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Week 10: Bills at Dolphins
Last week I wrote about watching the offensive line, and they performed well, better than what could have been hoped for. The offensive line will be tested again against what is a better front against the Bills, but with injuries to the linebackers they now become the more scrutinized unit.
Last week Elerbe was lost for the season, Misi was also injured and will miss a couple games, Wheeler was ruled out for the game, so the back ups had a go, and they were pretty good. This week Wheeler returns, but with a cast, so he may not get the start, so the Dolphins may be starting this game with three backups, and at the very least two.
As has been seen many times in the NFL, starting is different than coming off the bench. Many players play well coming off the bench, only to struggle once they are inserted as starters. How will these mostly young players perform this week, Wheeler will most likely be limited in his action so much will fall on the shoulders of these mostly young players.
Jason Trusnick, Chris McCain, Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny will be used heavily in this game, Jordan Tripp is still nursing an injury and won't play this week, and as I already pointed out, Wheeler is in a cast. Kelvin Sheppard was signed to fill a spot after the Elerbe injury, but it's unclear right now how much he'll actually play. Regardless, much will fall on some of these mostly young players, how will they respond in this game, they won't be home as they were last week, and they have a week to think about it, that can be tough on younger or inexperienced players.
Chris McCain flashed during the preseason, and kept right on flashing when his number was called last week, with a blocked punt and a sack, this young rookie could be a future starter and star for the Dolphins, but he'll have to continue where he left off last week. Jason Trusnik is the reason I put "mostly" in front of young players, because he's 30. An undrafted free agent by the Jets in 2007, then with the Browns until Miami picked him up in 2011. He has been a steady back up, but he has played like a back up, he looked as good as he ever has last week, will that continue. Jelani Jenkins was a 4th round pick in last years draft, he didn't do much last year but played well last week, can we expect that to continue. Jonathan Freeny has been a project for the Dolphins since 2011 when they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, which is about 10 minutes from where I grew up and lived most of my life. He has looked like he's finally paying dividends as a developmental player, will his play from last week continue.
It's a shame that Tripp is injured, like McCain, this rookie stood out in preseason, many Dolphin fans think he is a future starter for the Dolphins, he really seems to have linebacker instinct, a natural feel for the position wherever he lines up. I wonder if these two impressive young rookies are the future linebackers to star on this team, it almost seems to good to be true, but sometimes when it rains, it pours, we can hope.
So how will this group of players respond, all coming by different routes to the Miami Dolphins, will they have some hiccups, will they pick up where they left off last week, will they look lost out there, it's anyones guess right now. As fans all we can do is watch and hope, mistakes can be forgiven, especially from the rookie McCain, he is a rookie after all, but they're far from alone out there, they have a great defensive line in front of them, led by all world DE Cameron Wake, and a great set of tackles, so they will have those players to lean on. Many of us are really excited to see McCain out there again, is he going to continue to produce big plays, we'll all be watching these mostly young players this week, lets hope we get what we want, emerging stars at the linebacker position.
Last year we suffered some really bad losses. None were more stinging than the final two against the Bills and Jets where 1 win puts Miami in the playoffs. If you look at last year's schedule, Miami played some really good teams and beat them. Then they played some really bad teams and lost. The personality of last year's team was Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. So before we crown them AFC East Champs, we might want to get a flavor of what team Miami has this year. Is it the same as last year? Each week will tell us a little bit more about this team. Next up? The Buffalo Bills in Buffalo...a place Miami has traditionally failed in.
Goes to Game time: 1PM
I watched the Bills beat Chicago yesterday on NFL.com It was a very good win for the Bills. Ironically, I could've put Dolphins Uniforms on them and not realized I was watching the Bills. The teams are very close in ability. Manuel is young and throws an accurate short range pass. As a matter of fact his 16 of 22 outting against Chicago only had 1 mistake. RT was 18-32 last week. So when I see reports giving the QB edge to the Bills, I have to lend it some credence until RT earns it. RB.... Moreno and Miller are probably slightly better than the Bills Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. But not enough to sway a win. The OL's both dominated their respective opponents. The Bills got a few more long runs and the Dolphins were a little more consistent. The WR's were solid, yet unspectacular. The front 4 on defense for both teams created havoc. The LB's were active and adequate. In the secondary, Miami has a more seasoned, experienced secondary, but the Bills came up with two INTs. ST's... solid punters, good kickers, excellent coverage teams.... yes pretty much a wash with maybe a slight edge to Buffalo.
So really this simply boils down to who gets it done on the field. If Miami takes this young Bills team lightly, they will be punished. Their win against Chicago on the road was every bit as impressive as Miami's win against NE at home. We're not giving Manuel his props but he did look good in Chicago. He was hitting guys on the fly, short range and letting them do the work. So here's how I see where the difference might be. The defensive fronts. If both dominate again, it will be up to the QB who does better under pressure. Manuel has his legs but the one errant throw came while under duress. RT seems to throw well under pressure. Quick decisions are going to win the day. The team that can put together a running game, or any semblence of one, will have a distinct advantage. Finally, turnovers will probably end up deciding who wins and who loses. If Miami coughs it up 3 times in one half on the road, it wlll be lights out. In any case, it is a game for first place, albeit early in the season. The team that goes 2-0 will certainly be looking good. It will be another fun game and Miami will find out a little more about its new OL this week.