Panthers vs. Dolphins: 10 Things We Learned from Miami's 23-17 Loss
The Miami Dolphins capped off an already eventful week filled with car accidents, domestic issues and a televised firing that could have impressed Donald Trump with a trip to Charlotte to take on Cam Newton and the frisky Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers would defeat the Dolphins and in the process look like a team ready to challenge the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title, but one has to wonder if the Panthers really are that good, or if the Dolphins made them look that much better.
Miami came out flat both on offense and on defense and couldn't get anything going on either side of the ball (much like last week against Tampa Bay). So I guess you could say we didn't learn anything new this week. With that being the case, good bye everybody and thank you for reading!
No seriously here's a look at 10 new lessons we learned about the Miami Dolphins after this outright disaster of a performance in Carolina.
Miami's Defense Is Completely Lost
There's a lot to say about the Dolphins defense after this game. Only one of them is a nice thing to say.
Last week I commented on how the team seemed to look lost during the conversion from 3-4 to 4-3. This week, they somehow looked worse.
Now I understand they went up against a fairly explosive offense that is filled with stars and coached up by one of the best offensive coaches in the NFL (Panthers' offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, whom the Dolphins were foolish to not interview last year)—but that doesn't excuse the utter lack of execution that we saw.
The front seven were atrociously bad save for Olivier Vernon, who continues to impress. It's mystifying how a team that did so well against the run last year could struggle so badly against the run this preseason.
Miami's first and second-string defense allowed 20 of Carolina's 23 points and were completely abused by the Carolina offense.
I know it's only the preseason, but yikes, I didn't expect it to be this bad.
Opposing Quarterbacks Seem to Have All Day to Throw Against Miami
Cam Newton looked so explosive today because there was absolutely no aqua surrounding him when he dropped back to pass.
The only time I saw any type of harassment of Newton was on the third play of the game when Paul Soliai was able to lay out Newton with a nice hit. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Newton was able to get the ball off in time to find Greg Olsen for a 27-yard pass.
Newton finished his night completing eight out of 11 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown while only rushing the ball once (for no gain). Newton didn't have to use his legs because when receivers are getting open and your offensive line is blocking, why even bother risking injury in a preseason game attempting to run?
Then you look at Derek Anderson's night and you will see a prevailing theme: seven of 15 for 107 yards. The only Panthers quarterback who seemed to have issues against the Dolphins was their third-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
I weep while thinking about what a Tom Brady-led offense could do to this defense.
This Defense Lacks Discipline
How many missed tackles are we going to have to watch?
How many penalties to extend drives (overall as a team the Dolphins gave up nine penalties for 121 yards).
Miami's defense did do one thing well against the Panthers: shoot themselves in the foot.
Both Sean Smith and Vontae Davis recorded interceptions, only they didn't count thanks to stupid penalties on those plays.
That's the most frustrating when you notice the improved play of the secondary.
Let's look at that actually.
Miami's Secondary Did Show Improvement
Vontae Davis and Sean Smith both caught interceptions that would be nullified by the lack of discipline the rest of the defense had, but that's not the only way we saw improvement in Miami's secondary.
Chris Clemons and Jimmy Wilson made hits as the safeties when they had to. None of them were getting beaten as embarrassingly as they were against the Buccaneers last week.
Reshad Jones, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith also played well. Even Nolan Carroll managed to be decent while he was on the field.
Richard Marshall was still the best of the bunch, but the gap between he and Vontae is getting smaller.
We also saw Vontae looking like he was in better shape. He wasn't getting beaten and didn't look winded after plays.
Overall if there was a bright side to the atrocious Dolphins defense, it was in the improved play of their secondary. They're still far from being a great (or even good) secondary, but they at least made an important stride to being passable (no pun intended).
Case in point: Steve Smith only had one catch for 15 yards (he was targeted twice). All of this time I was fretting on how the secondary could contain the receivers they'd have to face this season (Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green and every tight end New England throws at everyone), but to see them contain Steve Smith at least soothed some worries—for now.
The Dolphins Defense Is at Least Attempting to Create Turnovers
There was only one turnover combined committed by both teams, and that came in the form of a Chris Clemons strip of Mike Tolbert in the second quarter.
This, along with the two called-back interceptions, shows me that the Dolphins are at least attempting to take away the ball.
You see it anytime a pass is thrown into the secondary: the corners and safeties are trying to either intercept the ball or force the fumble whenever possible.
Will this eventually lead to turnovers in the regular season? We shall see. However, it's a good sign that such effort is being shown now.
Jonathan Martin Looks Terrible
Now I'm usually not one to pick on one man, but Jonathan Martin does not look like he has any business starting right now.
Martin looks absolutely lost on the field. He can't seem to hold his blocks, he gets beaten nine times out of 10, and he gives up on a play way too early.
This is part of why the Dolphins couldn't seem to get their offense going.
Carolina's Charles Johnson had a field day when lined up against Martin, getting a tackle in the backfield, a clean hit on Tannehill and a sack. There was no excuse for either of these to occur as Martin's assignment was to contain Johnson, but he just couldn't seem to do that.
You know who "can't wait" to line up against Martin twice this year? Exactly.
The Offensive Line Is as Bad as Last Year
This picture at first glance looks great. There you have Ryan Tannehill finding an open Reggie Bush for a screen play that you know Reggie is going to burst open for a nice 10-15 yards after the catch. Just a solid play all around.
