Let me get to the most important thing first: The old Miami Dolphins' Fight Song is light years better than the T-Pain version the new ownership tried to thrust upon everyone in the preseason-opener. Tonight, the old, faithful version was played in the stadium and I was one of the throngs that decided it was better.
Yes, I come down on the side of the banjo over autotunes. I'm sure Mr. Pain, who has more recording success than most lately, will understand this traditionalist is not in his corner.
Go old school!
On to the game: The Dolphins improved their preseason record to 2-0. They did it behind some excellent rush offense from the first to the third units. The Dolphins rushed 28 times for 141 yards, which is a 5.0 yard per carry average.
Lex Hilliard led the charge with 52 yards on nine carries. It was an important night for Hilliard because he's in a tough spot. He is the fourth running back on a team that might only keep three. And you know Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs are making this team.
So Hilliard made the point he can be an option on the roster if coaches decide he's too valuable to expose to practice squad while adding him as a special teams performer. And it seems special teams is how Hilliard must make it.
"Lex is a big back that runs like a big back," coach Tony Sparano said. "But we have to look at the film to see how he did on special teams."
I do not want to be a party pooper but I have to be honest with you. The Panthers are not a good run defense. They are desperately searching for defensive tackle help. It did factor into how successful Miami was as much as Jacksonville's stout middle factored into how poorly the Dolphins ran the ball last week.
The Dolphins ran five Wildcat package plays. They netted, in order, 3, 0, 11, 4, and 35 yards. The 35-yarder was on a flea-flicker in which Ronnie Brown flips the ball to Chad Pennington, who throws downfield to Patrick Cobbs. It was the same play the Dolphins ran against the Houston Texans last year.
In fact, all the plays were the same the Dolphins ran out of Wildcat last year. And that's exactly what the Dolphins wanted to show.
"We ran the same four plays that every NFL team has about 95 cut-up plays of us," Sparano said. "It's the same four plays we ran all last year so there are no secrets there. But it is a good homework for us. We put the same four plays out there and you get a chance to see what people have been studying their whole offseason and how they want to defend us a little bit. it gives us a good chance to find some things out."
So running the old Wildcat plays shows Miami's opponents nothing, but it shows Miami how opponents are adjusting. As I've written over and over, expect not one Wildcat or WildPat or Wildcat 2.0 play this preseason. That won't be unveiled until the regular season.
All of Miami's QBs had good nights. Chad Pennington had a rating of 132.8 which is excellent. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 105 yards with 1 touchdown. Chad Henne's rating was 94.5 as he completed 10 of 16 passes for 75 yards with one TD. Pat White got very limited second-quarter play as was the plan, Sparano said. White completed 2 of 3 passes for 4 yards, but he seemed to get out from under center quicker this week than last week -- an improvement.
Donald Thomas, who passed Shawn Murphy for the starting RG job last week, played well as far as the naked eye can tell. He played into the second half.
"I need all the plays I can get," Thomas said. "If they told me, 'Play the whole game,' I would have been fine with that. I feel good. Once we go back Monday and look at the film, I'm sure it will say I still have a lot of stuff to clean up. Tonight was a learning tool."
If you are a diligent reader of this blog, you know the Dolphins are emphasizing third down efficiency this year. Third down is the money down. Third down is when big-time players must step up to make big-time plays.
The Miami offense converted 6 of 14 third down situations for an excellent 43 percent. The Panthers converted only 2 of 11 for 18 percent, which translates to great work by the defense.
The Miami defense had only one sack. But it had plenty of pressure.
"We were both out there trying to get some real rushes in," Joey Porter said of his attack of the QB along with Jason Taylor. "I think our young guys showed up and made some big plays. Cameron Wake got to the quarterback. Q. Moses got to the quarterback. All those guys got some good playes in there, so I think it was a good evaluation for everybody to show that our dropoff isn't that bad no matter who is in the game."
Speaking of pass-rush pressure, the Panthers got one sack. That came when rookie Everette Brown beat Jake Long for a sack.
Bigtime Julius Peppers put that sack in perspective, however, when he was asked about his personal matchup with Long.
"All this is practice with a time and a score," Peppers said. "It's not like we are game-planning for each other or trying to make any statements right now."
The special teams, particularly the starting special teams, is a concern. They gave up a 58-yard punt return by Captain Munnerlyn, which set up a field goal attempt.