Miami Dolphins: Observations From the Loss to the Baltimore Ravens
The Miami Dolphins suffered their first road loss of the 2010 season Sunday, falling to the Baltimore Ravens in a disappointing 26-10 defeat.
The offense struggled once again, while turnovers and poor tackling on defense sank any chances the Dolphins had at beating a talented Ravens team.
The Dolphins will head home to face the the Tennessee Titans in Week 10 as Randy Moss will make his Titans debut.
Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Ravens:
- Chad Henne didn't have a good day, but he didn't get any help from his supporting cast. Dan Henning inexplicably abandoned the run after a successful opening drive, while Henne's receivers were the culprits on a few big interceptions. I don't have many complaints about Henne right now, and I firmly believe he'll be just fine when the rest of the team progresses (or gets replaced with better talent).
- Ronnie Brown ran extremely well on the Dolphins' first drive and found the end zone, but neither he nor Ricky Williams were really heard from again and finished with a combined 11 carries. Obviously, the game dictates what you do on offense to some extent, but for the life of me, I cannot understand what Henning was doing here.
- Brandon Marshall was double-covered most of the day and was pretty much taken out of the game. His biggest contribution to the game was a ball off his hands that became a gift-wrapped interception for Ed Reed. You can blame Henne for an "overthrow" all you want, but I don't want to hear it. Marshall is an elite receiver and had two hands on the ball.
- Marshall wasn't the first Dolphins receiver to cause an interception, as Brian Hartline fell down on a route and allowed Ladarius Webb to pick Henne off for the first time on the day. Hartline had a great catch-and-run on the day, but he's still holding the offense back with his inconsistency.
- Jake Long did a fine job on the day and didn't really allow any pressure on Henne. The interior line was at fault on Terrell Suggs's sack, while Joe Berger got completely manhandled by Haloti Ngata on the other sack.
- The first drive saw the Dolphins' line run block better than it ever has this year. Unfortunately, I cannot grade its performance in this department behind that one drive, because the Dolphins completely abandoned the run.
- The Dolphins' defensive line did not have its best day, as it failed to get much pressure on Joe Flacco. This in turn forced the Dolphins to send more blitzers, which allowed the Ravens to dump off to their backs and run all over the Dolphins. A few guys had some individual good plays, such as Paul Soliai's monster sack on Flacco, but it wasn't a great performance.
- The one guy on the Dolphins' defense who did play pretty well is Cameron Wake. He did his best to stop the run and short passes and ended up chasing Ray Rice and Willis McGahee down a handful of times to record eight tackles. He also sacked Flacco twice, giving him 8.5 for the season. I'm pleasantly surprised and happy with Wake's quick development, but he can't do it himself.
- Koa Misi had one nice arm tackle on Ray Rice, but both he and Ikaika Alama-Francis had pretty rough days. I didn't really understand why the Dolphins put in a claim for Shawne Merriman in their current youth movement, but when the strong-side linebackers are disappearing during games, it makes a little more sense.
- Like Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby had a decent day and totaled a team-high 10 tackles. He had a few really good plays, but couldn't be everywhere at once and the Ravens took advantage. Channing Crowder didn't do much to stand out either, save for a confrontation with Le'Ron McClain.
- Vontae Davis easily had his worst game of the season, allowing a touchdown to veteran receiver Derrick Mason on a good post route. He also whiffed badly on a few tackles, which is usually something he's very good at. He's allowed a bad game every once in a while and is still having a fine season.
- Everyone wants to get onto Sean Smith for his dropped interception that could have been a pick-six, and there is no doubt that really could have changed the game. It's important to remember, though, that it's still a positive play (pass deflection/incompletion) and that Smith actually had a pretty good day, limiting Anquan Boldin to two catches for 28 yards. Smith has the ability to make those big plays and needs to start doing so, but this game was a positive step for him.
- Chris Clemons and Yeremiah Bell both had their struggles tackling, as did the rest of the defense on the day. Bell's play this season has definitely fallen off a bit, and since he's never been that great in coverage, he really needs to be a sound tackler.
- Dan Carpenter's streak of 13 straight field goals came to an end in a windy Baltimore stadium, but it's not a huge concern. Carpenter is kicking great and should be fine.
- Brandon Fields once again punted for a good average and dropped two of his three punts inside the Ravens' 20. Just a note to Dolphins fans: when a team is near midfield and takes a delay of game on fourth down, it's on purpose, to give the punter more room to down it.
- Nolan Carroll isn't lighting the world on fire returning punts, but I like the way he runs forward and isn't afraid of contact. It's the exact opposite of watching Ted Ginn, Jr.
- The Dolphins totally botched the Ravens' only punt, failing to cover either gunner and allowing punter Sam Koch to complete a pass for a first down. I could tell from the moment the teams lined up that something was wrong, so I don't know why the Dolphins let the play go off. It's simply inexcusable.
It's amazing to me how many people are calling for Henne's head and have been all season. I'm not saying he's playing great, because he's not. But I do think he's progressing just fine, and I've seen nothing to tell me he can't be a franchise quarterback.
To watch a Dolphins performance like that, where the defense fails to tackle or force a punt, where the receivers drop passes and kill two drives with turnovers, where there is absolutely no running game to speak of. To watch all that, and then to blame Henne first and foremost, is just ridiculous to me.
The Dolphins have the third-best team in the division, which is why they are in third place. Tony Sparano can't change the roster midseason and Chad Henne can't control all those areas in which the Dolphins are lacking.
On offense, the Dolphins need to run the ball and run with authority. They need to do their jobs blocking for the Dolphins' backs, so it's not all on Henne. The receivers need to catch passes and stop contributing to turnovers.
The defense simply needs to tackle better and needs to get more pressure on the quarterback. The secondary has its holes, but they'd be a lot better off if the opposing quarterbacks didn't have plenty of time to throw.
The problem is, these are big issues that are not going to be able to be fixed in 2010. The Dolphins may upset a team here or there, but they seem unlikely to go on the kind of winning streak that could get them into the playoffs this year.
More likely, the Dolphins will win some and lose some on their way to a fairly average season, finishing 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7. They won't make the playoffs, and they'll have to make some key decisions in the 2011 offseason.
Replacing Chad Henne will not be one those decisions.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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