So we're officially half way through the preseason, and just two more games away from when the games start counting. Game 3 is coming up friday, the game where the starters get to come out of half time and make adjustments before taking much of the 4th game off. As we stand, Miami should be glad there's still another two games to go. The starters have been outscored 31-7 over the last two games. The defense, while missing a few key players, haven't been able to make a stop while the offense has settled for two long field goal attempts(both missed), 1 TD drive, and several three and outs. Special teams has been fine so far considering it was once a week point of the team. Sure Carpenter is 1/3 right now, but he also hasn't attempted a kick under 50 yards to this point.
If Miami wants to be competitive, they need to score points, 7 isn't going to cut it, and play better on defense. Atlanta provides a perfect testing ground for that. Atlanta has been one of the better teams with Matt Ryan at the helm, at least in the regular season that is.
Miami has struggled on several fronts so far which will need to be fixed before September rolls around.
As we stand, they're adjusting to a new system, running a low profile group of receivers, starting a rookie at RT and may start a rookie QB. The running game has been non existent to this point, extra disappointing considering all the talk coming from our HBs. It's time to get it up and running. We don't need to be rushing for 200 yards a game, though it would always be nice, but averaging 40 a game at 2 yards a pop isn't cutting it. We need enough from the ground game to make life easier for the QB. Martin struggled big time friday night against Charles Johnson, whether it was getting beat in pass protection or whiffing so bad in the run game. He's still learning and I'm sure will develop into a good starter at tackle, and he still should be better than Columbo while he learns, but he needs to get better against the stronger linemen. His athleticism may help him against the speedy rushers, as will practicing against Wake, but he can't let himself get pushed around by the bullrush. Hicks to his left didn't have the best of games either, and as the veteran he will be relied on heavily to help Martin out. Finally, the receivers need to get open and catch the ball. Marshall is gone. We have no one that should be drawing much double teams on a regular basis. That means someone needs to get open, whether it's a WR, TE or HB. And whoever plays QB needs to get it to them and more importantly, they need to get it into the endzone especially in our nemesis the redzone.
I'm no expert on Atlanta's defense but they should provide a decent enough challenge despite not being the strength of the team. Our oline needs to bounce back and keep Atlanta away from the QB and the HB, and Atlanta has some good rushers to make that difficult. The secondary while never Atlanta's strong suit, does have Samuel in the mix. While he's not as good as his hype, he's still a veteran corner who's been around the league for awhile. Paired with Grimes, the scrappy corner who makes up for his height, they should provide a nice test for our young receivers.
However, the biggest test will come for the defense and one we need right now to help our faith. Miami has struggled in every aspect on defense. They haven't stopped the run, their strong point from last year, and have allowed 3 rushing touchdowns to 3 different runners. In fact, all 4 TDs given up so far have been to a HB(3 rushing, 1 receiving). They've also continued to get beat in the secondary which hasn't been aided by the lack of pass rush. Throw that in with the lack of takeaways, only 1(though it should be two), and plenty of missed tackles, and the starters have plenty to improve on. While getting Wake, Burnett and Dansby back will help, 2 of them did play against Tampa with little difference.
Atlanta provides the challenge in every aspect. They have a big bulldozing runner in Turner who can break tackles to pair with the passing game led by Ryan. White and Jones will provide a hell of a test for our corners and Gonzales gives our backers practice at covering a TE which they so desperately need. If Miami can hold them back, it'll be a nice start leading into the regular season for the unit that is suppose to be the strength of the team.
And after this past week, they also need to work on those penalties. Miami has always been near the bottom of the league in that regard over the last couple of years, and need to keep that going. I'd have to count how many were by the starters to say for sure. Those replacement refs don't help matters...
Probably the most important part of the game, or at least the one we've been waiting for all offseason, is it should finally determine who will be our starter come week 1(whether it's decided before the game or after).
There is plenty of work to be done, and increasingly less time to get it done, but hopefully this week should give a good gauge as to where the team really is. And hopefully it'll be a close game( or a Miami blowout ;) ), and not another game where we'll dying for the backups to come in before the score could get to lopsided...