The Dolphins first two drives were uneventful and if not a mirror image of last season with dropped passes, dumb penalties, and poor pass protection. However, the Dolphins first team offense managed to score two touchdowns and Ryan Tannehill seamlessly threw to Mike Wallace on an over the shoulder sideline pass and then to Wallace on 1st and goal with a quick bullet to the wide receiver erasing questions about his rapport with Tannehill.
However, on the 5th drive of the game for the Dolphins, not content with the the offensive execution, Joe Philbin and his offensive coaches pre-elected to have the starters play almost the entire half. Unfortunately, the result was a loss of tight end Dustin Keller on a routine curl route where the defender for the Texans, DJ Swearinger went helmet first through his knee in order to avoid a flag and a fine. The play was so ugly that Keller's knee bent in an awkward direction before he fell to the ground and was surrounded by trainers and medical personnel.
The biggest question at this point, is, could this have been avoided? Could the Dolphins have played it safe?
The answer is obviously yes. Philbin and his coaches could have played it safe, but there has been a need for sometime to get this offense rolling in a positive direction. The Philbin and Sherman tandem have been adamant about righting the ship on offense as have the fans been clamoring for something to cheer about. Unfortunately, this idea of playing the starters has backfired late into the first half should serve as a lesson for future Miami teams including next week when the rest of the NFL has their annual dress rehearsal of week 3 of the pre-season. Clearly, when a team extends the repetitions of the starters, the injury risk is greater when starters are playing non-starters because there are no-name guys trying to do anything to secure a roster spot.
The question now is, do the Dolphins give the starters less reps in the next game or do the Dolphins move on from this catostrophic injury to Dustin Keller and try other guys at the position like Dion Sims and Michael Egnew? Both looked terrible with several dropped passes between the two. It seems that the Dolphins may still play their 4th preseason game like a dress rehearsal in order to gain continuity within the offense and for the defense to play aggressively versus the Tampa Bay starters. Consequently, there is a risk associated with playing the game of football, but to lose a player for the entire season is disappointing to most fans.
While it is conceivable that Jeff Ireland and the front office will be looking to replace Keller via trade or waiver wire pick up, where optimism was once in the air in Miami in 2013, the pessimistic clouds of turmoil are hovering slightly over what could be a trying season and a stalled opportunities.
Who's to blame? Swearinger is. That hit showed zero consideration of his approach. He has already stated that he intentionally aimed low in order to avoid fine for helmet contact higher up. Ridiculous. The NFL needs to clear this up right now before more of this occurs. It's a horrific case of obeying the letter of the law not the spirit of the law (its intention). The point of the rule is to avoid intentional head contact. Aiming low doesn't fix it. In a selfish act he throws himself full on at another player's joint. What needs to be made clear here is that the rules are to promote better tackling. If you aim high, hit them hard (without the head), if you aim low wrap them up. It takes practise and skill but in the end it's more effective (less missed diving tackles and bouncing off players) and it's safer. One player's season, maybe his career, is now ruined because Swearinger thought only about avoiding a fine and not about a high risk technique. He might not have intended to injure Keller, I believe him, but he did intend to hit him hard low down. That's reckless. You can't say you don't intend to injure and then charge someone's knee. As for all those who say that this is 'just a rough game'. You're wrong. Look at face-masking. It's banned because it's a high risk; because broken necks are not 'just part of the game'. Some moves are more injurious and dangerous than others. Low attacks to the knee are in that group. The NFL needs to lock this down, and the players who moan need to be given a course in tackling technique. There's more to it than just throwing your body at a target. It's disgusting that a player has his possible career destroyed because another player doesn't care about the possible damage. The league needs to sort this out. Swearinger is to blame. If it carries on like this, so too will the league.