August Means Test Time
Under rainy conditions and having several red zone penalties that derailed both teams from scoring, this was a poor game ending in a 12-9 victory for Miami.
But the game was expected to be like that, as the weather was typical for South Florida at this time of the year. And as with almost everyone in this league, both teams were erratic and testing all their pieces, so solid starters played few minutes as both teams have position battles everywhere.
The Dolphins were trying to solve several questions: Is Chad Henne a safe option for the future? How effective can this defensive backfield be after adding two high profile rookies? Is the offensive line tuned to help a questionable running attack?
There were mixed answers as Henne was OK, having substantial playing time during the second and third quarters. His arm power was confirmed and he handled the offense very well, throwing for a TD but intercepted while pressured.
Third string QB rookie Pat White made a weak debut, being intercepted, but showed his skills in the last seconds to preserve the victory with elusive runs and a pair of fine passes.
Even with the return of Donald Thomas, the offensive line was pathetic with poor execution from Shawn Murphy and a costly penalty from center Jake Grove on 3rd-and-goal that destroyed a very fine attack.
The receiving corps worked fine, with promising action by rookies and Ted Ginn, who looks more committed to play inside, not just close to the sideline. His quality came out as he had the biggest run for the Dolphins starting offense and helped with good catches.
Ernest Wilford (last season’s fraud of free agency), now converted into TE, got the only touchdown of the game, after catching a good pass from Henne and showing great skills by breaking a tackle.
The rushing attack was very limited, especially up the middle. Even with that, Ricky Williams proved he's still a good running back.
At the same time on defense, unlikely for his first game at NFL, Sean Smith was phenomenal, making his first INT and avoiding a TD. Meanwhile, rookie first-rounder Vontae Davis looked like a normal first-timer, allowing several passes to his assignments.
Pass pressure seems solved as Jason Taylor is back and within a few minutes of playing time he caused a fumble while Joey Porter added pressure on the other side. Also, Jason Ferguson got a sack. Cameron Wake looks powerful but needs more time to adapt.
On special teams, Chris Williams showed pretty good moves as a returner and is fighting for a roster spot.
Jacksonville was searching for answers on offense, and all I can say is they finished with more doubts as they got more than five penalties in the red zone that crashed well-conformed possessions.
This is where Dolfans might start worrying as the starting defense was pretty solid but reserves were fragile as glass.
Second Year Hope
This is Chad Pennington's team, but Henne looks like a good option for the future. And this is going to be a hard decision for the coaching staff as Pennington is in the final year of his two-season contract and Henne wants to start.
So in just his second season, Tony Sparano looks like a longtime NFL head coach and it's obvious he's a perfectionist. As the right guard position remains open, Coach Sparano will have a lot of work with his offensive line on weekdays.
With Ginn showing progress and Chris Williams working fine with special teams, this is going to be a great battle for the rest of the receivers.
The 2009 schedule is the hardest according to last season's records, but there's hope if defense can be as solid as the upper part of the depth chart showed tonight.