Preseason Finale Observations

The Dolphins closed out their preseason -- mercifully -- Thursday night with a 14-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The game featured a couple of impressive performances, most notably by linebacker Akin Ayodele, wide receiver Ernest Wilford, and a good showing by Ronnie Brown.

-- Linebacker Akin Ayodele made two big plays in the first quarter, tackling Deuce McAllister for a 5-yard loss after a short completion on third-and-3 and later making a solo tackle on McAllister to hold him to a 1-yard gain on a running play. In the second quarter, Ayodele led the way when the Dolphins stuffed McAllister for no gain on third-and-goal from the 2. Ayodele has been impressive all preseason, and it's amazing to think the Dolphins got him and tight end Anthony Fasano from Dallas for only a fourth-round pick.

-- We've had our doubts from the beginning about Matt Roth's ability to convert to linebacker, but he did a nice job rushing the passer against New Orleans. His pressure from the outside forced Mark Brunell to step up in the pocket right into the arms of teammate Randy Starks, who dropped Brunell for a sack.

-- Speaking of Starks, he seemed to make plays in the preseason every time he was in the game. He should be a tremendous backup along the defensive line.

-- Wide receiver Derek Hagan had two passes thrown his way in the first quarter, and failed to come down with either ball. He wasn't open by much either time and continued his pattern of never being able to make a tough catch. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Nothing again Hagan, but it's a problem if this guy is in the starting lineup.

-- Dan Carpenter's magical ride ended when he pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right in the first quarter. The Dolphins better pray that was just a little bump, otherwise they might regret having let Jay Feely go.

-- Linebacker Charlie Anderson came to the Dolphins as a free agent with some promise, but he missed the last two preseason games because of a hamstring injury. On the first play from scrimmage Thursday, Anderson found himself coming face-to-face with McAllister, who not only bowled him over to pick up 4 extra yards but also left Anderson on the field favoring his right shoulder. Anderson was back in the game on the next series, but it still wasn't a good sign. Anderson did have a sack in the second quarter when he got around the Saints tight end.

-- Rookie DE Kendall Langford continued to show why he earned a starting job, dropping McAllister for a 2-yard loss and later pressuring Brunell into an incompletion.

-- G Justin Smiley had a tough night in pass protection. He was beaten by Saints rookie first-round pick Sedrick Ellis on the sack that resulted in Chad Henne's fumble.

-- WR Ernest Wilford finally showed up against New Orleans with a terrific catch on a ball that was thrown behind him. Rest assured, there's no way Derek Hagan would have made that catch.

-- Speaking of wide receiver, Davone Bess looked terrific returning punts, even if he did fumble (the ball rolled out of bounds) right before the half.

-- FB Reagan Mauia had a pass from Henne go right through his hands. Yes, it was a very hard throw from a short distance, but he still didn't come close to making the catch.

-- The Dolphins wanted to see Ronnie Brown against New Orleans, and he gave them plenty of reasons to be optimistic. He made some nice cuts and showed a great burst on a 15-yard gain on a draw.

-- Henne started off slowly after a tough game against Kansas City, but he really came after that and was tremendous in the two-minute drive. He went 7-for-7 on that drive, capped by a great touchdown pass to tight end Sean Ryan where he zipped the ball right over the defender. It almost was surprising to see Ryan make the tough catch considering the poor hands he has shown all summer.

-- For the second week in a row, the Dolphins had a big play on special teams negated by a penalty; this time, it was David Martin's illegal block erasing a great kickoff return by Bess.

-- Rookie Jalen Parmale lost a fumble again, but was bailed by an illegal batting penalty on New Orleans.

-- Don't know if it will be enough for him to earn a spot on the team, but OLB Rob Ninkovich was in Saints QB Tyler Palko's face three times in the fourth quarter and almost had two sacks before Palko got rid of the ball.

-- It was another frustrating night for John Beck. He dropped his first snap, even though he was able to recover the loose ball and then had his second drive sabotaged when Patrick Cobbs was called for an offensive facemask penalty. When he did throw the ball, Beck kept it short as he has done all summer.


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