First of all, I do want to point out that those who have the NFL Network can watch the game from Saturday night today at 1 pm eastern.
Now let's talk a little bit more about the Dolphins victory over the Jaguars on Saturday night by discussing some of the headlines from the game:
DEFENSE CONTINUES TO SHOW IMPROVEMENT
Considering how poorly Miami's defense played in 2007, any signs of improvement are a big deal. And against the Jaguars, the Dolphins' 1st team defense did not disappoint. Sure, a little luck helped out (Jones-Drew's fumble out of the back of the endzone), but Miami shut out the Jaguars in the first half. And in that half, they held the Jags to just 87 yards of offense on 25 offensive plays. And the rush defense, which was the worst in the NFL last year, held one of the best running back duos in the league to just 19 yards on 9 carries.
Also on the positive side, Channing Crowder had a very solid half. He was making plays in the backfield and was full of energy - celebrating with teammates after big plays. He might be blossoming into one of this unit's vocal leaders now that Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas are gone.
Paul Soliai, one of those "bubble" players, really helped his case tonight. Besides forcing that TD-saving fumble, he also had 4 tackles, one of which was for a loss. And he seemed to get a decent push up front on whichever lineman he was matched up against - a far cry from his struggles last year.
I'm also proud to declare that Matt Roth, who I was down on after his performance at OLB against Tampa, looked much better at his new position. He seemed for comfortable. His technique rushing the passer seemed improved, and he showed a burst off the edge on his sack that I have yet to see from him. so perhaps this experiment has some promise.
However, there are some negatives to address. First, the continued lack of a consistent pass rush is bothering me. Again, too often, Jacksonville's QB had too much time to find a receiver. There were times that I thought the Dolphins were only rushing 3 players; and then I would look and see 4 or 5 Dolphins getting blocked with no chance of applying pressure. That's going to have to improve.
Also, the secondary still worries me. Will Allen was beaten badly by Mike Walker on that one 4th and 1 play that should have been a long TD pass - until David Garrard overthrew everyone. Travis Daniels and Nate Jones were also beaten a bit too much by Jacksinville's 2nd and 3rd team WRs. Oh, and Courtney Bryan can basically pack his bags now after that display in the 4th quarter, where he was consistently getting beat by guys like Ryan Hoag for big gains. Isn't a safety supposed to prevent those things?
Anyways, there's certainly a lot to be excited about from the defense, but also much work that still needs to be done.
THE "CHADS" GIVING FANS REASON TO BELIEVE
You know, I wasn't quite on board with the Chad Pennington decision when it was made. But that's since changed.
This offense looks so much better - and smoother - when Pennington is out there. He really makes this offense better. His poise and confidence is evident. I do think that the receivers like him a lot. I think Pennington's confidence really does provide the entire offensive unit with a little swagger.
As for his performance, it was terrific for a guy who has only been in Miami for a week. His throws were accurate (really, right on the money). His pocket presence was outstanding, knowing just when to bail on the play and scramble for some yards. His only incompletion was on his first pass attempt, when he and Derek Hagan had a miscommunication. He ended 5/6 for 55 yards, and led Miami to 10 points.
My question, though, is where is the love for Pennington? Brett Favre was all over ESPN and NFLN after his performance on Saturday night, going 5/6 for 48 yards and a 4 yard TD pass to Dustin Keller. But Pennington was barely spoken of despite having an identical completion percentage, more yards, scrambling for yards (which Favre didn't do), and leading his team on a TD drive that ended with a 4 yard touchdown - only difference is that it was a Ricky Williams run. I guess Pennington will get some attention if he can go out and beat his former team on opening day. But, clearly, Pennington (against a better defense) outplayed Favre - at least for one night.
Meanwhile, Chad Henne also looked good. Though he didn't lead any TD drives, he completed passes and didn't make mistakes. He never looks rattled or over-matched and just seems to exude confidence despite being a rookie - a truly great sign. He also has terrific poise in the pocket, though solid offensive line protection surely helped him. But a couple of passes concluded with Henne taking a shot. I like the toughness he displayed, though, to deliver the ball despite a defender closing in.
His numbers were solid. But his first half numbers against Jacksonville's 1st team defense were impressive, going 5/8 for 43 yards and leading Miami to a FG to end the half. And those numbers would have been even better if the 40+ yard bomb to Ted Ginn was ruled a completion (could have gone either way - too close to call).
One question I have, though, is why Henne is taking a lot of heat for throwing very short passes while John Beck gets called "Captain Checkdown" by an idiot in the media because he takes the short completions when they are there? Henne, on Saturday, had a 5.1 yards per attempt figure, which was even lower than Beck's preseason and regular season of 2007. If you're going to criticize Beck for throwing a lot of underneath stuff, then just be consistent and do the same to Henne. In my view, though, there's nothing wrong with throwing the short stuff if that's what's given to you. So you won't hear me criticize Beck nor Henne for that. It's good decision making and solid game management - limiting potential mistakes.
TED GINN SHOWS SIGNS OF LIFE...AND IMPROVEMENT
I'll be honest. I enjoyed nothing more on Saturday than watching Ted Ginn playing like a #1 receiver. He has really begun to show signs of improvement. He looked much quicker off the line of scrimmage and seem to show improved route running (when you had a camera angle to judge that on, at least).
He consistently beat one of the game's top corner's, Jacksonville's Rashean Mathis. He showed the ability yo get open on 3rd downs and convert them. He proved he can indeed go deep (though we didn't know that last year, did we Cam?) and can also make catches over the middle. And maybe it's just me, but I get a feeling that Ginn could become what Laveranues Coles was to Pennington in New York. And incase you are wondering, in Pennington's first year as a starter in NY, Coles had 89 catches for 1,264 yards and 5 touchdowns.
-The offensive line is coming together nicely. Their run blocking was great times, but had some poor moments. Their pass protection was much better than last week - not allowing a sack at all to the Jags. Jake Long continues to really impress. Sure, he had one very bad play when he was beaten bad on a 3rd down run to his side, causing Patrick Cobbs to get taken down behind the line. But in 2 weeks, I can only single out 2 bad plays by Long (that one and the false start last week) - which is very good for a rookie left tackle.
-None of the "bubble" receivers really did much. Davone Bess had some bad penalties against him and really didn't seize the opportunity he was provided. Lucky for him, Ernest Wilford failed to impress and David Kircus was shut out. Greg Camarillo did make a few receptions against Jacksonville's reserves. Right now, it's really anyone's guess as to who makes this roster at WR other than Ginn, Hagan, and (probably) Wilford. I still likes Bess' chances right now.
-The kick coverage is still an issue. On 4 kick returns, the Jaguars averaged 32 yards per return. Not good.
-The defense was able to get off the field on 3rd down much more often while the offense actually converted some 3rd downs, translating into a 37 minute to 23 minute time of possession advantage for the Dolphins.
-Ricky Williams looks damn good.
-Boomer Grigsby looked very good as a lead blocker for Ricky on a lot of his runs - and he even had a reception and a special teams tackle. He has to have the lead over Reagan Mauia for the starting FB job.
That's all for now. I know that was a bit long, but there was a lot to talk about. So let's hear it below....