Final Game 2 Observations

With the Dolphins taking their traditional Tuesday off this week, we take one last look at this past Sunday's game against Houston before preparations begin Wednesday for next weekend's game at Cleveland.

-- We'll start where the discussion almost always begins, and that's with the quarterback position. Yep, those were some pretty ugly numbers put up by Chad Henne on Sunday, but let's point out a few things: there were a couple of dropped passes (off the top of my head, Brandon Marshall had two and Davone Bess had one), the interception came after his arm was hit by Mario Williams as he was about to throw the ball, and there were a few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage (which is partly his fault but not entirely). That said, Henne lacked accuracy in the red zone (his pass to Brian Hartline stands out), but his performance wasn't nearly as bad as the numbers would suggest.

-- Coach Tony Sparano said on Monday that Henne was hit too often for his liking, and it seemed the breakdowns came all over the line. Even perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long gave up a sack, the one by Connor Barwin on the Dolphins' first possession. Remember that Long didn't play a down in the preseason, but right now he's not the dominant force the Dolphins expect him to be.

-- The run blocking, on the other hand, was very impressive, particularly up the middle. That's where Daniel Thomas did most of his damage, as he took advantage of some big hole between the tackles. So kudos to Incognito, Pouncey and Carey in that vein.

-- You may have noticed, but the Dolphins often brought in Nate Garner as a tackle-eligible, giving them six offensive linemen in the game. There is some merit to that when your line is struggling, but it does remove a receiver when the Dolphins are passing. So here's hoping the Dolphins don't fall in love with that.

-- Nice roller coaster for Reggie Bush, huh? He goes from being used too much in the opener to not being used often enough in the second game. That happened because the Dolphins were going with the hot hand, Thomas, and there's nothing wrong with that. It would have been wrong to force-feed Bush at a time when Thomas was running so well. The trick moving forward is finding the best way to maximize both guys.

-- His third-quarter fumble was the only glitch on an otherwise great performance by Thomas, and it came at the end of one of his best runs. It would be much easier to dismiss if this hadn't been a problem at Kansas State. So the Dolphins need to keep an eye on him, and keep working with him on securing the ball.

-- OK, enough offense. Let's move to the defense.

-- Where is the defense that's supposed to be among the best in the league?

-- Karlos Dansby left the Houston game with a groin injury, and that's obviously not going to help if he's going to be out for any kind of period of time.

-- Vontae Davis, meanwhile, has missed time in both games, the first one because of cramping issues and the second because of a hamstring injury. It's not been a great start for Davis after he made that "we're the best" proclamation before the start of the season. Perhaps it's karma getting back at him. Davis was beaten on a deep pass to Andre Johnson on Sunday, but it's really hard to blame the coverage for the long gain. Rather, credit a great pass by Matt Schaub and a great catch by a great receiver.

-- Johnson's touchdown, on the other hand, was a joke from a defensive standpoint. Sparano indicated there was a mix-up in coverage, as in free safety Reshad Jones failed to provide deep help for Nolan Carroll. This illustrates the major — and we mean major — problem at free safety, where Jones is prone to making mental mistakes and Chris Clemons just doesn't make any plays. The Dolphins would do well to explore all and any available players at that position, and that includes the past-his-prime Darren Sharper.

-- It also would help the defense if starting linebackers Koa Misi and Kevin Burnett would start making plays. As I've said time and time and time again, the 3-4 defense is reliant on linebackers making plays, and those two guys have done nothing so far.

-- Great to see Jason Taylor get a sack against Houston. Watch the replay and you'll see Houston tackle Duane Brown complaining afterward that Taylor was offside. It was close, but it just looked like Taylor timed his takeoff perfectly and immediately got the step on Brown. That was vintage Taylor and a great sign for a defense that so badly needs for someone other than Cameron Wake to get to the quarterback.

-- We'll close with the special teams, where Brandon Fields keeps putting on a show. I mean, wow. The only thing is he's got to be careful not to outkick his coverage, which is what he did on a 70-yard punt that was returned 40 yards by Jacoby Jones. It also was very disconcerting to see Dan Carpenter failed on two short field-goal attempts. Yes, the first one was blocked, but it was because Carpenter's kick was just way too low. Until the Dolphins get better at scoring in the red zone, they need for Carpenter to be almost automatic and he was far from that against Houston.


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