It was the kind of night Dolphin fans needed to see. A week after getting dominated by the Falcons in Atlanta, the Dolphins’ starting units got the best of the Panthers for the duration of the first half, taking a 17-0 lead into the locker room despite probably leaving some points on the field.
The return of Brandon Marshall and the debut of Reggie Bush did wonders for Chad Henne, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 194 yards and most importantly didn’t turn the football over.
Ten of Henne’s competitions were to Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess (five each), who ate the Panthers up in the short to intermediate passing game, and two went to Reggie Bush for 33 yards.
Bush not only looked explosive in the open field as a receiving threat, but he surprisingly stole the show on the ground as well. Bush made the most of his eight carries, running behind some great push up front for 48 yards.
The same interior O-line that looked inept a week ago had its way with the Panthers’ front seven, also giving second-round pick Daniel Thomas some holes to work with. Thomas carried the ball 12 times for 52 yards and scored his first touchdown as a pro.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins’ first-team defense erased concerns that were had after Atlanta found success on the ground a week ago. The defensive line was the stout unit we fondly remembered from a year ago and the inside linebacker duo of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett was all over the field, combining for four tackles apiece.
While he didn’t make any costly mistakes, Cam Newton indeed looked like a rookie in his first start, and one of the game’s elite backs, DeAngelo Williams, only managed six yards on three carries.
By my account, neither Sean Smith nor Vontae Davis gave up a reception and while Newton was able to hook up with tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olson a handful of times, the Dolphins kept both in check for modest gains.
For all of the positive signs we saw tonight, though, a little perspective is in order. Several key members of the Panthers, including the likes of stud middle linebacker Jon Beason, starting cornerback Chris Gamble, and the older but still effective Steve Smith, were inactive tonight.
Essentially, the Dolphins faced a watered-down version of what was the worst team in football a year ago. So while tonight was surely a success for the Dolphins’ starters, everything we saw should be taken with a grain of salt.
Having said that, though, the Dolphins did what they had to do. They handedly outplayed the Panthers on both sides of the football and were clearly the better team. But just like it was important not to overreact to the struggles last week in the first preseason game, it’s no time to get overly excited about tonight.
It was an important step in the right direction, nonetheless. We went into tonight’s game with three major concerns from last week: Chad Henne’s erratic play, the lifeless running game, and a run defense that unexpectedly got pushed around in Atlanta.
Those concerns on the offensive side of the ball certainly haven’t been put to rest after one half of action, but it’s hard not to feel better about this football team after what we saw tonight.
Game Ball: Reggie Bush- 8 carries, 48 yards, 2 receptions, 33 yards