AFC East: Preseason 082110

Observations from Dolphins-Jaguars

August, 22, 2010
Some thoughts from the Miami Dolphins' lightning-delayed 27-26 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night:
  • Chad Henne was nothing short of great. Henne, despite drops by Ricky Williams and Brandon Marshall, completed 11 of 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns to tight end Anthony Fasano. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano should be ecstatic after Henne's lukewarm preseason debut.
  • Fasano is a player who could use a little mojo. He seemed to have a breakthrough season of sorts in 2008 with 34 receptions for 454 yards and a team-high seven receiving touchdowns. He had an erratic 2009, catching 31 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Great baseball players have a way of impacting games in the field when they're slumping at the plate. Marshall showed he can make a difference even when he's having trouble with drops with sensational downfield blocking on two touchdowns.
  • Chad Pennington's recovery from reconstructive shoulder surgery appears nearly complete. Saturday was a psychological milestone for him. He played one series and connected on three of his four attempts for 54 yards and a touchdown. His longest completion was a fluttering jump ball to Marshall for 37 yards down the left sideline. Vintage Pennington -- and vintage Marshall.
  • Bad news for backup quarterback Pat White. He didn't take a snap. So in two games he has handed off once and knelt down twice to run out the clock. What on earth can the Dolphins do with him?
  • Nose tackles aren't supposed to get sacks. Then again, nose tackles aren't supposed to be as fast as Randy Starks. He shot up the middle to drop Luke McCown for a 10-yard loss in the second quarter. The Dolphins are going with an undersized player there in place of the retired Jason Ferguson.
  • The Dolphins' pass defense has to be a concern. Maybe the biggest concern through two preseason games. First-team quarterbacks Josh Freeman and David Garrard went a combined 10 of 12 for 132 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
  • Another worry: the backup offensive line. Tyler Thigpen, who's fairly mobile, was sacked four times.
  • Yet another worry: penalties. The Dolphins have committed 14 for 117 yards through two preseason games. Only five teams have been flagged more frequently, and two of them have played three games.
  • Rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll continued his strong preseason. He has been impressive on defense, and on Saturday night averaged 25 yards on four kickoff returns.
  • Brandon Fields went into 2010 with zero punt blocks in 61 games, including the preseason, regular season and playoffs. So it's disconcerting he has had a punt blocked in back-to-back games. Saturday night's was in the end zone for a safety on Miami's first possession. Special teams coordinator John Bonamego better fix protection.
  • Jason Allen is a bust as a defensive back and certainly hasn't been worth the 16th overall pick the Dolphins used on him in 2006. But he might be the best special-teams player in the AFC East. He forced a fumble on the free kick following the safety.

Review of Jets-Panthers field goalathon

August, 22, 2010
Some thoughts after reviewing footage of the New York Jets' 9-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night:
  • It was a great night for the Jets' defense, disconcerting for their offense. Even the offensive line had a rough night. Mark Sanchez was sacked twice. Shonn Greene was thrown for a 7-yard loss.
  • When I saw Sanchez at SUNY Cortland, I could justify the occasional mistake, considering he's playing against the NFL's top-rated defense from last year. But the more I see of him in preseason games, the less encouraged I am that he has figured it out. He's way off target and telegraphs too many throws. He also seems to have some rookie panic still in his game.
  • Sanchez completed just three of his first eight passes and couldn't lead a touchdown drive, including one that started on the Panthers' 12-yard line. Factoring in the sacks, the Jets had minus-3 yards passing with Sanchez in the game.
  • Sanchez received bonus time thanks to a pair of botched Carolina punt returns. His four possessions were in the first quarter, with the last one bleeding into the second quarter. The first-team offense gained 33 yards.
  • Veteran backup Mark Brunell didn't fare any better. He is being outplayed by Kellen Clemens through two preseason games. Brunell handled four possessions, each of them a three-and-out and totaling 12 yards of offense.
  • Not a good sign to see guards Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse on the field in the fourth quarter -- and getting beaten.
  • Cornerbacks Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman had nice bounce-back games. Giants undrafted rookie receiver Victor Cruz romped against the Jets' reserve corners on Monday. But Lowery was strong in coverage and knocked down a pair of passes. Coleman had an interception with 1:38 to play.
  • Solid night for Nick Folk's confidence, converting all three tries from 43, 36 and 49 yards.
  • I'm not saying some switch has been flipped and Vernon Gholston is about to fulfill his pre-draft expectations, but he looks like he'll finally be a serviceable role player for the Jets. That's a whole lot better than being a possible inactive every week.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson looks great in the preseason, ripping off a 20-yard run on the Jets' opening drive. But I won't be sold until I still see explosiveness a few games into the regular season.
  • Not sure the reason, but I've noticed an awful lot of chinstraps riding up on players' faces in the preseason. Eli Manning and Trent Edwards have discovered what kinds of problems that can cause.