So the Dolphins first game of the new season is already in the history books in the brave new world of the NFL. It wasn’t the most exciting game to watch and a lot of work still needs to be carried out, but let’s break down some of the key discussion points.
Dolphins First Game Perspective
Firstly let’s remember that there was no preseason, which meant there was no tape, which meant the coaches and players were coming into this game virtually blind in terms of the oppositions plays. New England have had some sort of variation of the same playbook for the past two decades and although it was completely predictable that Cam was going to be running it, nothing else was known about how the offense would function.
Secondly we are still rebuilding. If you think that we’re going to be divisional champions or have a playoff run you’re completely delusional. They simply don’t have the depth or the talent on the offense to facilitate it. However it’s clear that the Dolphins are making some great strides forward and are hopefully putting some of the doubters minds at ease.
Thirdly it’s clear that in the divorce between Brady and Belichick it was the latter who gained custody of the officials. A touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown, an interception that was actually defensive pass interference and a roughing the passer call made even worse by Newton’s farcical ensuing gestures.
Lets start with the defence who I think all in all actually played pretty well. Christian Wilkins had arguably his best game for the Dolphins with 5 tackles, an assist and a sack and Jerome Baker was all over the field making plays and also got a sack.
The big area of concern has to be the lack of ability to stop the run. It was a problem last year and it will remain this year. The patriots had five players who had 4 or more rushing attempts and combined for 217 total yards on the ground.
When you look at the schedule we play against quarterbacks with the ability to run in at least 6 games out of the 16 and annoyingly 4 of those are divisional games so the coaching staff really need to figure out a way to contain.
But again, perspective. This time last year we had just shipped 59 points, 379 passing yards and 265 rushing yards compared to 21 points, 155 passing yards and 217 rushing yards.
Is Fitzmagic dead before the seasons even started? Accuracy was an issue on a number of passes out wide and Adrian Phillips didn’t exactly have to work hard to get his interception as Fitzpatrick was looking directly at him when he threw the ball. The passing game just didn’t seem to get going and the withdrawal of Parker at the half was a huge loss. The interception by Gilmore was unlucky as Williams slipped after ball had been released and the Endzone interception by Jackson should have been called for pass interference.
New England have one of the best defences in football, even when they’re missing the likes of Chung and Hightower but even so they really highlighted our weakness in the passing game. Receivers were rarely able to create separation and some of the route running was sloppy, in those circumstances accuracy is vital. It will be interesting to see when Malcolm Perry and Lynn Bowden Jr. take the field.
The good news is that we didn’t have watch Fitpatrick running all over the field, dodging and swerving tackles thanks to the new Offensive Line. Four new starters including two rookies had potential to be average at best but hats off to Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall who seems to have worked wonders. Austin Jackson had many critics but he had an outstanding first outing at left tackle and whilst overall they maybe didn’t create the gaps they could have for the running game it was a massive upgrade on 2019 and it’s only going to get better.
Big things were expected from Jordan Howard and Matt Brieda in the run game but it was second year Myles Gaskin that stole the show, amassing 68 combined yards and averaging a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. This certainly looked much improved from last year and it was great to see the coaches rotating the backs to see what they can offer. In a rebuild that’s what you need to do, give players the opportunity to perform.
Brieda was quiet but still managed to average 4.4 yards and Howard did what he was brought in to do, provide power at the goal line, even if it did take them three attempts to score which goes some way to explaining his 0.9 yards average.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this was a game the Dolphins could have won. Errors and bad luck played their part but it’s clear that the Patriots don’t intend on being the shrinking violets of the division many people predicted.
Unforced errors need to be cut out, such as throwing a pass directly into the arms of a defender and back peddling when trying to return a punt leading to a loss of yardage. The good news is the fundamentals appear to be there and there’s now a solid base to build on.
There’s still a long way to go, it was the first game of the season and there are a lot of new parts that need time to bed. The offensive side needs work if they’re going to pull of this Chan Gailey led RPO system and I can see a lot of rotation in skill positions over the next few weeks, sorry but not at Quarterback but Tua’s time will come soon enough. The defence looks pretty solid and it will be interesting to see what they can do against a more balanced offense.