New season, same result. Right?
Wrong. There was something different about this loss. Over the last couple of years, when the Dolphins were down by 13 or so points with 9 minutes left, they would simply roll over and wait for the game to end. But this was different - which is probably why this loss is very hard to take even though I didn't expect the Dolphins to win. But when you get so close to pulling off what would have been a remarkable comeback, it's hard to swallow.
But let's get to the game's headlines anyway:
OFFENSIVE LINE STRUGGLES
This was an issue all game long. The offensive line, a unit that many fans were excited about, played like crap. In fact, they may have played worse than the unit we had last season. They failed to open up any running lanes for Ronnie and Ricky and they couldn't seem to keep Chad Pennington upright. Pennington was under constant pressure. Yes, some of it was the playcalling (which we'll get to in a little), but even still, I was disappointed.
However, this is a very young group and is a group that has only one player playing in the same spot they played last season. So they are going to take time to gel. By November, this offensive line will be playing much better than it is now. And as far as Jake Long goes, yes he clearly struggled. He had those 2 bad penalties that negated first downs and was owned for most of the game by Calvin Pace. But he'll get better. He's one player I'm not worried about at all.
DESPITE EARLY STRUGGLES, PENNINGTON HAS SOLID GAME
One thing that boggles my mind is how Dolphin fans can be criticizing Chad Pennington. Yes, he struggled early and missed on some open throws. Chalk that up to nerves, I'd say. Because he settled in nicely and without him, this team doesn't almost pull of the upset. He made some remarkable throws - the TD pass to David Martin comes to mind. And while I agree that Pennington should have just thrown that ball away rather than into the arms of Darrelle Revis to end the game (remember, it was only 3rd down - still had one more play if he throws it away), there's no way you can really put any blame for this loss on Pennington's shoulders. He was all heart out there and I look forward to the rest of the season with Pennington as our leader and QB.
So here it is. I might get flamed here, but I have to say that there were a number of decisions made by this coaching staff on Sunday that I can't help but question. First off, I highly disagree with the decision to have Ernest Wilford inactive for this game. He's at least a good blocker and is a huge target in the redzone. Think we could have used him at times today? I know it's easy for me to say now, but there was no need to have a guy like Brandon London active for this game and Wilford on the bench. I bet we see him at least active next week.
Gripe #2: play-calling. Specifically, when the Dolphins had 3rd & goal from the 2 and 4th & goal from the 2. How is one of those plays not a run? Seriously. Two yards...just 2 damn yards. Sure, the running game was struggling because the line was getting no push and failed to open up any holes. But at least let Ricky or Ronnie get a shot on 3rd down rather than throwing a fade pass to the 5-foot-9 Davone Bess.
Gripe #3: return men. I'm sorry, but Ted Ginn has to be out there for all kick and punt returns. It's not like he was overly active in the passing game to begin with. And he's too good of a returner to not use him. He could be an X-factor that this team has never had.
Gripe #4: 3rd down back. It's totally wrong to not have Ronnie Brown out there on 3rd down. What can Patrick Cobbs do that Ronnie can't? He's a better blocker and is probably the best pass-catcher on the roster (or close to it, at least). This is a total misuse of personnel. Ronnie has got to be out there on 3rd downs.
Gripe #5: empty backfield. No more friggin' empty backfield sets. It's clear to everyone that the offensive line isn't ready to handle those situations. Not too mention the Jets were doing exactly what you are supposed to against empty sets: blitzing the house. But despite the repeated pressure, the Dolphins continued to use these sets. And the Jets continued to send 6 or 7 players - meaning there was always a blitzer who was unaccounted for. Enough is enough there.
Outside of Will Allen and Yeremiah Bell, this secondary isn't very good. Andre Goodman was beat often, including that long TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery. And Renaldo Hill was the guy to be blamed on that unspeakably lucky 4th down hail mary pass that Chansi Stuckey caught for a TD. When Favre looked to be in the grasp of Randy Starks, Hill seemed to just stop running, even possibly running towards the line of scrimmage to chase down Brett or something. He left Stuckey all along at the goalline and nobody else in the secondary could react quick enough to break up that play. Truly sickening stuff.
But more than just those 2 plays, too often there were men open in the secondary. I think I only counted 2 plays where anyone batted down a pass. Passing lanes were wide open and Brett Favre took advantage, especially on 3rd down.
ARE THERE ANY RECEIVERS ALIVE OUT THERE?
Chad Pennington completed 26 passes on Sunday. Six were to wide receivers. Totally unacceptable.
It seemed like no receivers at all, even when Pennington had time, could get open for Chad. Darrelle Revis owned Ted Ginn all game long (minus the one 4th down conversion to Teddy). Derek Hagan might as well have just sat down at the line of scrimmage rather than run routes - it still would have been the same result. This is clearly the weakest part of the team and if this unit doesn't improve - especially Teddy Ginn - then this offense will play like crap all year.
RONNIE BROWN SHOULD START
This is another thought that might get be flamed, but here it goes: Ronnie Brown is better than Ricky Williams. I repeat: Ronne > Ricky.
He looked quicker through the line, had better vision, and is a better receiver. So it should be Brown who is the starting running back from here on out. He's the player who deserves to be on the 60 end of the 60/40 RB split. His knee looks healthy. His thumb is a non-issue when catching the ball. He has to be out there from the beginning. He's the kind of back that gets better with the more carries he gets. We saw that last season and, really, he's always been that way. As much as I love Ricky, he needs to be the backup here. Luckily, he likely won't care what his role is. So let Ronnie start.
And regardless of who starts, if we can only get 2.9 yards per carry from these 2 RBs, then this team won't win a damn game. The offensive line has to give these guys some running room.
-The inexperience of Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields showed. Carpenter had some terrible looking kick-offs and Fields, besides shanking one punt for just 9 yards, had too many line drives- providing the Jets with return opportunities. At least the coverage was decent, though, saving Fields' ass a couple of times.
-David Martin catching passes left and right? Is this the same guy we saw last season? Well done, sir.
-Same to you, Mr. Anthony Fasano. What a deal by this regime to get Fasano and Akin Ayodele for just a 4th round pick.
-These Dolphin linebackers cannot cover tight ends. That's going to be a problem.
-Andre Goodman's pass-interference call was, technically, a good call by the ref. But both players were fighting for the ball and the ref could have let it go. Very "ticky-tack" call.
-The run defense was disappointing. You can't let Thomas Jones get 100 yards and average over 4.5 ypc.
-Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling looked good out there at times - especially Langford. I can't wait to see how these 2 develop week in and week out.
-Wasted timeouts kill you. And we saw that today, when the Dolphins had to waste 2 timeouts in the 2nd half (one because Ronnie went in motion the wrong way). Think they could have used those 2 extra timeouts during that last drive?
It was a tough loss to swallow, but here's the thing: the effort was there. The Dolphins played a full 4 quarters of intense football. They never gave up. As Pennington said after the game, the team talked about "when adversity strikes, don't blink." They certainly didn't blink.
And remember this: as bad as the Dolphins played at times on Sunday against a good Jets' team, the offense had the ball in their hands with 1:43 left in the game with a chance to win the game. That's all you can ask for.
I look for improvement from here on out.