We’ve had a couple of days to digest the first-quarter debacle in the Georgia Dome on Friday night. The concerns that arose from Henne’s two picks, Daniel Thomas having no room to run, and the first-team defense getting shredded on the ground, haven’t magically evaporated.
Excluding the play of the starting defense, which is nothing to worry about as far as I’m concerned, as there are too many talented players and too bright of a mind calling the shots in Mike Nolan to waste any time or energy getting bent out of shape over one drive in the first preseason game, fans have a legitimate reason to worry about this team.
When the defense returns to form, the Dolphins will still have the ability to compete with anybody, but it’s hard to argue that this team is any better than last season’s 7-9 squad if Henne is going to continue to stare down receivers and the interior offensive line is still going to get pushed around.
These were really concerns that were already present heading into Friday’s opener, however. What we saw in Atlanta was worrisome, yes, but being that it was the first game, a couple weeks into the new season, it was, believe it or not, no reason to jump to conclusions.
That’s what the preseason is for, getting mistakes out of the way. Players and teams only get better as training camp and the exhibition season progresses. Judging by Friday night, the Dolphins have a long way to go.
We’ll have to wait and see if they improve enough in the concerning areas to make a difference this season. But the point is, it’s way too early to ride anyone off after one quarter of action. A collective deep breath is in order.
Nonetheless, these preseason games are all about making an impression. Impressions were certainly made Friday night, some for better, some for worse. Let’s see which players’ stock are on the rise and which players have hurt their cause a week into the preseason.
Phillip Livas: Let’s begin with the obvious. Phillip Livas, a relatively unknown undrafted Louisiana Tech product, stole the show with an explosive performance in the return game. Judging by the fact that he nearly broke a couple kick returns for big yardage as well, his electrifying 75-yard punt return touchdown hardly seemed like a fluke.
While Livas is on the right track if he wants to be one of the surprise members of the 2011 Miami Dolphins, he’s going to need to avoid mistakes and continue to show big-play ability in the final three exhibitions.
Does the name Chris Williams ring a bell? The same guy who had one solid game returning kicks in the 2009 preseason, only to see his opportunity at making the team bounce off his facemask, muffing a punt the following week. If we see more good things from Livas against the Panthers on Friday, though, keeping six receivers will become a real possibility.
Roberto Wallace: Staying on the topic of receivers, a unit that suddenly appears to be one of the deepest positions on the team, Roberto Wallace inched a little closer to cementing himself on the roster if he hasn’t already. Sparano hinted that he was the man to beat for the fourth receiver spot before Wallace’s three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons.
Now I’m starting to wonder how close he is to seriously pushing for extended playing time in the regular season. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll loves to utilize four-receiver sets, further adding to Wallace’s value this year.
A.J. Edds: Edds’ debut in a Dolphins’ uniform was long overdue, but he lived up to expectations in his first game as essentially an additional fourth-round pick in this year’s draft class considering he missed all of 2010 with a torn ACL. He led all Dolphins with seven tackles and flashed some playmaking ability with a sack.
Jimmy Wilson: We all finally got a glimpse of what the media has been ranting and raving about in practice when Jimmy Wilson got to the quarterback on a corner blitz and forced a fumble in the process. Throw in his five tackles and it appears the hype has some merit.
I must admit, though, I’m a little disappointed to hear Sparano say Wilson will be playing corner exclusively now. Sean Smith and Vontae Davis project to lockdown the starting corner spots for years to come. I just don’t see Wilson being a significant contributor at the position anytime soon.
At strong safety, however, 33-year-old Yeremiah Bell isn’t going to be around forever. I was under the impression that Wilson could emerge as Bell’s eventual successor. We’ll see how he does at corner, though, where he doesn’t have much work left to clinch a roster spot.
Matt Moore: I don’t want to make a huge deal out of Moore’s performance Friday night, when he threw for 123 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Yes, he was solid and certainly looks the part of reliable backup.
But Henne looked good against the Falcons’ second-team defense too, going 69 yards in his final two throws, the final pass being the 44-yard touchdown bomb to Hartline.
It was still a nice sign from Moore, though, who needs Henne to play his way out of the starting job, something that doesn’t exactly appear to be a long shot.