Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dolphins-Panthers Game Observations

The first start for rookie first-round quarterback Ryan Tannehill was underwhelming, and despite a late comeback attempt, the Miami Dolphins fell to 0-2 in the preseason with a 23-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers last night.

Here are my observations from the game...


Offense
  • Ryan Tannehill wasn't nearly as sharp in this one, but he wasn't terrible, either. Playing against the first-team defense for the first half, Tannehill did well to not turn the ball over and made some nice throws. I'll also say that he got ZERO pass protection. Matt Moore wasn't any better against the Panthers' second-team defense. I honestly think Tannehill probably earned the start in Week 3 more than Moore did.
  • The running game failed to get going early on, marking the second straight game the team hasn't established it at all. I'm far more inclined to blame the offensive line than the team's running backs, however.
  • CFL signing Marcus Thipgen, making his preseason debut, was pretty solid as a receiver out of the backfield despite two late drops. He was so impressive than I'm starting to wonder if he's worth keeping as a fourth running back/kickoff returner over Steve Slaton.
  • I wasn't all that impressed with Jorvorskie Lane's blocking in this one, either. The Dolphins don't have a true starting fullback talent on the roster, but Lane appears to have the job by default. I'm skeptical he'll maintain that far into the future, though.
  • None of the early receivers really impressed, though that was due in part to the sputtering offense and pass protection. I think it's interesting that anointed started Legedu Naanee has now essentially been invisible for two preseason games despite what was supposedly a strong camp. Also disappointing to see Roberto Wallace fail to step up after a pretty good preseason opener.
  • The receivers playing later—Rishard Matthews, Jeff Fuller, Chris Hogan—all had some nice plays. Hogan had a drop but otherwise caught the ball well and had a great broken tackle on one play. He also made a play on special teams, making a great tackle on a kickoff. I'm not sure he's all that worthy of a roster spot, but I wonder if his feature on Hard Knocks will make him harder to slip to the practice squad.
  • Michael Egnew caught one ball but also had another drop. He's certainly not doing much to convince the team he should be on the roster, even though third-round picks are rarely cut.
  • Plain and simple: Artis Hicks and Jonathan Martin are a disaster at right tackle. Neither one can run block and Martin is a huge liability in pass protection right now. Lydon Murtha wasn't any better on the left side, so it's not like he's a much better option than Martin. I don't forsee any changes coming this year, so it's probably going to be a rough time for the quarterback and running game.
  • John Jerry saw some action earlier in the game, but he didn't impress. Seeing a 360-pound offensive lineman get pushed completely on his back is just sad. On the other side of the coin, undrafted rookie Josh Samuda can certainly hold his own at center and looks totally worthy of a roster spot.

Defense
  • There wasn't much good about the first-team defense, but Paul Soliai and Randy Starks were reliable as always. Along with Jared Odrick, this area appears to be one of the team's few strengths. I also liked what I saw of Kheeston Randall and Ryan Baker, which could make the injured Tony McDaniel and his $3 million salary expendable.
  • Rookie Olivier Vernon was a disaster in his first start, failing to play the run well, generating no pass rush and committing an offsides penalty. Undrafted rookie Derrick Shelby, on the other hand, continues to show he belongs with another great game. Jamaal Westerman also had a nice lick on the quarterback and might have a better shot to make the team considering how bad Vernon was.
  • Jason Trusnik and Gary Guyton struggled in their starts, proving the Dolphins have very little depth at linebacker if Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett get injured. Guyton, I think, is playing him off the roster. Rookie fifth-rounder Josh Kaddu had an up-and-down game, but with this team's depth, I'd certainly keep him on the roster to develop.
  • Vontae Davis made a few good plays, but getting into fights with Steve Smith on a number of occasions and drawing a 15-yard penalty won't endear him any more to the staff. Sean Smith struggled as well, although he made a great play on an interception that was called back on an iffy pass interference penalty. In general, the pass coverage wasn't great for the Dolphins, but having no pass rush can put unfair pressure on them.
  • The safeties were typically late getting to the ball and are far from a settled spot, although Chris Clemons did have a nice forced fumble and recovery on Mike Tolbert. Tyrell Johnson played the run well, but I don't think he's earned a spot.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter nailed a 52-yarder on his only field-goal attempt and Brandon Fields is a machine as a punter. Absolutely nothing to worry about in this department.
  • Marcus Thigpen averaged 30 yards on three kickoff returns and could end up keeping the job if he proves to have enough upside on offense to supplant Steve Slaton on the bottom of the depth chart.

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