Here at ProFootballFocus.com we make a big deal out of saying “we’re not scouts” – In the vast majority of cases this is true and we ask our analysts simply to focus on the objective answer to the question “did that person achieve what they attempted?” However, we believe it’s also nice to have some opinion mixed in with all those numbers so every week Karl Reitz will be breaking down game film without the aid of a 50 page rating manual and analysis application.
It’s a different take on things and we hope you enjoy us audibling out of the normal PFF playbook with the second of our weekly series of deeper looks at NFL games, players and schemes.
Miami QB Chad Henne: Many of the Dolphins’ hopes this year have been placed squarely on the shoulders of their strong-armed young quarterback. In his first opening day start, Henne looked calm and collected in the pocket and displayed good footwork (when the line wasn’t stepping on him). The Dolphins presented him with a new toy this offseason in Brandon Marshall, and Henne wasted no time in using him. Problem was, Henne became a little too enamored with Marshall at times and would look nowhere else but at him or would come off other options too quickly to find him.
He will have to do a better job at going through his progressions and not locking on to receivers. Henne’s second half was better, as he spread the ball around more. He also didn’t take many shots down the field (except when Marshall left the defense in his rear view mirror and “big arm” Henne under threw him) and eventually has to take some chances.
Miami’s interior O-Line: The Dolphins rebuilt the interior of their line this offseason by signing Richie Incognito and drafting John Jerry while releasing Jake Grove and promoting Joe Berger to starting center. Jerry took over the right guard position and showed well in his first NFL game. In the run game, he was getting a good push off the snap and was able to drive defenders back. He struggled at times in the passing game due mostly to his footwork. Jerry wasn’t moving well laterally and would at times latch on to a defender while standing in one place, forcing him off balance.
Incognito and Berger are power players who controlled the point of attack for the majority of the game. They didn’t create as many holes as the coaching staff would like, but were able to engage and control their own blocks.
Miami’s pass rush: If you haven’t seen Cameron Wake rush the passer, you might want to tune into the Dolphins’ game next week. He has a rare combination of power and speed that coaches dream about. Wake has a burst off the line that few in the league can rival and he will use it to blow past the tackle. On the very next play he’ll bull-rush the lineman straight back to the quarterback. Mike Nolan threw many different blitz packages at the Bills’ offense (on the third play, he sent Wake, Karlos Dansby, and Koa Misi from the same side) and it seemed Edwards rarely had time.
Miami CB Jason Allen: It was a surprise when the Dolphins named Allen the starter over 16-game rookie starter Sean Smith (who didn’t touch the field), but the reasoning was fairly clear Sunday. Miami had Allen follow Buffalo’s best receiver all over the field, and he limited Lee Evans to 4 catches for 34 yards. He played aggressive and was consistently jumping routes, which should have resulted in at least one pick-six. Allen didn’t get caught watching the quarterback like he has in the past and was always on top of Evans to make the tackle right away.
Dolphins notes: Miami showcased the Wildcat a few times, but it was quickly sniffed out by the Bills. They didn’t seem committed to it as they have in years past, and this may not be such a bad thing considering their progression as an offense. … Marshall proved to be worth the investment, consistently getting separation. The Bills oddly chose to use single coverage on him many times and he made them pay for it. … WR Brian Hartline won the other starting job in camp, but struggled with two drops and wasn’t finding much room to get open. The playcalling appeared to be a little safe against a team with no real weapons on defense. Miami will have to open things up a little more in coming weeks and take more shots down the field. … The only time the defense struggled as a unit was when Buffalo went into the hurry-up, and they would have stopped that at as well if Tyrone Culver hadn’t got caught sleeping and let Roscoe Parrish run by for a touchdown on fourth and 11. … Nolan had the unit ready to play and they were aggressive. The players were swarming to the ball and missed very few tackles.
Buffalo RB C.J. Spiller: The Buffalo offensive line didn’t give Spiller much of a chance for success, and Spiller didn’t exactly light it up when he touched the ball. He was too hesitant in the backfield. It’s the Reggie Bush syndrome. When an explosive player is in college, he can be hesitant and run laterally looking for holes because, well, the competition isn’t great. When he hits the NFL he continues that trend, but quickly finds out it doesn’t work. The defenders are smarter and faster and will eat you up for a loss if you hesitate. Spiller will learn that when there isn’t anything there, he needs to take the 1 or 2 yards presented instead of trying to turn it into a big play and lose yardage.
Buffalo QB Trent Edwards: Aside from being rushed to throw every ball, Edwards didn’t look all that bad. He was in control while in the pocket and didn’t let the pass rush disrupt him. He able to get rid of the ball without giving up too many sacks, but they were mostly dump-offs. He made two big mistakes, the same mistake actually, when he threw late on out patterns. Benny Sapp and Allen both should have had touchdowns, but luckily for Edwards, they play defensive back and not wide receiver. Miami was able to disguise its young secondary by making the quarterback rush throws — Edwards may have been able to make more plays if he had a few more seconds.
Buffalo’s pass rush: The defense tallied 3 sacks, but 2 were on missed blocks by skill players. Jake Long and Vernon Carey had their way with Chris Ellis and Chris Kelsay all afternoon. They weren’t showing the burst off the line or the power it takes to beat two top-notch tackles. They will need to disguise blitzes better or bigger-armed quarterbacks could be in for big days against them.
Buffalo’s run defense: The interior of their rush defense held up pretty well. Kyle Williams and Marcus Stroud were able to hold up the middle of the line and not get pushed back off the line of scrimmage much. The real damage by Miami was done on the outside. The Bills were playing their outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage, in tight next to the defensive line. Once a Miami runner got outside, Buffalo didn’t have the speed to catch them until they hit the secondary. They might want to consider starting the outside linebackers out wider to limit some of the damage.
Bills notes: The offensive line got man-handled. The Bills rotated two left tackles (I know, doesn’t sound like a smart idea), Demetrius Bell and Jamon Meredith, and neither fared well. They were getting no push off the line, the footwork wasn’t there, and they were missing assignments. On the right side, Cornell Green got pushed around by Wake all day. The line as a whole didn’t seem in sync and wasn’t giving the running game holes or sealing off any lanes. … The Dolphins were able to move the ball relatively well on the Bills until they crossed the 50. The Bills seemed to flip a switch when backed into their zone and became more aggressive. … The secondary did a good job on Marshall for the most part. He is known for turning nothing into something, but the Bills’ defenders were on him as soon as he touched the ball. The defense as a whole needs to become more aggressive. … There were no real opportunities for turnovers, and in this league you need to be able to create them to win.