Bad Sign?

If the third preseason game indeed is going to be a good gauge for the kind of year teams will have, it's not going to be pretty in Miami. Friday night's effort in a 16-6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium was utterly forgettable, and that's being kind. The only question on this night was, what was most disappointing?

A strong candidate for that distinction has to be the offense, which one week after looking so good at Jacksonville accomplished virtually nothing against the Falcons.

The Dolphins' best drive of the night, maybe their only good drive of the night, had a bad ending when Chad Henne tried to squeeze a pass into the end zone, only to have it tipped and intercepted by safety Erik Coleman.

It was symptomatic of a difficult night for Henne, who never seemed comfortable and was off target most of the way.

Then again, it didn't help that the Dolphins got nothing — and we mean nothing out of their running game.

That also was troubling because Atlanta isn't necessarily known as a run-stuffing team.

But Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams never had any room to run, and that includes the few times the Dolphins used the Wildcat.

The Dolphins want to dominate behind a strong offensive line, but it clearly was beaten by the Atlanta front four. Henne was sacked once on a blitz, but he faced pretty consistent pressure.

Who knows? Maybe all the shuffling along the offensive line has backfired, or maybe it's just an indication the Dolphins just aren't that good along the offensive line.

Either way, this game was troublesome from that standpoint.

The defense, meanwhile, had its moments, but was far from dominating.

Again, there were issues in the secondary, with Jason Allen getting beaten pretty badly inside on a touchdown catch by Roddy White.

Sean Smith, meanwhile, was torched on an out-and-up move by White, only to be bailed out when White let Matt Ryan's pass sail through his hands.

Incidentally, Smith came off the bench in this game, as Allen started, which certainly was an interesting move.

Coach Tony Sparano said after the game that was the result of a team violation by Smith.

It continued what has been a rough summer for Smith, who hasn't looked all summer like the same player as last year. That's a serious concern for this team.

The fact that we have seen little pressure from the Dolphins all preseason isn't nearly as troublesome because they have played basic defense without showing much in terms of different blitzes.

The special teams again were less than stellar against Atlanta, with no long returns for the Dolphins and consistently good returns allowed. The Dolphins don't appear good enough at this point to consistently lose the return game the way they have.

There was reason for great optimism about this offense after the game at Jacksonville, and this was a major step back.

Maybe this was just a hiccup in a meaningless game, but it will remain a worry until the regular season kicks off.


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