The Miami Dolphins had their ups and downs last night, and displayed jitters and mistakes that are to be expected in the first preseason game of the year. While the game does not count towards Miami’s 2013-2014 campaign, it would be foolish to say that yesterday’s game, or preseason games in general, do not matter. For the coaches it is a way to try new formations and groups of players together to see who works best as a unit (like the offensive line). For the starters it is about warming up the gears and beginning to start thinking in the football mindset again. For the players on the fringe of making the 53 man roster, it is a chance to prove themselves worthy and to separate themselves from each other to impress the coaching staff. And for fans and amateur analysts, it is about evaluating each and every aspect of the game and hopefully spotting a diamond in the preseason rough. Last night, third string QB Pat Devlin was my diamond.
Recently, I wrote an article praising QB Matt Moore for being one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks. Yes, Moore struggled last night, but he was also playing with Miami’s second and third string linemen. Seeing that Miami has enough issues with their starting five anchors (Pouncey and Incognito excluded), I think we should give Moore a break on this one. Furthermore, after what I saw last night, I believe the Dolphins have one of the league’s best third-string quarterbacks in Devlin.
Devlin patiently waited until the second half to play but ended up playing the majority of the half. He completed 8 of his 13 passes for 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. By no means incredible numbers, but not bad for a little under two quarters. The stat that sticks out the most to me was Devlin’s 0 interceptions, meaning he took care of the ball. Devlin’s one really bad throw of the night came on a fade to WR Chad Bumphis on the right sideline in Cowboy territory. Devlin overthrew Bumphis (who should have been running harder to make a play on the ball) and the ball was intercepted out of bounds by DB Micah Pellerin.
Besides that one slip up, Devlin was all professional. He showed the intangibles needed to be a starting NFL quarterback in this league. He quickly progressed through his reads, checked down if everything else was covered, and most importantly he felt pressure and stepped up in the pocket. On one play, Devlin failed to find an open receiver, felt the pocket collapsing, and took off up the middle for a 14 yard pickup and a Miami first down. It is awareness and intelligence that make NFL quarterbacks great, and Devlin showed both of these attributes last night.
Devlin also threw Miami’s lone touchdown of the game to WR Keenan Davis. On 4th and Goal from the Dallas 5 yard line, Devlin fired a bullet to Davis on a slant. The timing and accuracy of the throw could not have been more perfect, and Devlin hit Davis right on the chest. The play was one of the highlights of the game in my opinion, and capped off a beautifully engineered drive by Miami’s young gunslinger.
It is easy to use the first preseason game to complain about a team’s problems, or to simply say “It’s preseason, it doesn’t even matter.” But in reality there is too much going on not to watch. It is the one chance for fans to watch hungry young players battle it out for a roster spot before being shipped off to another city to fight for a spot on another team. It is an opportunity to observe a Division III quarterback from Monmouth College, only to learn that he holds the NCAA record for all time career passing touchdowns and is a YouTube sensation. It is also a chance to see the future of an organization. Yes, Matt Moore just signed a two year extension and is still one of the best backup QB’s in the league with tons of experience as a starter. Yes, Pat Devlin is still maturing and has yet to play a snap with the first string. Yes, this is Ryan Tannehill’s team and will remain his team throughout his time in Miami. But all of that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy these next four preseason games watching my diamond shine.