Defensively, a missed tackle by Jason Allen and Sean Smith getting burned on a long touchdown made sure spirits remained low for the entire game. The Cowboys may have dropped the Dolphins to 2-2 on the preseason, but when the clock struck zero, the win-loss column simultaneously reset. Nothing that happened over the past four weeks will carry over to the regular season, outside of injuries of course. History suggest the preseason is not the least bit indicative of what to expect in the regular season. And with this final preseason post, let's put a forgettable exhibition season behind us, and officially turn our attention to the Buffalo Bills and the kickoff of a regular season fans have been impatiently waiting for since last January.
Starters: We know the negatives. Chad Henne wasn't exactly efficient out there against a backup secondary, the pass protection was suspect at best, and three possessions produced only three points and a turnover. I don't think we need to hammer the starters any more than they have been already. Is that kind of effort going to cut it in the regular season? Absolutely not. But that wasn't the regular season, and until we see these struggles manifest themselves in an actual game, let's hold off on all the panic, quarterback competition talk, and everything else frustrated fans say out of impulse and emotion. On the bright side, we finally saw a little life out of the running game when Ricky broke off that 42 yard run, and we saw Davone Bess pick up where he left off last year as Chad Henne's crutch on third down.
Backups: Chad Pennington led a nice little scoring drive to give the Dolphins the lead in the second quarter, looking like his normal, efficient self. Later, Tyler Thigpen really got the passing game going in the fourth-quarter, connecting on two touchdown passes, one to Marlon Moore and the other to Roberto Wallace. Moore likely locked up his spot on the team, while Wallace surely is making Patrick Turner sweat it out until the final cuts are made. The running game wasn't much of a factor, but Hilliard and Cobbs only carried the ball a combined six times.
Starters: Outside of those two disastrous plays where Jason Allen missed a tackle that resulted in long third down conversion and where Sean Smith was beat for a long touchdown, the unit was pretty solid. That's still two bad plays, though. And both still came against a backup offense led by a third-string quarterback. And we all know it only takes one bad play to lose in this league. I hate to make excuses for anybody, but I can't help but think Sean Smith had a really bad break. The coverage wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to break up that pass if it was thrown a foot shorter, to the left, or to the right. I will say he needs to judge the ball in the air a little better, and go for the deflection and not the pick when the ball is out of both his hands' reach. But while I'm worried about Smith's play this preseason, I was much more concerned about the double move Roddy White put on him last week, than last night's touchdown. In another attempt to try and keep things as positive as possible, the run defense continues to look pretty solid. Tashard Choice is the Cowboy's third back, but he arguably has starting potential, and the Dolphins held him to one yard on four carries. Also, the pass rush looked a little better. Most notably Cameron Wake was man-handling Dallas' reserve line, getting in for his only sack of the preseason and causing a couple other hurried throws.
Backups: The Boys got their ground attack going in the second-half, as Donaldson and Miller combined for 75 rushing yards, and in the clutch, the Dolphins couldn't stop McGee and the passing game. With the Dolphins expected to keep 10 defensive backs, you would think we would have saw a little desperation from players like Nate Ness and Kevin Hobbs. Instead, the Cowboys really had their way with the Dolphins secondary on their way to a 16 point second-half that culminated with a game winning field goal as time expired.
Special-Teams: The coverage units continue to improve more and more every week. There was one 33 yard kick return that was a block or two away from going for big yardage, but other than that, the Dolphins held the Cowboys to less than 20 yards a kick return. There was also a punt return that looked promising for the Cowboys, but a close-line tackle put an end to the play in a hurry. Nolan Carroll has yet to break off a huge return, but his 20 yard average last night was good enough to probably allow him to keep the job over Patrick Cobbs. Carpenter connected on a 28 yard field goal, and Brandon Fields averaged 40 yards on four punts.