The Miami Dolphins took the field last night against the Atlanta Falcons, leaving it three hours later with a 23-6 loss. Overall, the game left fans worried about the state of the team they want so badly to see win. The Dolphins look poised for a long year if they can't spend the next two weeks making some dramatic changes.
But, it actually was not all bad. There actually were some good things about last night's game. Here's a look at three positives and three negatives from the loss.
1. Defense decides to show up. As a whole, the Dolphins first team defense decided to show up tonight. The team was sparked by the return of Cameron Wake, who missed last week's contest recovering from a car accident. Wake tallied 1.5 sacks last night, and was clearly the piece the defense needed to get ready for the regular season. The first team held the Falcons' offense to three field goals in the first half. Matt Ryan was able to put up the game's first touchdown early in the second half, but the Dolphins had already rotated the second and third team players into the game. Once the team is able to add Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett back into the lineup, it really should become the dominating defense we all expect it to be.
2. Ryan Tannehill demonstrates ability to bounce back/leadership. The stats line for the rookie quarterback isn't pretty, but it doesn't have to be this week. Tannehill demonstrated an ability to put the bad behind him and move on to the next play. He really had only one bad throw during the game, the ball across the middle that was tipped by the linebacker Tannehill clearly did not see and ended up being intercepted by the safety. If you add in things like the dropped touchdown pass by Anthony Fasano, Tannehill's stats would look better. Maybe even more important than Tannehill's on the field play was his off the field comments. Tannehill was asked about the team's performance, and he took the right tact, stating, "We did some things better than we did last week. And we did some things not as good as last week. I thought we improved. The line did a great job. We couldn't find a rhythm. We just need to be more consistent in my play and the offense as a whole. We need to be more consistent." While we all have to remember Tannehill is a rookie and is going to make rookie mistakes, the fact that he is able to bounce back and he is ready to take on a leadership role, can only be seen as a positive.
3. Running game makes a cameo. After two weeks of no running game what-so-ever, the Dolphins made an obvious effort to get Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas into the game. The offensive line was not dominant in run blocking, but it was good. Bush and Thomas were both able to find some holes and move the ball. There's still more work to do before the running game is up to top form, but it was a big positive that it at least showed up for a little while last night.
1. Secondary still shaky. The defense was good, but the secondary still needs work. Richard Marshall was ineffective at times, and Matt Ryan was able to find too many holes or beat man-to-man coverage. Sean Smith had some good moments, but there were a few times where he seemed out of place. Both the cornerbacks and safeties need to improve, and need to improve quickly, for this defense to truly become dominant.
2. Injuries. The Dolphins need to get healthy. Sure, some of the players could have been held out just for precautions, but the Doolphins are clearly having an injury problem this training camp. David Garrard, Kelcie McCray, Kevyn Scott, Jonas Gray, Kevin Burnett, Karlos Dansby, Artis Hicks, Lydon Murtha, Tony McDaniel, and Brian Hartline all missed the game. The Dolphins need to get healthy over the next two weeks, and get some of these bigger named guys, like Dansby, Burnett, and Hartline, back onto the field.
3. Wide receivers cannot catch. The biggest problem the Dolphins have is clearly the biggest problem everyone knew they had - no wide receivers. Davone Bess is really the only reliable guy who the team has as a pass catcher. Including the tight ends, the Dolphins dropped seven passes last night, three of them from Anthony Fasano alone. If the Dolphins are going to win games this year - and if they are going to develop Tannehill at all - the team has to figure out how to catch. The Dolphins may be reaching the point where they have to make a move, otherwise things could get ugly really fast.