As promised, let's talk some more about Saturday's shutout win over the Chiefs.
FRONT 7 SHAPING UP NICELY
What a game this Dolphins' front 7 played on Saturday. Really, the entire defense played with emotion and a fire we haven't seen from them in a long time (or so it seems). But the front 7 simply dominated Kansas City's offensive all game long.
Channing Crowder seems to be the leader of this defense right now. He's seemingly all over the field, flying around, and making plays (something he hasn't done much of in the past). And I really like the idea of blitzing Crowder. We didn't see much of that in the past, but Paul Pasqualoni seems to like the idea of sending Crowder after the quarterback in the right situation. And it payed off on Saturday, with Crowder basically crawling to get to Brodie Croyle and force that fumble that Matt Roth recovered.
Speaking of Matt Roth, I'll admit it: I was wrong. Roth, in just a short amount of time, has really began to play well at outside linebacker. I always thought he'd be solid against the run, but I was worried about his ability to pressure the QB off the edge. Not any more. He consistently got a a good push and hurried the QB when he was asked to. It'll be interesting to see who starts at the OLB positions in week one. Joey Porte will be one of the OLBs. But the other could be Roth, meaning Porter would play the weak side, or Charlie Anderson, likely meaning Porte would move to the strong side.
Above, I spoke a little bit about how I like Crowder being used as a blitzer. All in all, I like how Pasqualoni is not afraid to blitz, especially in clear passing situations. This is a much more aggressive defense being run now in Miami and it's fun to watch.
I was also very impressed with the play of Phillip Merling. Sure, he's a solid run stopper (as shown during that goalline stand). But he also does a great job of moving the man blocking him back at the point of attack when rushing the passer. That ability coupled with his height and long arms could mean we might see some balls batted down by Merling.
Speaking of that goalline stand, Akin Ayodele also made two key stops there. I really like his ability to stop the run, but I worry about him in coverage, though we'll likely see Reggie Torbor out there in place of Akin in certain situations. Torbor is a far better linebacker in coverage, or so it seems at this point.
And lastly, it would be wrong of me to not mention the solid play of Jason Ferguson. Ferguson is really the key player in Miami's 3-4 defense, as any nose tackle should be. He takes up space and blockers very well. But he also makes plays at times, too. He's not simply there to free up the linebackers. He was in on 5 tackles, 3 of which were solo, which was tied for the team lead. He's also a vocal leader on the field as well, and his value can't be under-stated. What a great pickup by Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland.
For the 2nd consecutive game, Chad Pennington played very well. His numbers aren't spectacular, but he moved the ball down the field and made plays when he had to. And I continue to be impressed by his pocket presence and awareness, as well as his mobility. Sure, he isn't very fleet of foot. But he can move around the pocket to keep a play alive - as he did on that 3rd down completion to Ted Ginn - and can even scramble for 10 to 12 yards when the opening is there. He also isn't afraid to stand in and take a shot in order to deliver a pass, like on the TD pass to Anthony Fasano. And those who don't think he can throw the deep ball are wrong. Did you see him launch it 40 yards down the field on an incomplete pass to Derek Hagain? Sure, that's probably about his limit and the pass was a bit of a rainbow, but if a player like Ginn gets open down the field, he'll get him the ball.
Oh, and Pennington was robbed of perhaps his best pass of the night; the one right after the fumble recovery by Roth. He sold the play-action and then threw a perfect pass to Justin Peelle, but the refs (both before and after the review) claim Peelle didn't have full control of the ball as he landed out of bounds. And it's true that he didn't, as the ball popped out. But he had 3 freakin' feet in before going out - with possession of the ball - so doesn't that count for something? Either way, it was an absolute perfect pass.
Chad Henne, on the other hand, looked like a rookie. But he was due for one of these kinds of days, so let's not go crazy. The only thing I will wonder about, being a John Beck fan, is why fans won't get on Henne even though his numbers don't even compare to Beck's during last preseason. Henne hasn't even led a TD drive yet, something everyone killed Beck for last year during the regular season. But I guess Henne is this year's "flavor."
-Samson Satele and Donald Thomas look quite nimble for big guys when being asked to pull or to block on sweeps and tosses. Along with Jake Long's great run-blocking prowess, it's not hard to imagine sweeps/tosses being used a lot by this team - and actually working very well. Also, as a whole, this offensive line is looking very good in pass protection - which was the biggest question mark entering camp.
-Patrick Cobbs is probably going to make the team. He had a very nice kick return of about 35 yards as well as a tackle on punt coverage. These kinds of things make him more valuable than some other players. He was also one of three players to throw key blocks on Ted Ginn's punt return for a TD (Reggie Torbor and Chris Crocker were the others).
-Speaking of special teams, the coverage units did look improved. But there's still work to be done.
-Still too many penalties - Tony Sparano cannot be happy about that.
-Nothing like winning the "time of possession" battle by holding the ball for a 10 minute opening drive.
-The receivers and tight ends have to improve their awareness. I saw too many times that somebody would run a pattern a yard or so too short on 3rd down plays, therefore not converting.
-Great to see Michael Lehan back out there and making plays. He made a great read of the WR's route to pick off that pass.
-Jason Allen has to stop getting run over by running backs. Kolby Smith absolutely rocked him on one play.
That's all for me. Let's hear your take on anything from Saturday below...