Preseason game 1 key takeaways

Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) gains yards during the second half of the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Dolphins won, 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) gains yards during the second half of the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Dolphins won, 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

Let’s take a look at areas the Dolphins did well and areas they need improvement on. We will also explore players who need to step up and players who are exceeding our expectations

First of all win, lose or draw it is great to have football season again and being able to talk football with other passionate Dolphins fans. All of the things discussed are in reaction to just one pre-season game so lets not stress too much.  Now for some areas Miami shined and areas they need work.

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Things Miami did well in game 1

1) Adam Gase

Early in this contest the Dolphins were dreadful. The offense and the defense looked like garbage. No one was making plays and nothing was going right and that is when I noticed something I liked about Gase. He stuck with the run game despite how terrible the Ajayi/Offensive line combination was and it was great to see. A coach who commits to the running game is a breath of fresh air.

2) The secondary consistently looked for the ball

It was impressive how well the entire secondary played. Granted it was nearly all backups versus backups but one thing was consistent. The corners were staying with their men and turning their heads around to find the ball in the air. This led to multiple interceptions and pass breakups and Lou Anarumo and Vance Joseph deserve credit. Even though the Dolphins fielded a no name secondary, they ALL looked ready to play and that is good coaching.

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3) Special Teams

Special Teams coach Darren Rizzi is now with his 3rd coaching staff in Miami dating back to the Tony Sparano days and there is a reason for that. The man gets his unit to play well and who doesn’t love to watch him erupt when someone’s gets on his bad side? The special teams unit was phenomenal and if the past is any indication, its high level of play will continue into the season.

Areas Miami needs to improve

1) Starting Offensive Line

The best word to describe the offensive line would be rotten. They looked weak and lifeless and they got blown off the ball in the running game and couldn’t stay in front of the defenders in the passing game. Joe Philbin isn’t on the sideline anymore but that offensive line definitely made it seem like he was. All reports from training camp are the O-line has been man handled by Miami’s defense and they carried that momentum into this game. This is definitely something to be concerned with right now.

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2) Offensive efficiency

Miami won the game but don’t forget Miami did not have a single first down in this game until 6:45 left in the second quarter. That is not good any way you slice it. Chalk it up to pre-season rust but this is another issue that has lingered over from training camp.

3) Penalties

The refs like to throw a lot of flags in the pre-season but the Dolphins compiled 6 penalties in the first quarter alone. Don’t be worried too much at this point but it was obviously a problem.

4) Missed tackles

I started counting missed tackles right away when the game started and then stopped after Kiko Alonso and Isa-Abdul Quddus wiffed at the goal line on the monstrous 6’1, 230 pound Rashad Jennings. There was no need to keep track after that because the problem was so glaring. This might just be a combination of rust, not being allowed to tackle enough in camp and the opposing running backs fresh legs. Next week will tell is if this might be a chronic problem.

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Players who played well

1) Jakeem Grant

Every time Grant touched the ball it was must see tv. He was shifty, elusive and blazing fast. Not only did he return the ball well but caught some balls as a wide receiver and showed he can be a valuable member of this team. The lone knock on him is his size and the question if his 5’7, 160 pound frame can withstand the beatings of the NFL. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a minor rib injury.

2) Bobby McCain

Bobby McCain was a guy I thought needed a big preseason and he is off to a great start. He was flagged for a phantom illegal hands to the face while being held by a WR and then tore the Giants offense apart for the rest of the game. He is known for his tenacity and he showed his ability to break on the ball and jump routes. He also made a huge play in man coverage high pointing the ball and robbed the WR with a great interception. That game put him in command for the starting Nickel Corner slot.

3) Kiko Alonso

Yes he missed an important goal line tackle but I had to know who number 47 was. He was all over the field and was a magnet to the football especially in the running game. No other linebacker on that roster has that special nose for the football and hopefully he can stay healthy and keep playing that aggressively because he is the real deal.

4) Brandon Doughty

He was sharp from the first play to his last. He made good decisions and went through his progression very quickly. He was very accurate with his ball placement and showed how smart he is. His best play was on a screen pass that simply wasn’t there and decided to slide down and take a short loss instead of forcing a pass into a dangerous situation. If he plays like this through all four games there’s no way he’s on a practice squad.

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5) James Michael Johnson

Johnson showed his ability to drop into coverage and break up passes and made multiple solo tackles in the running game. For a Linebacker unit that needs depth he showed he can be counted on.

6) Walt Aikens

Walt Aikens never looked as good as he did last night when the Dolphins put him in the box. He was a menace behind the Giants line of scrimmage and he has been o.k. in the past in coverage.

7) Matt Darr

People don’t watch football for punting but Matt Darr was booming it at an All-Pro level. He is the total package of hang time, distance and putting spin on the ball inside the 20.

8) Mike Hull

Hull made 2 special teams tackles and also took snaps later in the game at linebacker where he made a couple more plays. Special teams is his golden ticket and he took care of business.

9) Isaiah Pead

Pead was the most explosive and energetic running back the Dolphins fielded last night. He has great burst and showed good lateral ability and made a great spin move. Unless the Dolphins carry 4 running backs into the season they will have a tough choice to make between Pead, Williams and Thomas.

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Players the team needs to see more from

1) Jordan Phillips

When the Dolphins drafted him in the second round last year I thought he was a steal. He has done little to warrant that excitement since. His height should be a strength but it has been a weakness. He committed a hands to the face penalty early on, he couldn’t stop the offensive lineman from getting under his pads and moving him from the point of attack and he absolutely got flattened on the goal line last night. He’s a mountain of a man but plays more like a man than a mountain. He is also not much of a pass rusher due to his limited speed. He needs a lot of work if the Dolphins are going to count on him this season.

2) Isa-Abdul Quddus

When I saw #24 on the field yesterday I thought it was Brice McCain because he was just constantly missing tackles. Most fans around Detroit were sad to see him leave but he didn’t show us why in game 1. He didn’t make any plays in coverage in his limited action and he missed tackles frequently. Tackles aren’t something to be overly worried about at this point but it needs to get better.

3) Jay Ajayi

The offensive line did nothing to help Ajayi last night but he was completely unable to create on his own which is what the best backs in the NFL do. He also tipped an easy catch up into the air and it allowed defense to make an interception. Arian Fosters chances of being the starter week 1 look good.

4) Billy Turner

Another player I thought would be helping this team by now. Turner didn’t pay well at guard last night and then played even worse at right tackle and was pulled quickly. I think Gase was concerned for the QB’s safety because he was getting bull rushed and ran around. Turner may be riding the bench this year.

5) Jordan Lucas

A 6th round rookie needs to get on the field if he is going to make the team. Not being on the field should be concerning. Next week will hopefully bring more opportunities.

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Let’s not forget this team is still a work in progress with a rookie head coach installing new offensive and defensive schemes. Players are still growing together and this is not the same team we will see in the middle of the season. All in all it is great to have our Dolphins back!

I would love to hear other Dolphins fans sound off on what they took away from the game and players who they thought did well and the players who need to pick up their game.