Alright, so how's that for a great way to start the new season, and supposedly the "new era" of Dolphins football? That was certainly disappointing to say the least. And it hurts much more because that was clearly a winnable game. So let's get into it all. As always, there's a lot to get to so if I miss some things, feel free to give your thoughts. After all, that's what this is all about.
Let's start with the good. Trent Green, who many people doubted, looked quite good. He made quick, correct reads, got the ball out quickly, and was pretty accurate. I was also quite impressed with his ability to move around the pocket and make good throws under pressure. And yes, I'm aware he was lucky that his one pass with under a minute wasn't picked off, but luck works both ways. There were 5 or 6 times that Dolphin receivers dropped easily catchable balls. All in all for Green, he completed 63% of his passes for over 200 yards and threw a touchdown while not throwing any stupid interceptions, something Dolphin QBs have been known to do since Dan retired. And in the big picture, he was able to move the ball down the field relatively efficiently considering the Dolphins had no running game. Without a doubt, Trent Green was Miami's lone offensive bright spot.
And that's where the good stuff ends and where the bad begins. First, the running game was just horrid. And what I don't understand is why people are bashing the fact that Cam went away from the run. Were you friggin watching the game? He didn't want to go away from the run, but he didn't really have a choice. The Dolphins couldn't run the ball if their lives depended on it. They were picking up just 3.3 yards per carry on the ground. Now, some of the running plays called I wasn't particularly fond of, such as having Ronnie lined up at FB and giving it to him up the middle. But you can't just see that Miami only ran it 20 times while they passed it 38 times and say it was poor play calling. I would have done the same thing. The offensive line couldn't open up any holes for Ronnie or Jesse Chatman to run through, either, as they were constantly being hit before or at the line of scrimmage. So let's stop killing Cam for this one. I'm sure he would have liked to run it more, too.
But if you do want to kill Cam for something, then kill him for the redzone inefficiency we saw. Actually, it's even worse than "redzone" inefficiency. It's more like "goal-to-go" inefficiency. The Dolphins had the ball first and goal 3 times and only scored one touchdown. That's a great way to lose a game. And oddly enough, while people are getting on Cam's case for not running enough, I'd say that he actually ran the ball too much inside the 10. For example: it's 10-7 Washington and Miami has it 1st and goal at the 7. On first down, they give it to Brown, who is hit in the backfield for a loss of one. So why the hell would you hand it off again on 2nd down?? At this point in the game (late in the 3rd), everyone in the building knew Miami couldn't run it. Why even try at that point? Instead, put your trust in the veteran QB and let him make a play. But instead, they run it on 2nd down, fail to convert on 3rd down, and settle for 3.
A few other things I wantes to touch on. Penalties simply killed the Dolphins in that game. They committed 8 penalties, and though that number isn't terribly high, the timing of these penalties could not have been worse. And that was most evident when Miami had it 1st and goal at the 8 with 3:15 left and trailing by 3. First play, what else? Hand off to Ronnie which, despite a Rex Hadnot holding penalty, goes nowhere anyway. So back them up 10 yards and it's 1st and goal at the 18. Then a dumb intentional grounding call, which really didn't need to be called as the Redskins players were even looking for it and Green wasn't under any pressure, and the Dolphins were suddenly looking ay 2nd and goal from the 28. With this offense, penalties like these are absolute killers.
Moving on, two more things stood out. First, one of my keys to the game was for this offense to be on the attack. Instead, they really only threw it deep once, an overthrow of Chris Chambers (who, by the way, didn't play half bad). All the other plays were either hitches, slants, or check downs by Green. I was really anticipating some shots being taken deep and I'm surprised more Dolphin fans aren't angry with how Cam didn't seem to attack the Redskins defense at all. The other thing that really stuck out to me was how non-existant Ted Ginn was. His only offensive touch came on an end around. And I thought Teddy was going to be more involved, with Cam drawing up some plays to get the ball in his hands. Instead, I watched him basically be invisible and was simply disappointed in the lack of innovation by Cam and this offense.
Offensive Grade: D+
I can sum up the play of the defense today in one word: disappointing. I know, I know. Only giving up 13 points in regulation time is very good. You know what, though? You can say that all you want. The bottom line here is that elite defenses make plays when the game is on the line. And I was one of those who were preaching about how this defense could be elite. Instead, they played horribly in key moments throughout the 2nd half and in overtime. I'm not saying the defense was the reason they lost this game (13 points allowed through 4 quarters should be good enough to win), but I'm very disappointed with the play of this unit in key situations.
So what are these key situations? Let's look at the 2nd half and overtime. In that span, the Dolphins allowed 308 yards of total offense to the Redskins. That's right. It isn't a typo. They allowed 305 yards in 35 minutes of play. So how can this defense give up just 95 yards in the first half and then 305 in the next 35 minutes? Fatigue? It could be. And I know many of you want to blame the coaching staff for not letting these guys play much in the preseason. But let's face it. It's the players' jobs to keep themselves in shape. If they were tired and that's why they struggled in the 2nd half, then they have no one else to blame but themselves.
The most disappointing aspect of this defensive performance, though, was how poorly Miami's front 7 played. First of all, they just couldn't generate any pass rush. Jason Campbell seemed to have all day to throw the ball. And to the secondary's credit, they played well despite having to cover for longer than normal thanks to the lack of a pass rush. But more importantly than the lack of a pass rush was the absolutely poor defense against Washington's running game. They allowed 191 yards on the ground, with Redskin backs averaging 4.7 yards per carry. That simply is not acceptable. The Redskins did exactly what I thought they wouldn't be able to do and ran effectively right into the teeth of the Dolphin defense. It was actually quite sad at times. It's almost as if this defense aged 10 years overnight.
And though I am criticizing the players a lot, I also question some of Dom Capers's play calling as well. I don't understand what rhyme or reason came used to choose when and who to blitz. Why blitz Zach Thomas as often as he did when Joey Porter was brought in here to be a pass rusher opposite of Jason Taylor. Maybe Joey isn't acclimated to this defense yet. But even if that was the case, the man is a pass-rushing beast and Dom didn't seem to want to unleash him often.
The biggest question I have about playcalling on defense, though, occured on the most crucial play of the entire game. It was in overtime, when the Redskins had the ball at their own 43 yardline on a 3rd and 7 play. Making a stop here could have swung the game. Instead, the Dolphins blitz Will Allen, as well as a linebacker or two. The result? Chris Cooley makes his only catch of the game on a quick drag/slant pattern in almost the exact spot Allen would have been in had he not have blitzed. When Washington converted that 3rd down, I knew it was over. Now, I know hindsight is 20/20, but I really did quietly hope that Miami would not blitz, nevermind bringing in a corner. It was a poor play call at a really critical time.
Defensive Grade: C
It was a tough way to start the new season. And from the looks of things, next week is going to be even tougher against Dallas. But it is the home opener so there could be magic in the air. Maybe. Possibly. Who knows?
I don't want to be overly pessimistic right now. This game was more or less a sobering game for the overly optimistic Dolphin fan who really thought this team could win 10 games. Sorry, but it ain't happening. The offense is a work in progress. Right now, I don't have any expectations other than seeing improvement in the offense each week. So don't give up on the season yet, but also make sure your expectations are reasonable. Right now, I'm still thinking that 8-8 is pretty reasonable. But holy f*cking sh*t, this loss sure does sting a bit.