So I went over the film for week 1. I have graded every player on every play (save for the last couple of Houston drives, where they were just killing clock), and I have come away with some general opinions about the team and its performance last week - so I thought, who better to share it with?
In no particular order:
- Derrick Shelby is a very bright spot for this team. While fellow rookie Olivier Vernon looks inconsistent and not quite up to snuff to deal with an NFL offensive line, #79 made the most of his very limited (13) snaps. I counted 6 instances where he broke through the OL and nearly got to the QB, and a couple others where he at least didn't lose ground - which is quite good, actually, when it happens on running plays.Odrick was impressive too - he had snaps at both DE and DT, and he had mostly positive plays, either penetrating or pushing his guy into the QB. He had a single "no effort" play in the entire game. Wake looks good, but he had quite a few snaps where he was completely ineffective - at points, it looked like he didn't even try. I hadn't noticed that.
- Speaking about the DL, Paul Soliai is a definite beast. I counted only three non-positive plays from him (where he either failed to generate push/penetrate), and they were all in the same drive (second Houston series in the game). Even then, he occupies blockers and lets LBs make plays (that drive was a three and out). Between him and Randy Starks (which main problem this week was that he wasn't fast enough to finish Schaub off after penetrating) we have quite an impressive interior. McDaniel and Randall made cameos; while McDaniel looks impressive (penetration, double teams, the kind of thing that Soliai excels at) Randall looks quite raw still. He played very little (about a couple dozen snaps) and showed very little.
- It's about the little things with the secondary. Clemons is almost always covering deep, with Jones often coming down for an extra presence on the box (or covering the slot receiver). That leads to Clemons backpedaling on almost every play, which in turn causes him to be out of position for some intermediate throws, turning them from incompletions or medium gains into quite big plays. For instance, there were a couple of passes to the middle where Owen Daniels abused Misi (why would you put your slowest LB on the opposition TE is the mistery to me), but he wasn't really *that* wide open - safety support over the top could've turned those balls into incompletions, even INTs. Probably a side effect of having to defend Andre Johnson, who by the way had a quiet game all things considered - the TD at the end of the 1H was a great catch, and I think Smith had pretty good coverage on him. He *could've* pushed him outside, but it's still a good play by him. Johnson benefited mostly from comebacks where his DB (mostly Marshall) gave him a huge cushion, facilitating 10-15 yarders. But check the plays: he gained little YAC. Anyway, both starting CBs played a good game IMO, tight coverage mostly. Jimmy Wilson played very, very few plays (I counted 4, it's still hard to make out the numbers of those guys on some plays) but he impressed me with one particular play, a fantastic coverage of the slot receiver in the 3rd quarter. He played it perfectly, and gained inside position beautifully. But all things considered, it looked like the de facto nickel DB for this game was Jones. Anyway, the main point was that the mistakes are correctable, and I have faith the coaching staff will polish them throughout the season.
- Which, on defense, leaves the LBs. Dansby was irritatingly inconsistent - he had a couple of plays with perfect coverage, but dropped the INT. So good he looked at coverage, in fact, that he went on WRs in a few plays, and looked pretty good at it - except he also gave up an easy catch to Daniels in a play where the coverage looked way too easy to make; he just got lost. He made correct reads on most rushes, but failed to take the correct angle - ended up overpursuing. And he had a particularly awful play in the second drive of the second half, where he read the play correctly, took the right angle, and then whiffed on an easy tackle. As I said, irritating. Burnett is pretty good, and should look strong at Sam all season long. He isn't great at pass defense, but he manages, particularly with safety help. He handles receiver transitions seamlessly. Misi's strong point is the rush defense, and I can't stress enough this guy shouldn't be covering anything except perhaps a small short zone.
- Offensively, the Dolphins seemed to favor one of two personnel groups: Naanee/Bess/RB/Fasano/Clay, or Hartline/Armstrong/Bess/RB, with either Fasano or Clay, depending on situation. RB there stands for "Running Back", not Reggie Bush. Naanee started the game beasting on rushes, with some impressive blocks on DBs to spring long Bush runs. However as the game went on he withered, and didn't really make a good (let alone great) block again until the 3rd quarter. The 1st INT was arguably his fault (he let the DB get inside position on an inside route) and I fail to see what keeps him in games. Bess saw few targets last Sunday, but looked good in his receptions IMO. It's quite clear the team considers Hartline and Armstrong the deep threats: they usually ran posts, deep ins, or deep curls, with an underneath route behind them (to where the pass usually went). Which leads me to...
- Tannehill. Almost all of his 1st half passes were short, dumpoff stuff. In fact, that's a big reason for the three INTs - three stop drops that allowed the D-linemen to raise their arms on basically every pass attempt. They opened it up a little bit in the second half, but then shut if off again near the goal line. He does lock into receivers, but it's not all the time, and it happened less as the game wore on. I guess it's something they're weening him out of. But anyway, he had *a lot* of 3 step drops, and I think it's due to the quality of the Texans DL. They probably thought that wouldn't give them time to penetrate the OL.
- Gah. The OL. Every single player (save perhaps Pouncey, and even he had a lousy block on the very first play) is an inconsistent mess. Long generally looked dominant, but then he has plays like on the second play of the INT2 drive (yeah, I started referring to drives by their turnover number. This game sucked to review). He simply couldn't gain any leverage agains the RDE, giving up an easy tackle and breaking the entire play. But then he's not the biggest offender. Incognito looked very similar to Long - dominant at times, but he had a few plays where you just... gah. On the first Houston drive of the second half, he and Pouncey got split by the RDE, and neither of them could do anything to prevent him crashing into Tannehill. That was an awful play all around (Martin whiffed on his block completely, and so his guy also crashed the pocket, and Long failed to herd his defender all the way downfield; his block would've looked much better if Tannehill had stepped up, but obviously he couldn't) but Incognito's and Pouncey's mistake there was the worst part of it by far. Same story with Jerry - first drive of the game, 6th play, it was a dual screen pass. Except Jerry doesn't hold his defender for even a second, then doesn't go upfield either... just stands there, flabbergasted that his jedi mind tricks don't work on NFL linemen. Then another complete whiff on the first drive of the second half... And Martin remains Martin, mostly solid but giving up the ocassional, easy sack. The whole OL thing could be a post in itself, I dunno. It's just too much inconsistency, and it's killing the passing game.
So, that's my wall of text. If you have questions or wanna debate a specific play I'm more than open to it. I'm actually cutting it a bit short because I want to go grab a bite (lunch hour over here) but I'll probably post something about the Oakland game later.