Five Things To Watch Revisited

The Dolphins' victory at New Orleans Thursday night completed a perfect 4-0 preseason, but there were more important issues for the team in the game. We analyze how the five things we wanted to watch ended up playing out.

1. Can Henne bounce back?

After his poor performance at Tampa Bay, it was important for Chad Henne to rebound with a strong effort at New Orleans. Consider it mission accomplished.

Henne finished an impressive 11-for-16 against New Orleans, and that included a drop by tight end John Nalbone (more on that later). Henne also led the only touchdown drive of the game.

It was the kind of effort that will make Tony Sparano and the rest of the coaches feel a whole lot better about their backup quarterback situation heading into the regular season.

2. Lex's last chance

Second-year running back Lex Hilliard became the flavor of the month after his strong performance in the game against Carolina, but he followed that with a fumble at Tampa Bay and needed a strong game against the Saints to convince the coaches to make the unusual move of keeping four halfbacks on the 53-man roster.

Hilliard didn't exactly put up big numbers against New Orleans, gaining 39 yards on 13 carries, a mediocre 3-yard average.

The truth is Hilliard is a capable back, but he's clearly nowhere near as good as either Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams or Patrick Cobbs, and the Dolphins easily could find someone as capable as Hilliard if an emergency arose.

3. The receiver race

After Brian Hartline started against Tampa Bay last week, many assumed that meant he had won the starting job. But it was Greg Camarillo who started opposite Ted Ginn Jr. at New Orleans, and it was Davone Bess who had the best performance, with a team-high five catches for 39 yards.

Hartline was shut out, failing to come up with a tough catch on the only ball thrown his way, while Camarillo made two catches, including a pretty grab near the sideline.

From this vantage point, it's a toss-up between Bess and Camarillo, but we'll go with Camarillo while emphasizing that Bess could wind up getting as much playing time, if not more.

4. Coverage concerns

The Dolphins secondary had a rough outing at Tampa Bay, but the performance was a lot better at New Orleans.

Sean Smith had his second interception of the preseason, and it was nothing short of spectacular.

The one major downer for the secondary was the first-half knee injury sustained by fellow rookie Vontae Davis. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, but he didn't return in the game.

5. The tight end tussle

We suggested before the game that rookie Jon Nalbone had a slight edge over returning third-stringer Joey Haynos because the Dolphins spent a fifth-round pick on him.

Without the luxury of watching film and seeing how each player blocked, we're left to dissect the passing plays where each were involved, and not much happened.

Both were targeted once, and both were the victims of passes that were off target. Haynos was thrown a pass by Henne that was clearly behind him because of pressure and it really wasn't catchable. The pass to Nalbone also was a little behind him, but it was one he clearly should have caught.

Whether that was enough to shift the balance in Haynos' favor is debatable, and we're still thinking in the end Nalbone will beat out Haynos for the last roster spot at tight end.

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