Last night in Canton, Ohio, the Miami Dolphins got their first taste of preseason action, as they were narrowly defeated by the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game 24-20. Quarterback Matt Moore threw for 238 yards and one touchdown, and Pat Devlin contributed with 86 yards passing and a TD as well.
Despite the loss, there were several things that the Dolphins can build on from this game, and teachable moments that coaches can use in the future.
Here are some of my takeaways from last night’s game:
1) Reserve Runners Show Promise – It wasn’t a long night for players like quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller, so the Dolphins looked for their rising stars to carry the workload. Running backs Jonas Gray and Mike Gillislee showed that they could not only run the football with quickness and elusiveness, but also catch the football equally as well coming out of the backfield. Gray had 41 yards on the ground on seven carries, and showed that he could run behind his pads. Gillislee displayed great vision, and the ability to elude incoming tackles in the open field. It’s clear that these two young running backs will definitely push Daniel Thomas for playing time as the preseason progresses.
2) Pressure From The Edge – With Cameron Wake only playing a handful of plays, and Olivier Vernon not participating, it gave a huge opportunity to players like Derrick Shelby and rookie first round draft choice Dion Jordan to showcase their abilities rushing the passer. Shelby ended the evening with 2 sacks, while Jordan flashed speed and quickness, adding a couple of pressures on the evening. The worked in tandem to provide a consistent pass rush on the collection of Dallas quarterbacks. Jordan also displayed his flexibility by lining up on the line of scrimmage, and dropping back into coverage from a linebacker position. This is something we may see when players like Wake and Vernon are in their normal positions. This may add to the flexibility of the defense, and the variety of schemes we see during the regular season.
3) Making Their Mark – With wideouts Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline given the night off, players like Chad Bumphis and Keenan Davis may have separated from the rest of the wide receiver pack. Bumphis led all Dolphin receivers with five receptions for 85 yards, including a long of 45. Despite the mistake that led to a Dallas interception return touchdown, Bumphis was able to bounce back, and give the Dolphin quarterbacks an open target in the Cowboys secondary.
Davis made several key receptions using his strength and size on the inside, including the 5 yard slant route for the first Dolphins score. A newcomer to the roster, Davis was able to build off of a stellar Friday practice, and carry it over to live game action.
Some Quick Hits:
– Head Coach Joe Philbin will have teaching points from the Hall of Fame game to work on before Friday’s exhibition contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m quite sure that turnovers and red zone efficiency will be two of the areas that the Dolphins will continue to focus on.
– Dan Carpenter handled the kicking duties, and had a clean performance, making both of his field goal attempts. He hit from 27 yards out, and another from 45 yards out. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis did not kick in the contest, but look for Sturgis to possibly handle the kicking duties against the Jaguars.
– Another position battle to watch throughout the preseason is the tight end position. Starter Dustin Keller had limited playing time, and that allowed reserves like Kyle Miller and Michael Egnew to get plenty of chances to make an impact. Miller caught 3 balls for 35 yards with a long of 24, including a touchdown late in the game. Egnew came back after an early drop to finish with 4 receptions for 52 yards, and a long of 25. He’ll need to back that up with another good performance on Friday.
– If there’s one area that needs to improve, it’s the second and third string units on the offensive line. It will be crucial to identify who are the six and seventh best players in that unit, so the Dolphins can build some type of the depth at that position.
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