For an out of market Dolphins fan, ahhh the lengths I must go to be able to watch a live out of market Preseason game. Reading the daily insight reports from camp courtesy of my fellow DolphinsTalk.com contributors has been great, but I needed to see where we are for myself. That lead me to the dreaded NFL GAME PASS free trial. Before I get into the game, let me make this clear. Although I signed up for the Free Trial, there is no doubt I will get beat by the NFL for the cost of the package even after I cancel after my free 7 days. Their customer support is horrible, and you cannot get a straight answer from anyone. Yet I digress. If I get stuck with the package I will make use of the coaches scouting, take they offer after games.
Now on to our Week 2 Preseason game vs. the Carolina Panthers. My brief analysis and comments are limited to our starters. Truth be told, the week caught up with me and I didn’t make it past halfway through the 3rd Quarter. But the sample size that the starters gave me was more than enough for some concrete observations. Overall, I was highly disappointed in many aspects of the Miami Dolphins performance.
Ryan Tannehill looked sharp. He finished 14/17 with 100 yards but no touchdowns and no interceptions. He looks in control of the offense completely. He showed an ability to move the no huddle quickly and efficiently, although he did get called a delay of game penalty in the red-zone. The times that he chose to audible, it looked like he made the right check. I am starting to think that Tannenhill is not the problem at all, but the offense he is being asked to run is.
Dink and Dunk. Dink and Dunk. It seems like this year’s offense will be based on short curls, WR screens and Running Backs drifting out into the flats. The Dink and Dunk works to an extent but when we get into a 3rd and distance we again start to struggle.
Take the first drive for instance. Miami opened up with some quick passes and a great tempo, moving the ball with ease. A hand-off exchange mishap between Tannenhill and Drake put them into a 3rd and 13. Even a casual Miami fan could have predicted that Gase would have dialed in the WR Screen. Needless to say, the conversion was unsuccessful, which led a punt.
Carolina turned that into a 71-yard Touch Down run by Christian McCaffrey on their second down from scrimmage that saw the beginning of in what in my opinion was a very subpar performance by Raekwon McMillan. He was easily engaged by a Caroliona Offensive Lineman and Safety T.J McDonald took as terrible angle and McCaffrey was off to the races.
The Offense did not look terrible however. Drake looked very good (outside of his fumble) and rattled off a 34-yard run, which we have become accustomed too. Overall the offense line did well with a very aggressive, yet Julius Peppers-less Carolina Offensive line. I paid close attention to Kilgore and Josh Sitton. Kilgore looked slow on occasion that cost us some positive yards on run plays. Sitton looked decent but not as good as I had expected. Admittedly, I have high expectations for our line this year.
Durham Smythe caught my eye as a blocker, making a tough block down the line on Drake’s 34-yard run. Mike Gesecki in the other hand was nonexistent. Spending a 2nd round draft pick on a pass catching Tight End, we have to use him. Carolina seemed to be testing out man defense sets. Why not run some seam patterns up the middle and see what the rookie and Tannenhill can do? From what I saw and read this morning, Gesecki was not even targeted. Play calling was bad.
Xavier Howard answered McCaffrey’s big run with an interception that placed Miami in the red zone. The Miami offense sputtered with -2 yards and a field goal try. One of the broken plays, Gesecki missed horribly on a block. But still, Gase did not take one shot into the endzone. Not a jump ball to Gesecki and from that I read in camp he has been dominating those opportunities. Just 3 bad play calls (after a penalty) leading them again to a 3rd and long. Play Call: Draw. Draw? Why not just take a knee? If you’re not going to take a shot at the endzone during a meaningless preseason game, when are you? Other than the horrible decision to sign and stick with Jay Cutler, watching this play calling is one of the few times I doubt Gase has what it takes. For example, on one possession he ran three straight WR screens to Albert Wilson. I will just leave that here.
It has been the same story offensively, close but no cigar. String together a few plays, make a mental mistake and run a draw or a WR screen on 3rd and long. As a note, I thought the wide receiver core played well. Albert Wilson had one drop, but other than that (Starters) caught what was thrown to them and seemed to be in the right position. I know it has only been one game and I love what I see from Albert Wilson, but he is no Jarvis Landry after the catch. Jarvis seemed to will his way to a tough 8-yard run and I did not see any of that last night. Amendola however will be a fantasy machine as it seems like he is developing into Tannenhill’s safety net.
Defensively, I did not hate what I saw. Robert Quinn barely missed a sack on the first series and showed that it was no fluke, by registering 2 sacks during his short time on the field. He is as good as advertised. The rest of the Defensive line looked good throughout the game.
Even on the 71-yard McCaffrey run, the D Line did their job, while the linebacker and secondary faulted. Overall, I felt the starting LB core, especially McMillan struggled. They were easily engaged and taken out of plays and on many occasions, rushed to stuff holes, but ended up guessing wrong and out of place. This was mostly McMillan. He has all of the talent in the world but keeps making rookie mistakes. Alonso looked solid with some decent coverage and a big stop on McCaffrey which halted what would have been a huge gain.
Carolina’s second touchdown was a crossing pattern to their rookie tight end. On that play you could say McMillan looked slow. I see it as a bad defensive call. We ran a zone on that play, expecting our MLB to follow a crossing route into his zone and then stop on a dime, change direction 180 degrees and keep pace with another crossing route where the receiver never even broke stride. It’s an impossible task for even the quickest of linebackers. Something tells me he should have better safety help, but I have to review that play again.
The defensive backfield did not jump out at me one way or the other. I saw a couple bad angles, as our safeties are just as responsible for the two touchdowns scored against our Defense. Minkah looked unremarkable but solid, as you can see he knows how to finish a tackle. I don’t think you will see him make many missed tackles during his career.
Gase has to remember this is the Pre-Season and a chance for himself to try out some different things play calling wise. If we cannot score touchdowns in the preseason how can we expect to score during the regular season. Take some chances downfield and see what new weapon at Tight End are can do. It’s what the preseason is for. By the time I finished this article, I resigned myself to the fact that I am just going to suck it up and keep my Game Pass subscription. That being said I am hopeful that we get to see an overall better performance next week vs Baltimore as our starters should play 3 out of 4 quarters. I just hope Gase shows some better and less predictable play calling this time around, so we can see what this offense really has.