Right behind him you will see why it doesn't matter: a Carolina defender is being held by my former twitter nemesis Richie Incognito. A flag would be called on that play thus sending Miami back.
The sad part is that Incognito (along with Pouncey and Long as usual) were the good part of the offensive line. The right side is in just as much turmoil as they've been the last two years. Most of the pressure is coming from the right side, and the Panthers defensive line controlled the game that way.
Until this gets fixed, it's going to be a long season for Miami.
Now I did single out Jonathan Martin in the last slide; however, being young he still has his chances to improve (and he better considering he was picked in the second round) but his improvement has to come fast, for the rest of Miami's potential right side (John Jerry, Lydon Murtha) have looked very bad so far this preseason.
Matt Moore Continues to Struggle
Before we get to Ryan Tannehill's decent game that looked mediocre due to bad receivers and a worse offensive line (I'll get to the receivers soon too by the way), let's look at Matt Moore, who as of right now is only in second place in the quarterback battle by default (and based off of this game should actually be behind Pat Devlin).
Moore only managed to go three of 10 for 33 yards today. Yes, that's right. Of 10 pass attempts, only three of them were for completions. Yikes. (In two games this preseason, Moore is 12-of-27 for 136 yards and no touchdowns).
In the process he didn't seem to grasp the West Coast Offense the way Coach Joe Philbin has stated in the past he has, and is making everyone calling for him to start look pretty foolish at this point in time. Funny thing is last week I was in favor of having Moore start the season, but now I'm not so sure I want that.
Why is Moore struggling so badly? Yes, some of it is on the wide receivers and offensive line, but unlike Tannehill, Moore doesn't seem very comfortable or poised in the pocket. Last year's offense seemed to fit him better; this year, he looks like Chad Henne.
Either that or Moore is doing to the Dolphins what he did to the Panthers: have a semi-successful first season with the team (he did take over when Miami was 0-4 and finished 6-6 while playing very well), then completely crap the bed in year two.
In other words, this is indicative of a pattern that we might have seen coming had we studied our preseason Week 2 opponents a bit more carefully.
Either way Matt Moore's performance put him far behind Tannehill (who himself wasn't that great today, but again, we will get to that later) simply because he looked so inept.
And this time around, it was against Carolina's reserve players.
Dolphins Receivers Are Mediocre (and Chad Johnson Wouldn't Make Them Better)
Yes, we saw a Dolphins wide receiving corps that needed some help.
Roberto Wallace dropped some catchable balls, as did Marlon Moore and the usually reliable Anthony Fasano.
It wasn't as painful to watch as you would think, as the Dolphins wide receivers were what we thought they were: mediocre.
They can get better and I did see some promise from Tannehill's Texas A&M teammate Jeff Fuller (two catches from two throws for 27 yards), while Chris "7-11" Hogan should be getting some first-team time (mainly because the Dolphins have to figure out what they have).
But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that this wide receiving corps is better with Chad Johnson around.
Also notice that Johnson has been gone since Sunday. It's not like he was placed on waivers where teams have to bid on him. He was released and free to go to whichever team he wants to go to (that will have him).
How many teams have brought him in for a workout? How many teams have taken that risk?
Not a single one. Again, he was released on Sunday, nearly a week ago. Teams bring free agents in for workouts all the time regardless of what that player might be going through.
If Johnson were as good as many Dolphins fans say (good enough to contribute to the team), then how come the other 31 teams in the NFL haven't taken a shot at signing him yet? Why were the Dolphins the only team to bring him in in the first place?
He doesn't change this unit as much as you would think. Besides, this is a wide receiving unit that has to develop. Right now they're mediocre, but there are signs that they can improve. On top of that, the Dolphins do have good tight ends in Charles Clay and Anthony Fasano, and their running backs are productive.
Ryan Tannehill Could Be Great with Better Teammates
A look at Tannehill's numbers won't impress anyone: 11-of-23 for 100 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
He did, however, orchestrate a great drive (the first team's lone scoring drive in the second quarter), and showed the poise needed to succeed.
Tannehill made plenty of great throws that weren't caught. That's not on him. He also showed a good quick release as he was only sacked once despite the fact that the Carolina defense was in the Dolphins backfield for most of the first half.
The tipped balls? Again, a product of a bad offensive line.
There's still improvement to be made on Tannehill's side. As quick as his release was, it could've been quicker. He also could've done a better job when it came to check downs (he doesn't do it enough, which is weird to say because we're used to quarterbacks that do it too much).
But when it comes down to it, here's the big one: he didn't make any bad decisions.
That's right, not one bad decision. The only sack he took was one he couldn't avoid (thank you Jonathan Martin) because he stepped up to throw and was met by Charles Johnson before he could get it off. He had an open man too.
Also no interceptions, nor passes that could've been picked off. Considering he threw the ball 23 times, that's a good sign.
Imagine what he could do with a better offensive line and better receivers. Unfortunately, he's going to have to wait for those. But for now, I feel very comfortable with Tannehill under center.
This quarterback race is definitely over. Tannehill should be named starter prior to next week's game against Atlanta. Let's just end the quarterback race now.
Miami has their quarterback of the future. It's the rest of the team they have to worry about.