In recent years the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers have been inexorably linked. Their ownership may be very different, with Stephen Ross kowtowing to the limelight, while Jerry Richardson shies away, but like the coin flip that decided the draft order between two 6-10 teams this year, so too would it be easy to confuse the two organizations from an on-field standpoint.
For the past few years Dolphins' fans have endured a pain we know all too well in the Carolinas- possessing an extremely talented football team, with no QB to right the ship. Miami had been floundering from veteran to veteran, in a vain attempt to get the situation under control. They had their Delhomme in Chad Pennington, another charming Southern QB getting one last shot at glory. The Dolphins tried their hand at playing the second round value QB in Chad Henne, their Jimmy Clausen; and last year when all else failed they played Matt Moore to a modicum of success, but like Carolina the front office knew he wouldn't be a long term option.
Now they made the ‘foolish' decision and drafted a raw, athletic QB, who many say was taken too early, and Miami can only dream Ryan Tannehill does for them what Cam Newton has done in Carolina. In just one preseason game he looks well on the way. While the media fawned over Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Tannehill put forth a fantastic effort against Tampa Bay where he finished 14/21 for 167 yards and a TD. Pre-draft I postulated than when the dust settles it was Tannehill who had the tools to be the best QB in this draft, and in Miami he fell into a good situation (also, Lauren Tannehill>>>>>>Knee socks>Neck beard). Reunited with Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman (now offensive coordinator for Miami), the plays are being specifically tailored to his skillset. Add one of the better offensive lines in football and you have a situation where the Dolphins are only time, and another WR away from getting their offense back on track.
X-Factor: Ryan Tannehill
It's likely Tannehill comes off the bench on Friday against Carolina, in a role T.J. Yates played to a tee. The 2nd and 3rd team defense really struggled, and with Tannehill having something to prove I believe he's the x-factor in this game. He may not have a lot of weapons, but he'll have more than the Panthers' backups have answers for.
Miami run offense v. Carolina run defense
A few years ago under Dan Henning the names of Miami RBs rolled off the tongue. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were synonymous with the Wildcat, and without a good option at QB it worked for them. Now the scheme has changed, where Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas become featured.
Escaping New Orleans (and succubus posing as human Kim K) gave Bush a new lease on life, as even his most staunch critics should recognize his breakout season in 2011. Finally being asked to carry the load, Bush finished with over 1,000 yards at a solid 5 yards per carry. Reggie still fumbles too much (Luke Kuechly will be salivating), but he's a dynamic RB who needs to be schemed for on every down. His compatriot Daniel Thomas is no slouch either, as he finished his rookie campaign with 581 rushing yards.
We don't have a solid idea whether Jon Beason will play on Friday, but given he's currently listed as ‘questionable', I don't see the Panthers taking a risk with their defensive leader. A slashing run style is one that doesn't jive with the Panthers' defensive front, and once again a lot will be asked of backup MLB Jason Phillips. With the 1st team RBs likely playing more than we saw Arian Foster last week it's safe to think the Panthers defense may struggle.
Miami pass offense v. Carolina pass defense
Brace yourself folks, because a Carolina edge in this regard is rarely seen. Thankfully if there's one team with less WR talent than Carolina's DB talent it's Miami.
As it stands the Dolphins' #1 receiver is Legedu Naanee- yes, Legedu Naanee; let that sink in for a second... done laughing yet? Okay, I'll give you a few more moments.
*whistles, looks at watch*
Okay. So in terms of the first team Legedon't will be covered by Chris Gamble, who will take him out to lunch, then eat it for him, then forget to call him the next day even though he promised to go ‘antiquing'. There are reports Naanee has turned the corner, and looked dynamic in training camp. Beat writer Omar Kelly went so far as to blame Cam Newton earlier this week for Naanee's lack of production in 2011, proving that you can make a living as a reporter without ever watching football; but who am I to judge? I got an English degree, and made the honor society while reading about 1/8th of the assigned readings (kids, the art of BS in college is a powerful tool).
Across from Nay-nay-nay-na-noo-noo is Davone Bess, famously known as one of the 25-30 WRs Panthers' fans fawned over when it was rumored he was on the trading block. Hopefully we'll finally get a look at Josh Norman who seems to have shaken off the injury bug, and who turned in an insane practice where he nabbed four interceptions (sorry Josh, still not giving you that self-proclaimed fifth). Ultimately, Norman will be up to the task, Gamble will blanket Legedu-my-eggedu, and from there it will be a ‘They Live' battle of mediocrity between Miami's WR depth, and Carolinas DBs- I'd call it the ‘Keystone Cops battle of the night', but in an effort to skew to a younger demographic I'm calling it "Call of Duty Presents- your Keystone Light Matchup of the week for bros!". In a battle of depth Dolphins WRs v. depth Panthers CBs: Whoever wins, we lose.
The Panthers have to show more this weekend. Ron Rivera was noticeably upset following last week's game, and tearing into the team seems to have achieved a result where Carolina became chippy, and began taking it out on each other. So long as discipline is held in check, there's little concern, and perhaps a little fire is good for them.
The Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins are very close talent wise, except at the QB position where Newton has already arrived, and Tannehill waits in line. With this being the final home preseason game I think Carolina look to take control and put on a show before heading up to New York.
Carolina 27 - Miami 14