Sunday, August 15, 2010
Notes from Dolphins preseason opener
Some observations from the Miami Dolphins' 10-7 victory in their preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sun Life Stadium ...
- Rough night for Miami's first-team offense to make a strong impression. Conditions were sloppy the entire game, but especially at the start. A downpour on a field that features the Florida Marlins' infield made handling the ball tricky.
- Here are some sloptastic stats: The Bucs fumbled seven times, losing three of them. The Dolphins didn't fumble once, but shotgun snaps were dicey. The teams combined on 13 penalties for 103 yards.
- Chad Henne played four possessions. He completed 5 of his 11 passes for 19 yards with no sacks or interceptions.
- In his Dolphins debut, Brandon Marshall dropped the only two passes thrown to him. The ball was wet, but you'd still like to see a star receiver make those catches. The second one was a perfect pass, albeit a fastball, that sailed right through his hands.
- Miami's first-team offense: 15 plays, 39 yards, two first downs.
- You saw some signs of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's aggressive defense. When cornerback Sean Smith made an easy interception (he could have signaled for a fair catch), he tried to pitch it to safety Chris Clemons. Nolan encourages these types of plays. But Smith thought twice as Bucs receiver Reggie Brown spun him to the ground. Expect to see some defensive laterals on interception and fumble returns this year.
- The defense was a mixed bag in general. Miami missed way too many tackles, helping Tampa Bay break off 10 plays of 15 yards or longer. That's bad news for Tony Sparano, who stresses the importance of chunk yardage.
- Tampa Bay converted 47 percent of its third downs. Eep.
- But the Dolphins' defense also made some great plays. They showed a nose for the ball with 10 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and four turnovers. Look out.
- Nice night for defensive tackle Paul Soliai. On back-to-back defensive snaps at the end of the second quarter -- with a Miami possession in between -- Soliai recovered a fumble and stuffed Bucs running back Derrick Ward for a loss.
- Tyler Thigpen relieved Henne and played all but the final two minutes, when Pat White mopped up. Thigpen did OK against Tampa Bay's second- and third-stringers. He was 10-of-19 for 145 yards.
- On Miami's lone touchdown drive, Thigpen completed four of five attempts for 63 yards.
- I don't understand the point of sending White into the game to hand off once and then kneel twice to run out the clock.
- Chad Pennington dressed but didn't play. He doesn't need to make a preseason appearance. He's coming back from reconstructive shoulder surgery and has been around long enough that the Dolphins don't need to see what he can do. They already know.
- Rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll continues to be a delight. Nate Ness, a free agent cornerback who went undrafted in 2009, also saw considerable action and showed quite well.
- There was a Patrick Turner sighting. Turner, a third-round draft choice last year, had zero catches as a rookie. He made two big catches Saturday night, including a 34-yard gain.
- Competition for the final receiver slot will be tough. Is there room for Marlon Moore? His stat line was identical to Turner's: two receptions for 44 yards with a long of 34 yards. Moore's big play was to the Tampa Bay 11-yard line and set up Lex Hilliard's eventual 2-yard touchdown run.
- Dolphins punter Brandon Fields had a punt blocked for the first time in his NFL career. His inexperience in dealing with the moment showed when he jumped on the ball and, not hearing a whistle, got up and tried to run.
- Fields otherwise had a monster day. He successfully punted seven times for a 53.1-yard average. He boomed a long of 63 yards, but also had a 62-yarder (to the Tampa Bay 5-yard line), a 61-yarder and a 50-yarder (to the Tampa Bay 10).