. Cameron Wake came out of the game with a long assisted tackle, but he got good pressure on Palmer and disrupted him numerous times.
  • The inside linebackers were phenomenal once again and have really picked up their game after a rough first half. Both Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are playing great football right now and Burnett did more in this one game than Channing Crowder did in six seasons. Both Dansby and Burnett are great in coverage and good tacklers, and their production is a huge reason for the Dolphins' recent defensive success.
  • Outside of a few great catches by Darrius Heyward-Bey and some garbage time yards and scores by Palmer, I thought the secondary had a great day. The Dolphins' top three corners all made multiple nice plays on the ball and the veteran Will Allen really showed up.
  • The safeties really weren't tested in this one with the performance of the front seven, but they had a solid showing as well. This is certainly the weakest part of the defense and I'm not sure how much Yeremiah Bell has left in the tank, but the unit is serviceable in a good overall defense.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter looked totally over the groin injury that kept him out of the past two games, converting both field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards and all of his extra points. He's a rock solid kicker when healthy.
  • Brandon Fields had a solid day with a long punt of 66 yards and one punt downed at the 11 by Julius Pruitt, but his other two punts were touchbacks. Nevertheless, Fields is an elite punter in the NFL for sure.
  • Clyde Gates showed off his speed on the Raiders' only kickoff of the game, taking it 77 yards and nearly breaking it all the way. Davone Bess did nothing on punts as usual and I really don't know why Gates isn't taking on that role as well.


The way the Dolphins are playing, they can beat anyone right now. Their defense is finally playing at the level we expected them to all season, thanks to increased production from the linebackers and a rejuvenated Vontae Davis. They currently rank sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game and rank fifth in opponents' rushing average.

For those of us who are hoping for a high draft pick, it might be time to embrace disappointment as the Dolphins have a few more winnable games on the schedule. It honestly wouldn't surprise me if the Dolphins finished 6-10 the way they are playing. If they could perform in a way that gives them something to build on in 2012 and land an elite quarterback in next year's draft, then they'll be in business.

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