It wasn't clean, and it wasn't always pretty, but the Dolphins started the 2009 pre-season off with a win Monday night with a 12-9 victory over Jack Del Rio and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A third quarter, 33-yard Henne-tossed touchdown reception by tight end Ernest Wilford (not a typo!) capped off a field goal each from Dan Carpenter and Connor Barth to secure victory on a rain-soaked infield -- and with it, the former wide receiver and general bust surpassed his productivity from the whole of last season.
(Wilford couldn't even act like he'd been there before: his awkward celebratory spike looked as if it might cost him a hamstring or a bloody nose.)
Wilford's move to TE wasn't the only talking point:
* At QB, the game was about seeing Chad Henne in game situations. The second-year pro replaced Pennington after two series, and proceeded to acquit himself rather nicely despite the struggling offense, going 7 for 11 for 94. Though the game's first turnover came when he threw "a poor decision" behind rookie TE John Nalbone and the ball was tipped into the waiting arms of Jax corner Brian Witherspoon, Henne proved to be resilient, tossing his TD pass to Wilford on the next series.
* Pat White looked as good as 2-7, one interception can: the third-round pick came in with a few minutes left in the 3rd and suffered three clear drops by three different targets. He ought to have been 5-7 with a chance at a touchdown, and looked far more comfortable on the field than camp reports indicated.
* Ted Ginn, Jr. reported for duty with 2 catches for 22 yards and an end-around for 14 -- not to mention drawing a 34-yard pass interference penalty. "That's a good sign for me," said Tony Sparano.
* The Dolphins were ineffective in the red zone, to put it mildly. Miami could string together sustained drives, but once inside the 20 fell apart in a flurry of penalties, false starts, ineffective run blocking, and dropped balls. A nightmare, every time.
* At right guard, Donald Thomas appeared to outplay Shawn Murphy. But the line didn't prove much where the run game was concerned: Jacksonville held Miami to 7 yards on six inside runs.
* Depth chart separation at corner was obvious. In contrast to Sean Smith, who had a standout evening with solid first-team play and an end zone INT, fellow noob Vontae Davis was a disaster. The first-rounder was whistled for pass interference on a third down, personal foul on a punt return, and fair-catch interference. If we were Vontae, we'd be tempted to switch places with our impostor after all. Starting...now.
Eric Green was also a liability, getting abused for three straight completions in one series by Jacksonville's rag-tag team of wideouts. (Insert Buffalo or New England, and sob.)
* Can Chris Williams make good on the promise he showed in the return game tonight, with an average of 31.8 yards on four carries, and make the team? The first two ended in poor decisions and an uncomfortable-looking sideline tête-à-tête with Sparano, but Williams looked awfully elusive on the following two.
"I mentioned to the coaches in the meeting earlier in the day that might happen," Sparano said. "I said, 'It’s his first game, we’re going to put the guy out here and let him take every one of them. He might drop one of ‘em. We gotta keep going to him.' But you can see his ability. He’s got some big-play ability. He can really go with the football. That’s some of the things that we’ve seen. That was a nice start for him."
Fortunately, we won't have to wait long to find out if it takes: the Dolphins' next pre-season game is Saturday against Carolina.