Opening The Fields: Dolphins Add Measures Toward Consistency
The Miami Dolphins were continuing to surprise myself and the football fans I stood beside. But there was just one problem within the final minutes of that Sunday Afternoon Game: A winless Houston Texan team was within a touchdown. After an insane 4th down 23-yard reception by Andre Johnson the Texans, the Fins were batting down consecutive passes by Schaub. However, with 3 seconds to go the Schaub stumped them. The goalline defense spread too thin letting Schaub walk his way toward his team's first victory.
"Maybe the Texans deserved the win." I remember hearing someone next to me consoling his friend on his cell phone. His friend had bet with the new faith he had in the Fins. The Texans probably had the toughest start to a season. Sure they didn't lose a quarterback like Tom Brady but they had issues in Houston with a hurricane damaging Reliant Stadium and the homes of certain players like Mario Williams. Not to mention it didn't help when Sage Rosenfels(remember him?) couldn't hold onto the ball for 3 straight possessions allowing the Indianapolis Colts to come back, and don't get me started on what Tennessee's secondary did to them the week before. The person on the phone continued, "Yes! They were 0-4, but they weren't easy losses. Trust me, the Texans are nothing like the Lions." He later on proved to be right.
The Dolphin defense bettered as the weeks came, Pasqualoni's men suffocated the red zone. But it wasn't without any close calls. For one, LaDanian Tomlinson had the ball on 4th and goal, a yard shy of a Charger victory. LT was flattened. There was another time where it took a late-game sack by Joey Porter to put away the 49ers. 14-to-9.
While I was much happier with the finishes against San Diego and San Francisco (the Dolphins ended up being 4-0 against the AFC Worst...err West), I could see that Miami had a playoff-bound team that couldn't blow out the other side. In Football you have to keep the time of possession ticking and have something to show for how they finish. With the AFC West shaping up to give Pat and Fin fans more reasons to hate each other, I think the lesser the Hollywood endings the better.
This Dolphins are looking for consistency. More sacks, more yards after catches for Ginn, more room for Ronnie, and a better pocket to increase the operating room of Dr. Pennington. No real gambles, no shake-ups, just a better all around approach to potency.
The Dolphins made a smart move in re-signing Will Allen. While Allen is getting paid, it's not near what the Broncos shelled out to get Goodman. Allen got his deal early and has a whole summer to focus on football. That should be good considering the new corners Sean Smith, Vontae Davis, and Eric Green will have an experienced and respected pass defender to play behind.
Talking about youth. Jake Long also has some new help on his side. Sparano is confident in the acquisition of the former Raider center Jake Grove. A powerful center means less tackles for the Ronnie and Ricky show to break. The Dolphins will always be a threat to run up the middle. Take a deep breath and think about that. Then think about how long it's been since it's been safe to say that about the Fins. But a skilled center who can call blitzes and make sure to leave no pass rusher behind. That means Pennington's pocket is going to benefit from the Jake Grove Foundation For Better Passing.
Does that mean we'll see less of the Dolphins getting 5 yards from the goal and settling for field goals? It's time to see good possessions have good endings, Miami.
Jason Taylor adds a philosophical advantage. From what everyone is saying and how the players and coaches have been acting, it's like he never left. Jason Taylor is not only okay with playing alongside skilled linebackers, he's used to doing so. It shouldn't be much difficulty for Taylor to find his niche in the Dolphin's 3-4. He's so dedicated to being a Dolphin that he's taking $1.5 million salary to do so. Looks like he can feed his kids better than Latrell Sprewell. Taylor is a leader. He's not only the type of guy who returns fumbles for the game winning touchdowns when Gus Frerotte couldn't, but the also the type of guy who would walk over to a fan hanging a Cowboy's banner over the wall and rip it down. He teaches manners.
Now it's time for the Dolphins to find ways to open the field. They're adding to the Wildcat and finding ways to spread out the field. It will be interesting to see Pat White and Chad Henne can contribute when the season comes along, they've beengetting their practice on. Another factor is going to be Ted Ginn. His route running is sharper and if he can find the next direction, secondaries will be dusted. Sparano is hoping for Ginn to unleash some star power and rack up the yards-after-catches.
It looks like a more grown-up Dolphin team is to take the field. I'm just hoping the growth can amount to keeping teams from being one possession shy of stealing the victory. Good finishes to good possessions, the end zone out of the faces of ambitious quarterbacks, and less fans on their knees praying for goal line stands. Let's see some weeks of Dolphin domination. When Dolphins are up 10 points or more: beer tastes better.
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