The Dolphins opened their 2013 campaign yesterday with win at Cleveland. But today, I have mixed emotions about the outlook of the upcoming season. There are a lot of takeaways from the game, some good, some bad, and some downright nasty.
The defense looks scary and could develop into downright dominant. The secondary blanketed the Browns receivers and came away with three interceptions. This is something the Dolphins sorely missed last season. In addition to that, the play of the front 7 had Brandon Weeden on his backside most of the second half. Cameron Wake ended up with 2.5 of the team's 6 sacks. Having a dominant pass rush is critical for success against teams like New England.
Ryan Tannehill took a huge step forward as the leader of this team. His passes were accurate, completing over 63% of the day. His one interception was a tipped ball. Overall he looked to take a huge step forward in maturity as his passes were sharp, on target, and spread the ball around. This Ryan Tannehill is far improved from the guy that threw 4 interceptions this week a season ago.
The Dolphins' running game has been abysmal in week 1. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for an overwhelmingly awful 17 yards on 18 carries. At one point, the Dolphins would have been better to take a knee than to try to run the ball, because they were losing 3 yards every time they tried. Coach Joe Philbin needs to find some way to help open up the game on the ground, or else this team will struggle mightily. It is difficult to determine if the offensive line is to blame, or if the running back position just lacks talent. But, the coaching staff has to figure this out soon.
The Dolphins' lack of discipline showed yesterday as they were called 10 penalties for 77 yards. In 2012, the Dolphins were the 5th least penalized team in the league, averaging just over 46 yards per game. Yesterday's performance would have put them dead last in the league in that category. Most glaring, was the holding call on Nolan Carroll that negated a punt return touchdown by Marcus Thigpen. The Dolphins MUST clean this up in order to be successful. There's no need to add additional hardship by committing penalties.
Further ugliness reared its head after the game, when new receiver Mike Wallace apparently showed his displeasure to the media. Wallace was apparently upset about his level of participation in the game, and made it known. Its unprofessional to air your dirty laundry like that, and something tells me Coach Philbin might take Wallace aside today to discuss his antics.
But perhaps the ugliest of all was Randy Starks giving "the finger" to the Dolphins' sideline after a sack. This is the kind of thing that gets you on a bus out of town. Starks was apparently upset about not starting the game, giving way to Jared Odrick on the team's first series. Rumor was that Starks was being punished for his holdout to start camp. But giving you own team and coaches the big "F you" from the field is not likely to sit well with the boss after week 1.
Overall, after watching the performance in Cleveland yesterday, I have a better feeling going into next week's game at Indy. The team exceeded my expectation and the defense impressed me a lot. I'm looking forward to see how the next week progresses, and to see if the team can address the glaring weakness shown this week.