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Final thoughts on first preseason game

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Yesterday I posted some quick thoughts on the Dolphins loss to the Bucs on Saturday night.  I told you all I'd have a more comprehensive review today, and that's what I'm hoping to provide.  I re-watched the 1st half of the game and jotted down some things I noticed.  So let's get to it.

JOHN BECK & CHAD HENNE
Where else would we start than with these two.  First off, let's talk John Beck.  I know his 5 for 9 stat line isn't all that impressive.  But I think some of those plays to the fullbacks were designed.  So don't go saying he was "checking down too much" just yet.  Remember that Tony Sparano wants to see if both fullbacks can catch the football and then make a play.  And on both of those plays, it seemed like John looked right at the FBs as if they were the primary receiver on the play.  And both were solid, positive plays.

Also, on the screen pass that John threw into the ground, that wasn't a bad throw.  In fact, it was a very smart play and shows that he has a high "football IQ."  On the play, the back got held up and wasn't open for John to make the throw.  So he smartly threw it into the ground before the lineman got upfield and the team suffered an "ineligible man down field" penalty.  Those who think he should have held on and looked down the field must not have realized that.  That was actually an example of good "game management."

The only thing I would have liked to see John do differently probably would have been to take a chance on a throw when Ronde Barber blitzed from the CB spot.  He might have had an opening to fit the ball into Derek Hagan down the field, but it would have been close.  The safety was also in the area.  So John erred on the side of caution and took the sack.  But I guess I should keep in mind that if John made the throw and it got picked off, people would be screaming that he should have just "ate it" and not made taken the chance.  I guess the old saying is that "hindsight is always 20/20."  All in all, a solid, if unspectacular, start for Beck against the NFL's #1 pass defense in 2007.

Moving onto Chad Henne, it's easy to see why many are very high on him.  He had a solid performance and made some very nice throws.  He showed poise, both in the huddle and in the pocket, and good arm strength on a number of throws.  Also, his decision to throw the ball away down the left sideline on that 2nd down play from Tampa's 29 was very smart.

However, I don't think we should get too excited just yet.  First off, Henne faced mostly 2nd teamers.  So if anyone thinks he could step into the starting role right now based on his performance the other night, I'd say that's a little bit of a reach.  He wasn't up against the likes of Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon.  Also, Henne had some solid pass protection.  The line did a great job of providing Henne with a pocket to step up into on a number of his throws.  So, though I'm very encouraged at what I saw, I'm going to not get too excited.  After all, everyone was impressed with Beck's preseason last year and now many of those same people are ready to see John handed a pink slip.  Remember, this is just preseason.

OFFENSIVE LINE
I'll be honest here.  I was a little disappointed in what I saw.  I think our first team offensive line struggled a bit against Tampa's 1st team in the first quarter.  Ronnie had nowhere to run on his first two carries and they struggled to pick up Tampa's occasional blitzes (a la Barber's sack).  Let's just say there's still a lot of room to improve here.  Oh, and the depth at the tackle spot will be an issue if either Jake Long or Vernon Carey have to miss any time.  Ike Ndukwe is not going to get the job done.

THE DEFENSE
I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 1st team defense performed during that 1st quarter, especially without Vonnie Holliday and Joey Porter.  Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford both look like they are going to be key contributors this year despite being rookies.  And I'm very excited about their future here in Miami.  Both were involved in stopping the run and both got a good push at times when rushing the quarterback.

I also liked what I saw from both starting safeties.  Yeremiah Bell was all over the field at times, making plays against the run and against the pass.  Jason Allen pleasantly surprised me with his play - especially the way he broke up the pass intended for Antonio Bryant on that 3rd and 2 play on Tampa's 2nd possession.

But speaking of 3rd down, this is an issue that plagued the Dolphins all last year and was an issue again on Saturday.  They can't get off the field on 3rd down.  The Bucs were 11/20 on 3rd downs, which is unacceptable.  Also, the lack of a pass rush at times was frightening.  Too many times, the Bucs' QB had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and find the open man.  And with a suspect set of corners to begin with, we can't allow opposing QBs all day to make throws.  I also think that this Matt Roth "experiment" at outside linebacker isn't going so well.  He'll probably be stout against the run.  But he just seems too slow as an edge pass rusher and he doesn't have any moves, simply trying to bull-rush the blocker every time.  Hopefully, though, this was just something to try out while Joey Porter was given the night off.  I'm anxious to see how he's going to be used in this defense.

QUICK HITS
-Will Allen wasn't exactly as impressive as he's been reportedly looking in practice, with Michael Clayton toasting him for what should have been a big play if not for the fact that Clayton dropped the ball.

-Speaking of drops, Ernest Wilford is playing himself off of the first team.  Not only was he unable to create much separation, but he dropped 2 balls (one of which was as good a throw as can be).  Luckily for Wilford, Hagan also had a drop.  But some reports indicate that Hagan's move up to 1st team in place of Wilford could be permanent.

-Jayson Foster did nothing to set himself apart, even muffing a punt.  I get the feeling that Ted Ginn's return duties are safe for now.

-David Kircus, however, did set himself apart.  He's now clearly in the thick of things in the WR battle.  Ginn, Hagan,and Wilford are locks.  Kircus, along with Davone Bess (who had a few catches but didn't really do too much), Greg Camarillo (who was invisible), and Foster are in a very interesting battle for the 4th and 5th WR spots.

-Jalen Parmele is impressive for a late-round rookie.  He runs with power and really finishes his runs.

-Speaking of RBs, it was good to Ronnie get some action.  But Ricky stole the show, making some highlight-reel runs and receiving the largest cheer from the Dolphin Stadium crowd.

That's it for now.  If you made it through that entire thing, kudos to you!!

And as always, your thoughts below...