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The excitement of finally getting to see Mike Wallace contribute in a big way was tempered by the long-term loss of tight end Dustin Keller. One step forward, one step back. This is why the preseason is so exasperating.
Multiple reports confirm that Keller’s season is over. Sadly, he really didn’t have a chance on the play. No time to brace for impact. Just a solid hit on an unsuspecting knee. You saw him writhing in pain. You saw him slam his helmet. You saw the look of frustration painted on his face. It was the type of play you dread, a play that leaves you with an empty feeling, a helpless feeling.
No use sugarcoating this. Keller was an important part of this offense and possessed receiving skills that were far more polished than any other tight end on the team. The Dolphins were counting on him. Keller was counting on a strong season, given in part because he took somewhat of a gamble signing a one-year contract.
You really feel for him. He was having a strong camp and the chemistry was rapidly developing between him and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
And now? The Dolphins must hope rookie Dion Sims can fast forward his development, must hope that second-year tight end Michael Egnew can continue a promising summer, must hope that Charles Clay can step forward as a legitimate down-the-middle threat. A lot of must hopes. That’s what happens when you lose a player of Keller’s caliber.
And then there’s Wallace. As dispiriting as the Keller injury was, the performance of Wallace soothed some of the disappointment. You wanted to see Wallace. We all wanted to see Wallace. Well, we got a large dose of him in that first quarter, Wallace catching three passes and a touchdown and delivering a lane clearing block on a Lamar Miller touchdown run.
I saw exactly what I was hoping to see. Excellent hands. A real burst down the field. Quick, decisive moves. And, perhaps most of all, a real confidence shown by Tannehill to go in Wallace’s direction. This was an important step, no disputing that.
But that wasn’t the only important step taking by this team against the Texans. The first team Dolphins, both on offense and defense, showed real positive signs against an excellent playoff-ready team. Here’s 10 of those signs:
1. The starting defense played two series and some of another and I got the feeling Joe Philbin saw everything he needed to see. This group is impressive and certainly looks like it is ready for the regular season to begin. So why show too much? Why keep these players on the field if it isn’t necessary? I like that thinking.
2. Any doubts about cornerback Brent Grimes? There shouldn’t be. His first quarter interception of a Matt Schaub pass was a thing of beauty. This is a superior athlete who has a chance to be a top five corner in this league.
3. Cameron Wake looks like he is picking up exactly where he left off last season. Translation: Almost impossible to consistently block.
4. Love the aggressive play-calling of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The safety blitz by Reshad Jones. The constant pressure from both sides. The mindset he has instilled in his secondary.
5. We really got to see the athletic ability of Tannehill on a few first half scrambles. With the problems the offensive line is still experiencing, Tannehill’s running ability could prove to be very important.
6. A couple of young defensive linemen are making things interesting in the deepest area of the team. Keep an eye out on undrafted rookie A.J. Francis and second-year player Kheeston Randall. Both made statements against the Texans.
7. As good as Wallace was, don’t overlook free agent receiver Brandon Gibson. While he doesn’t have Wallace’s speed – who does? – Gibson might have the best hands on the team.
8. Every game Brandon Fields nails at least one punt that leaves me shaking my head.
10. That’s two straight solid outings for left tackle Jonathan Martin.
My major concerns at this point?
• The right guard spot remains a huge question mark and, with John Jerry expecting to return this week, it’s a must to get this starting group working together. Josh Samuda struggled against the Texans. (Note: Most of the six sacks were given up by the second and third team line).
• Nobody has seized the starting running back spot, though both Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have shown flashes and you can make the argument that Thomas is now slightly ahead. I’ve never been a big fan of sharing carries, but this may be the only way to go.
• Tannehill still has a tendency to hold the ball too long, but it’s hard to tell whether he’s being prudent or overly careful.
• And, of course, somebody has to step up for Keller.
Two more preseason games. Still plenty to work on.
Coming Tuesday: A.C. in the A.M. focuses on free agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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