A quick anecdote, I write this article as I study abroad from Bangkok, Thailand...what a weird season opener this was. At 12 midnight the Miami game started, and I stayed up all night watching the 49ers and Giants games (at 4pm time I still have not gotten a wink of sleep) as well. Luckily I have a couple other Phins fans here with me. I will never again take for granted the beauty of rolling out of bed still slightly hungover at 12 and crawling to the TV to watch my Phins and relax every Sunday of the fall while immersing myself in my favorite sport. God bless America.
1. Defense is as advertised...with room for improvement The defense, the line in particular, looked outstanding. Guys were alert, aggressive, and played with a confidence. While the turnovers mostly came off batted balls, it's still a good sign to see us seizing our opportunities. More so, the defense continued their relentlessness despite the offense not capitalizing on their turnovers. That is the sign of a disciplined and unified team. Additionally, we didn't even see Will Davis or Dion Jordan have a full impact on the game. Davis forced a TON of turnovers in camp, and seemed to shore up his tendency to get beat as camp went on. It will be interesting to see him (or maybe Jamar Taylor) as the nickel corner instead of Carroll as the season progresses. Also, Jordan was not able to impact the game as much as possible, probably due to his lingering shoulder injury. WIthout him the defensive line looked nothing short of dominant, and it will be very interesting to see his development and use as the season goes on.
2. Wallace doing exactly what he is paid to do What a breath of fresh air it was to see an open and exploitable field. Even with a stagnant running game Tannehill was able to have a solid day through the air. Clay, Gibson, and Hartline all benefitted from a Cleveland defense willing to commit its #1 corner and safety help to Wallace. Even with only one reception for 15 yards, Wallace's presence was more than enough to help catalyze our offense. Now someone please explain that to HIM.
3. Playing complimentary football For the first time in forever, the Dolphins were oozing with confidence. There was a feeling, even going into halftime down by a point, that the Dolphins had the game in hand. One of the most difficult things in football is to establish a winning culture; in a game predicated on bringing effort every single play and having the confidence in your abilities and preparation to play instinctively and aggressively, believing you DESERVE to win the game is an important battle. The Dolphins took a step in the right direction today, as the defense continued bringing it until the offense hit a rhythm. Then, the Dolphins delivered with an 85 yard drive in the 4th quarter to give the defense a nice cushion. All 3 units stepped up when needed.
1. The obvious... The next few weeks will tell us just how legit the front seven of the Browns ends up being, but the performance of the offensive line in the running game was nothing short of pathetic, and unacceptable. This is a group that was supposed to be run-friendly; instead, we were met with possibly the worst performance by a Phins o-line that I have ever seen. WIth a threat like Lamar Miller in your backfield it is a sin not to be able to open up ONE hole for him all game. Kudos to the passing game for being able to survive without any semblance of a running attack, but this is not indicative of long-term success. Jerry look unsettled at RG and the unit as a whole played without cohesion. This will need to improve.
2. Penalties First off, let me say that the officiating crew seemed very flag-happy today. Remember, the refs are just as rusty as the players, and I feel that Johnny Greer's crew may have pulled the trigger on a few questionable calls. Regardless, 10 penalties is unacceptable. Illegal motion, formation, false starts, neutral zone infractions, all probably somewhat accounted for by rust and first-week anxiety. Hopefully they get ironed out, this was the 3rd least penalized team in the NFL last year, I would expect nothing less from the squad this year.
3. TE Coverage Chud's calling card is his use of TE, but letting Jordan Cameron go for 100 + a TD on us is something we will have to improve when facing Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Gronkowski (twice) in the season. If Weeden to Cameron can wreak havoc on our defense, imagine what Ryan and Tony G will do to us in a couple weeks. Luckily we have another week with the Colts to iron out the issues, as neither Fleener or Allen has emerged as a truly fear-worthy threat. Maybe Jordan will be a part of that solution, but his skills are probably better served at the line of scrimmage than constantly in coverage. Then again, our line has plenty of depth and talent that we can spare Jordan for such a cause. I'm sure Coyle will figure it out.
Overall: I was extremely pleased with the way the Dolphins played. Sure our offense was stagnant in the first half, and our running game was ANEMIC, but we played with confidence, knew we had to earn and grind out a victory, and went out and took it. I was initially afraid with all the offseason signings that we might fall into a Philadelphia-esque funk where we felt our free agent acquisitions had already entitled us to some victories. Luckily, the sports world seemed to feel this was an example of a GM spending desperately to save his job (Grantland writer Bill Simmons ranked Dolphins #26 in his rankings, his colleague Barnwell included us in his most likely to REGRESS article), so the hype has not been overwhelming in the slightest. This looks like a team that at the very least is starting to understand how to play winning football. Look forward to hearing your guys' comments, go Phins.