MIAMI - AUGUST 14: Quarterback Chad Henne #7 of the Miami Dolphins hands off to running back Ronnie Brown #23 in pouring rain against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an opening week pre-season game August 14 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Last week, before the Miami Dolphins first game of the preseason, optimism flourished.
But this week, many of the same people that were very optimistic about the 2010 squad have apparently come down with a bad case of "Chicken Little Syndrome" (CLS) since watching the game last Saturday.
CLS is characterized by some, or all, of the following symptoms:
- Mild to moderate crankiness when discussing the Miami Offense
- Severe feelings of anxiety that Brandon Marshall has lost his ability to catch a football
- Post traumatic flashback hallucinations of Cam Cameron, often accompanied by depression
- An overwhelming urge to cover your head and run in circles when outside
Well, for you folks suffering from this malady, there is hope for some relief this week in the form of the SECOND preseason game at Jacksonville! You see, the truth of the matter is that the Dolphins didn’t play great…. But they also didn’t play terribly.While the Miami Offense looked flat and out of synch, the Miami Defense created four turnovers off a fairly vanilla defensive game plan. And that is pretty much what allowed the Dolphins to squeak out a 10-7 win. This offseason, the team overall has stressed the need for big plays, and the D has stressed the need specifically for takeaways. And based upon what I saw last year, more games were lost by a Defense that could not get a crucial stop - or come up with a needed takeaway - when the game was on the line, than were lost by an Offense that couldn’t move the ball.
What I saw defensively from the Dolphins last Saturday was actually a pleasant surprise! I saw a young Defense play hard and fast, even though some of the guys making plays have only been on the team for a couple of weeks. I saw rookies who I expected to eventually start this year play like they already have a whole season of playing time under their belts. And I saw players, some rookies and some vets, who I did NOT expect to see making plays… well… making plays!
And all the while, I kept waiting to see new Defensive Coordinator, Mike Nolan, break out some things from his sneaky little bag of tricks. But there was very little trickery to be seen this night. Nolan is evidently playing it close to the vest, at least until we get a bit closer to the regular season. Which just makes the entire effort last Saturday even better! Because we ALL know what Nolan is going to do… it is not a secret… he is going to blitz early and often, and he is going to bring it from every direction. However, just knowing that these new Miami Dolphins defenders can play straight up this well, in their first real game together, inspires optimism that MAYBE this season - when the bullets are flying and the games count – MAYBE we will be able to get that crucial stop or takeaway when we really need it.
Now before anyone says that I am making too much out of the Defensive performance, let me stipulate that: "Yes, it was only against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers", and "Yes, much of it was played with second stringers." Still, it was good to see rookies like Jared Odrick, Koa Misi, and Nolan Carroll really step up, along with veterans like Paul Solia, Charles Grant, and Marques Douglas who are expected to be big contributors once the season starts.
I am not going to make excuses for the Miami first team Offensive effort in the same game… it was just ugly. And not just because it was wet and muddy. Wet and muddy changes up your play calls, however you still need to be able to execute, and the Offense definitely did NOT execute. Both Hartline and Marshall dropped passes; and the running game had no right to call itself that, because it wasn’t. But now is not the time to worry about the Offense.
When you look at the big picture, there is no tangible reason that the Offense shouldn’t be somewhat better than last year – the only key member missing from last year’s squad is Justin Smiley – everyone else remains (Ted Ginn doesn’t count as "key"). Also, last year there were several key members lost to injury, like Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs, and Greg Camarillo, who are back this season. So even without Brandon Marshall, you would have to expect the Offense to have some margin of improvement over last season. But add in Marshall; Henne’s second year starting; Ronnie back as triggerman for the Wildcat; and a Defense that should help create more opportunities for the Offense, and how can you not expect overall improvement?
Still, there are some serious issues that still need to be resolved on the Offensive side of the ball, like:
- The O-line is in a state of flux and the starters need to be settled so that they can truly start to play as a "unit"
- I think we are going to miss Justin Smiley, because an athletic pulling Guard is required for a lot of things the Fins do, including the Wildcat
- The tight end play has to improve over last season, and we have yet to see who will step up make those plays; and will
- And *IS* Brian Hartline really going to earn the #2 WR spot?
Unfortunately for those of you suffering from CLS, these issues will probably not be resolved by this next game, but I would bet they will be resolved shortly thereafter – and most certainly by the 3rd preseason game.
But the Henne to Marshall connection? Not one of those issues.