After last week's preseason opener, some Dolphin fans were ready to push the "panic button" thanks to a disappointing - to say the least - performance out of Miami's starting offense. But a week later, feelings have changed dramatically. All this is, of course, is proof that we should really just remain as even-keeled as possible throughout the entire preseason and wait until the games count before making any assumptions about this team.
With that said, let's take a look back at Saturday night's preseason win over the Jaguars - a game that was delayed nearly two hours thanks to lightning.
-Quarterback Chad Henne, in my opinion, was the story of the night for the Dolphins. After an ugly first possession, Henne led the Dolphins on three consecutive scoring drives - a field goal and two touchdowns. By the time Henne came out, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns - helping the starting offense gain 179 yards and average 8.1 yards per play. And his 151.2 passer rating would have been even better if Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline didn't each drop a pass. The play of the night involving Henne was the 55 yard pass play to Anthony Fasano, who lumbered into the endzone. Though that was a good throw, rolling out and accurately hitting Fasano, I was more impressed with his other throws. Henne showed excellent decision making. He was accurately reading the defense and knew exactly where to go with the ball. My favorite throw of the night from Henne? It was his second touchdown pass to Fasano. Anthony is covered well on that play. But Henne saw the man covering Fasano running with his back to the ball. So Chad simply throw it behind Fasano and the linebacker in coverage - but with enough zip on it to get it to Anthony before the safety could get there. Fasano made the adjustment to the ball for the touchdown grab. Excellent bounce back game ffrom the resilient Chad Henne.
-Wide receiver Brandon Marshall also bounced back after a disappointing preseason opener. Though he again dropped a ball he should have caught, Brandon made up for it by catching four other passes for 65 yards in one half of action. His best catch was the jump-ball Chad Pennington lobbed up to him late in the second quarter. But his play of the day was his outstanding block, taking out two defenders, that allowed Fasano to rumble the final yards into the endzone. Marshall also made a key block on Ronnie Brown's touchdown reception late in the second quarter. This is why the Dolphins went out and got Marshall. He's a tremendous pass-catcher (and please, let's forget about the drops because his hands will not be a problem), he's physical and will throw blocks, and will attrct defenders - opening up the middle of the field for his teammates (like Fasano, for example).
-Wide receiver Davone Bess seems to impress me every time he steps on the field. He just has a knack for getting open and he possesses some outstanding hands. He's another guy who will benefit from the Marshall addition. Defenses are going to have a hard time containing both Bess and Marshall on critical third downs.
-I thought that the starting offensive line did a good job of protecting Chad Henne. After that rough first series, Henne was well protected the rest of the night. They also did a good job opening up some running lanes. I do find it interesting that most of Miami's runs in the first half went right up the middle behind center Joe Berger - perhaps testing Berger's ability to create a push up front. I think he met the challenge. I also think that Richie Incognito and John Jerry played well enough to lock up their starting jobs at left and right guard respectively.
-The first-team defense did an excellent job bottling up Maurice Jones-Drew and Jacksonville's ground game. MJD finished with -2 yards on 4 carries. As a unit, the starting defense allowed just 6 yards on 8 carries. Vontae Davis was one of the many who did an excellent job in run support. Yeremiah Bel - as always - was around the ball carrier. Tim Dobbins also did a nice job starting in place of Channing Crowder.
-Cornerback Jason Allen showed why he is going to make this team, causing that fumble on the free kick following Jacksonville's safety. Allen is a very good special teams player. Is he overpaid? Of course. Is he a draft bust? No question. But he still has a role on this team for at least one more year.
-I really like the depth that Miami's defensive line has. Randy Starks played very well against both the run and the pass. Jared Odrick took on double teams a lot - which tells us what other teams think of Odrick, who showed he's up to the challenge. Paul Soliai didn't make the plays he made last week - but was a stout force when he was in there. Charles Grant also played well, showing that he still has enough gas in the tank. He was able to make a couple of plays in Jacksonville's backfield on Saturday night.
-Quarterback Chad Pennington looked like his old self, playing in his first game since his third shoulder surgery. His throws "floated" like they usually do - but were accurate and, in the case of the lob to B-Marsh, gave his receivers a play on the ball. He'll be the number two quarterback - count on it.
-Quarterback Tyler Thigpen looked good as well, playing the entire second half. He didn't lead a touchdown drive at all. But he stood in behind a struggling second-team offensive line, took a beating, but completed 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards - including a crucial 3rd & 5 that sealed the win. By Thigpen playing the entire second half, you have to imagine Pat White's time in Miami is coming to an end in a hurry.
-The secondary again allowed big pass plays. Now I know that Mike Nolan isn't showing anything this preseason. I don't think the Dolphins have ever rushed more than four all preseason long - and we are yet to see the exotic blitzes we've heard all about during camp. But Nolan does need to trust his corners with man-to-man coverage when he does blitz. And right now, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis have been inconsistent in both games. Mike Sims-Walker consistently beat Smith and Davis for big catches. David Garrrard methodically sliced up this secondary before leaving with an injury - going 6/8 for 79 yards and a touchdown. This preseason, the Dolphins have let the two opposing starting quarterbacks connect on 10 of 12 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. And we're just talking about Garrard and Josh Freeman. They need to get these issues cleared up before facing the likes of Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers (just to name a few).
-Rookie corner Nolan Carroll was picked on a bit on Saturday night. Though he wasn't all bad by any means, the Dolphins are putting a lot of responsibilities on the rookie - at least until Will Allen comes back. Nolan still has two weeks to get acclimated to playing the slot and improve, though. Carroll also might have cemented himself as the primary kick returner - so that's a good thing. But it's just another thing the rookie has to focus on when he has a lot on his plate already.
-The second team offensive line was brutal. The Dolphins will be in serious trouble if either of their starting tackles suffered any kind of injury this year. Lydon Murtha and Andrew Gardner are not ready to step in if they had to.
-Way too many penalties are being committed. After committing six last week, the Dolphins totaled eight on Saturday, resulting in 68 yards lost. This is uncharacteristic for this team and will not be accepted once the games start counting.
-Chris Clemons did a bad job when he essentially whiffed on Rashad Jennings and allowed Jennings to block Brandon Fields' first punt of the game. That's the second week in a row somebody has let a defender in to block a punt. Yes, Fields needs to get the kick away a little faster. But that's still no excuse for either of these two blocked punts.
-Both kick and punt coverage units really struggled on Saturday. The Dolphins allowed kick returns of 41 and 48 yards and a punt return of 25 yards. Now we know that part of the reason for these struggles is because of the mixing and matching the coaching staff is doing on these units right now. Still, until we see improvement, I'm concerned.