The Miami Dolphins defeated the Atlanta Falcons last night 28-23 in the opening preseason game for both teams. But the real story of the first preseason game is not whether a team wins or loses, but rather how the team looks.
After just 10 practices, the Dolphins showed they still have a lot of work to do.
Starting quarterback Chad Henne struggled to find any rhythm against the Falcons' first string defense, finishing their team's first three drives with a 1-for-5, for 5 yards, and two interceptions stat line. To be fair, the two interceptions were not entirely Henne's fault, as the first one bounced off of tight end Anthony Fasano's hands, and the second came when wide receiver Davone Bess ran the wrong route.
But the performance against the Falcon's starting defense was worrisome, at best.
Henne found his rhythm in the second quarter, driving the team down the field before connecting on a 44-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Brian Hartline. However, it came against the Falcons' backups.
Henne finished the game with a respectable 4-for-8, for 77 yards, 1 touchdown, and the 2 interceptions. But, if the Dolphins offense can't find a way to move the ball against a first string defense, things could get bad in Miami fast.
Henne's poor performance against the Falcon's starters was expounded by the lack of a Dolphins running game. In the first game action without either Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown since the Williams retirement of 2004, the Dolphins turned to rookie running back Daniel Thomas to fill the hole left by the two departed runners. Thomas carried the ball 4 times, finishing with 5 yards.
However, the lack of a Falcons focused game plan may lend itself to the first string's difficulties. The lack of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Reggie Bush, or left tackle Jake Long may compound the issue.
"Obviously we didn't start how we wanted to," Henne said after the game. "But it's just a 'keep attacking' mentality out there, stay resilient."
Miami's backup quarterback Matt Moore continued the passing success against the Falcons' second string defense, completing 11 of 18 passes for 123 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Meanwhile, the defensive side of the ball was not much better for the Dolphins' starters. The first quarter saw 17 yards of Dolphins' offense, while the defense allowed Matt Ryan to lead the Falcons' starter to 163 yards and a 17-0 lead.
However, there were some obvious stars of the Dolphins' performance on Friday. Wide receiver Roberto Wallace caught three first half balls for 60 yards. On the defense, rookie cornerback Jimmy Wilson seemed to be everywhere, including a sack, forcing a first half fumble from Atlanta quarterback John Parker Wilson, while fellow CB Benny Sapp finished the game with an interception, 2 passes defensed, and 2 tackles.
The Dolphins performance over the last three quarters on Friday night were full of positives, to include the 74-yard punt return by Phillip Livas, but the first quarter will over shadow any good to come out of the game. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll showed some of the explosiveness the Dolphins need this year, but it all came against the second team Falcons. Can the Dolphins, and can Chad Henne, succeed against starting caliber defenses?