Friday, August 16, 2013

Clint Eastwood

Football season has officially begun. Preseason games are underway and if you're anything like me, you've already run through about a thousand mock drafts in anticipation of the regular season, when the games actually matter. As a fan, it's easy to watch these preseason games and over-react to the limited amount of time we see our starters on the field. But after seeing both of Miami's games so far, I feel like I've been watching a Clint Eastwood movie. There's been some good. There's been some bad. But mostly, there's been a lot of ugly.

The most important thing for every team coming out of preseason is to remain relatively healthy. Injuries are a part of the game, and we've already seen a number of players going down with season-ending injuries. So far this preseason, Miami has been able to dodge the injury bug fairly well, with only a few players going down due to injury (most notably a shoulder injury to offensive lineman Nate Garner and a season-ending ACL tear to wide receiver Armon Binns). If the Dolphins can maintain their health through their final three games, this will, in my opinion, be the biggest take away from the preseason. Other than the ability to stay healthy, I haven't seen a whole lot of bright spots from the Dolphins so far, but the biggest one to me would have to be the play of Matt Moore. Moore was the starter before we brought in Tannehill, and this preseason he has shown that he is a more-than-capable backup should something happen to Tannehill this season. Every year teams hopes are derailed by an injury to the QB, so it's comforting to know that Moore can step up if need be.

Unfortunately, that seems to be where the positives end for this team so far. We've only played two games thus far, and it is only the preseason, but there have been a number of alarming things I've seen. Tannehill seems to have all the talent in the world, and should be able to make all the throws on the field. But he hasn't looked very well yet. He doesn't seem to have much confidence, and he's missing a lot of throws that a second year quarterback should be making. I'm willing to make some concessions due to the fact that he's throwing the ball to guys like Marvin McNutt, Chad Bumphis, and Brian Tyms, but there have been several times already that Tannehill has made throws that even the Larry Fitzgerald's or Calvin Johnson's of the league wouldn't be able to catch. Hopefully he settles down when Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace are back on the field full-time. Almost as troubling to me as Tannehill's struggles are the ones that I have seen from the defense and special teams. The tackling by the defense in the Hall of Fame game against the Dallas Cowboys was absolutely atrocious. To the coaching staff's credit, the tackling was considerably better in the second game versus Jacksonville, but the special teams squad seemed to take a step backwards. There were several missed tackles by the coverage team, and a muffed punt by Chad Bumphis (who otherwise has had a stellar camp) that need to be addressed before the start of the season if Miami wants to be successful.

By far the most unsettling thing for Miami fans this preseason is the play of the offensive line. The defense will be okay, and Tannehill won't continue to miss receivers like he's been doing so far. The line issues; however, seem like they are going to persist throughout the year if the front office doesn't do something about it soon. It hasn't only been Johnathan Martin either, which to me is the ugliest, most disappointing aspect of Miami's performances so far. For all the trouble that Martin has had adjusting to protecting the blindside in the NFL, the right side of our line seems to be having significantly more trouble. In the game against Jacksonville, the trio of Josh Samuda, Richie Incognito, and Tyson Clabo seemed to fail in pass protection on almost every dropback. This against statistically one of the worst pass rushes in the league last season. This lackluster performance from the line doesn't just mean that Tannehill is under pressure every time he throws, it also seems to have negatively impacted his confidence. Tannehill hasn't looked comfortable in the pocket, partially because he's been under a lot of pressure, but also because he doesn't appear to feel comfortable in the belief that the guys in front of him will be able to hold their blocks and give him the time to throw. This has led to a lot of unnecessary scrambling and some throws that have been terribly off target. I can only hope that this lack of confidence does not carry into the regular season. There is a lot of promise with this team, but it all hinges on Tannehill being able to grow and develop as a quarterback.

Our next game is the ever-important third preseason game. The game where the starters traditionally play at least into the third quarter. Hopefully the added time and having Hartline and Wallace on the field with him will improve Tannehill's play and confidence. If not, it won't matter if the other issues are fixed, the season will be a disappointment to all of us fans and we'll be left with a bad taste in our mouths for yet another year.

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