So the Dolphins won 18-17. It's nice to see and everything, but that isn't what's really important this time of year. Instead, the importance lies in how the team played. And in Saturday's game, there were good thing and then there were bad things. Let's get to it.
Let's start with, who else, the starter, Trent Green. And I'm not going to be like Cam Cameron and sugarcoat it by saying Trent was "clever." No. I'll be honest. He didn't look good at all. A lot of his throws looked like lame ducks. He didn't have any zip. He didn't have that quick release that we've heard so much about. Now, it could be due to his inexperience with his teammates and this particular offense. But still, his arm strength, which has been questioned all training camp, looked questionable on Saturday. Also, his quick reads were supposedly going to help negate the fact that this offensive line isn't very good. But he looked uncomfortable every time he went back to throw. I guess he has a longer way to go than most had thought and hoped. Luckily there's still time.
Cleo Lemon looked fairly sharp when he got his shot in the 3rd quarter. His passes had more zip on them than Green's. He also looked more comfortable. However, you have to tone down the enthusiasm for Lemon since he did play against Jacksonville's 2nd and 3rd stringers. And the one incomplete pass he had, a pass to an open Lorenzo Booker, he missed badly on. Perhaps he'll get a shot to start next week so we can see what he can do with the first team offense and, more importantly, against a first team defense.
Moving along to John Beck, I'd say that I was pleased with his debut. Often times, rookie QBs, even against bench warmers and camp fodders, look confused, nervous, and lost. Beck didn't. He looked comfortable and made good reads and throws. He was accurate and showed good velocity. His two incompletion weren't due to poor throws, that's for sure. The first one was due to being pressured and making a poor decision, something that can be easily corrected. The second one was a pass intended for Courtney Anderson. He was open, but beck just missed a little wide. I'd credit that incompletion to timing rather than accuracy. And the ball had good touch on it. All in all, Beck's arm (strength, accuracy, touch) is clearly the best out of the 3 QBs at this point.
The Offensive Line and Ronnie Brown
Many people, especially those negative Dolphin fans, are going to try to criticize Ronnie Brown for his lackluster performance (8 carries, 8 yards). But smart fans know better. This offensive line, which is the biggest concern, played very bad. Brown really had no where to go. The line just didn't open holes. And yes, there were a few times Ronnie "danced" behind the line. But can you blame him? He knows how much pressure is on him this year and he was trying to make something out of nothing. Maybe if the line could actually open up a hole or two, then we could really see how Ronnie's burst through the hole is and if his vision has improved at all. But tonight, there was no way to tell because, like Cameron said, they didn't block anyone.
Oh, and don't forget the impact the line had on the passing game, as Green constantly had pressure in his face. He was rarely able to set his feet and that could certainly be the cause of some of the poor throws. If this offensive line doesn't get any better, then this offense will not get better either. It's that simple. And as far as Vernon Carey is concerned, who left the game with a knee injury, all reports indicate he's fine. So a sigh of relief there.
The 1st String Defense
Finally, a true positive to talk about. This first string defense is going to be phenominal this year. The front 7 looked outstanding and that was without Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, and Keith Traylor. They have the ability to truely take over games. Matt Roth looked like a guy who will easily fill the void of Kevin Carter. Channing Crowder seems to be everywhere, even if he isn't credited with a tackle. He's always around the ball. Then the guys who filled in for the missing starters played well, too. Rod Wright seems like he's going to be a force. Paul Soliai is a massive body who can really own the line of scrimmage. And Akbar Gbaja-Biamila filled in nicely for JT. Throw in Abe Wright as well and this team has some serious depth in terms of pass rushers. The question, of course, will be if AGB can play the run and if Wright can survive in coverage. That remains to be seen.
Fields may have been the best Miami Dolphin to take a snap on Saturday night (ok, I may be exaggerating). Too bad he's the punter. But man, what a leg he has. Of course, the question with Fields would be his ability to get the punts away. In his first attempt, which only went 30 yards, he had trouble getting it away quickly. The next three, though were monster punts of 54, 54, and 51 respectively. Then in the last 3, he shows us his touch. He punted form Jacksonville's 43 and had it downed at the 6. Then from Jacksonville's 43 again, he has it downed at the 12. Lastly, from Miami's 43, he punts it 44 yards and has it downed at the 13. Without a doubt, he's our punter. And suddenly, the loss of Donnie Jones is irrelevant.
-Where was Lorenzo Booker? We've heard so much about him in camp and about how Cameron has an entire package planned for him. Yet he doesn't touch the ball?
-Don't get too excited over Jesse Chatman. It was a nice run, but it was against the Jags' 2nd stringers and/or bench warmers. And outside of the big run, he had just 14 yards on 5 carries.
-Chris Chambers did not disappear in this game as some think. He simply didn't play much. I believe he was only out there for one series. So please don't go around saying it's the same old disappearing act by Chambers.
-Ted Ginn looked like a rookie out there. But guess what? He is a rookie. But he did have a catch, which is a start. And though his returns weren't special, he did show that elite speed turning the corner on the one return. Give him time. He might be something special.
Most impressed with: The play of the defensive line all game long
Most disappointed in: The play of Trent Green
Well, Cam did say that poor play would be better at this stage, as it is conducive to learning. In that case, it was a success. But seriously, yes, the offense looked bad. But it's only the first game. Give it time. And Cameron even said after the game that he didn't gameplan for this game (can't blame him) and only 40% of his complex, innovative offense has been implemented so far. I'm sure they'll begin work on the implementing the complex stuff once camp is closed to the public beginning August 20.
For now, take solace in the fact that this defense has the potential to be simply elite. As for the offense, well, it's a work in progress.