Well, I've had a chance to watch the game a second time and here are the observations that I noted during Miami's first preseason game:
Overall, this was an ugly game, with very little to be encouraged about as far as the Dolphins go. Luckily, this is only the first exhibition game, and according to Cam Cameron only 40% of the offense has been installed thus far. Furthermore, there was no game-planning that went into this match. Everything on offense was vanilla, and the coaches were concentrating on individual match-ups for the most part.
So, while it's hard to make any concrete conclusions from this game, the performances are not entirely useless for gaging certain players' progressions and skill sets. Take the following for what it's worth. I'm not saying that a preseason game is the ultimate display of a player's ability, but it's the first live game action we have against another team.
Here we go. I'll start off with the bad, that way, this analysis can end on a somewhat positive note.
The Offensive Line - There's little more to be said about the offensive line other than that it's performance was generally horrendous throughout the game. The first-team, in particular, was manhandled by the defensive line of the Jaguars. Ronnie Brown managed a worse-than-anemic 8 yards on 8 carries, due to little fault of his own. Almost half of the times he was handed the ball, the line had already collapsed, allowing several Jags defenders to get into the backfield. Brown will have no chance of having a "break-out" season if he can't even reach the line of scrimmage without a fight. The pass protection wasn't much better. Trent Green never had the opportunity to stand in the pocket for more than a split second and scan the secondary. He was constantly flushed out and forced to scramble around behind the line of scrimmage - never a good thing - and that ended up leading to a fumble. I really can't think of a positive thing to say about the OL after this first game.
Trent Green - Trent looked like he did during the second half of last season after he was still recovering from his concussion. He looked tired and slow and he was very inefficient. The most worrying thing about his performance wasn't his quarterback rating or his interception. The most worrying thing to me was the way his passes looked. All of his passes were so noticeably slow in reaching their target and they lacked the accuracy that is supposed to be Green's strong point. His deep ball to Ted Ginn was awful, but his short passes didn't look any better. If he continues to float his passes around, he's going to get picked off constantly. He looked a lot more "old" than he did "experienced" on Saturday.
Travis Daniels - Although he's having an outstanding training camp, Daniels allowed himself to get beat several times during this game, especially by Ernest Wilford early in the game. He seemed to be giving the receivers far too much of a cushion, resulting in some easy gains across the middle. In fact, the secondary in general seemed to be playing too lightly, not pressuring the opposing receivers enough at the line.
Moving the Chains - Miami's first-team offense couldn't move the chains at all. The offense only managed four first downs over the entire first half, and that includes one which took all four downs to get. For the game, the Dolphins were 1/11 (only 9%!) on converting third downs. That is atrocious. It doesn't help that Miami's passers averaged a mere 4.4 yards per attempt or that minus Jesse Chatman's 74 yard run, the ball-carriers averaged only 2.67 yards/carry.
Roughing the Passer? - I don't like to harp on the referee's calls since they usually do a fantastic job, but I strongly disagree with that roughing the passer call against Vonnie Holliday. There's obviously a need to protect QBs, but I think the officials have taken it a bit too far recently when it comes to roughing the passer. I suppose the only way Holliday could have avoided the type of contact he made with Leftwich would have been to shrink a few inches. He was basically penalized for standing at his full height and trying to knock the ball out of Leftwich's hand. Was he expected to crouch down in order to accommodate a better height difference between he and the QB? Defenders can't be expected to alter their rush because of a perceived need to protect the QB. It was a bad call.
Brandon Fields - Fields had a bit of a scare on his first punt, having it partially blocked. Although the snap was a bit off, he still took ages to get the kick away. That was a major knock of his coming out of college, and if he doesn't fix that in time for the regular season, teams will be ferociously rushing to punt block him. Thankfully, after that first punt, Fields was golden. He blasted his next three punts over 50 yards and showed some good hang time. Then he followed up his blasts by placing three punts inside the 20 (one inside the 10). I had my doubts about Fields being able to place the ball inside the 20 effectively, but he looked very good in this game.
Jesse Chatman - Chatman continued to make a case for winning a roster spot after he broke out a tremendous 74 yard run. He was patient behind his line, waiting for some blocks to set up and he bounced in the opposite direction after he saw there were no running lanes to the right. He showed a great burst of speed that I didn't know he had and outran several defenders that were hot on his heels.
Defensive Front Seven - Even without Zach Thomas, Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, and Keith Traylor, the defensive front seven did some very good things. A lot of young guys like Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Rodrique Wright stepped up and pressured the QB. Matt Roth showed good effort on his sack as well. The defense also held the Jags to 2 yards per rush.
Crisis Averted/Overall Health - Miami fans let out a huge gasp when LT Vernon Carey went down in the first quarter with a knee injury, but thankfully he was up and walking soon after. By all indications, the injury doesn't appear to be serious and Carey will be back soon. If he had gone down with anything serious, the offensive line would stand almost no chance this season. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the Dolphins made it out of this first exhibition game with no major injuries and relatively healthy.
Play of the Game - Jesse Chatman's 74 yard TD run.
Player of the Game - Brandon Fields (not to belittle Fields, but you know it wasn't a great night when the punter was probably the best and most consistent player on the field.)
Again, this is only the first preseason game. Things will change, hopefully for the better. Until then, we just have to take this one game at a time and look for problem areas to slowly improve.