The Dolphins and Head Coach Adam Gase kicked off the 2016 preseason by beating the New York Giants, 27-10. While the score was lopsided, the Dolphins should not feel overconfident based on the performance of the first team offense.
The start of the 2016 preseason was delayed by about half an hour when a thunder and lightning storm covered MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants, and forced all of the fans and teams, and even Dan Marino, who was in attendance, to seek shelter during the pregame warmups. When the weather finally cleared, and the teams took the field, we finally got the opportunity to see the new-look Dolphins in action.
As everyone has been discussing lately, Ryan Tannehill and the first team offense struggled. They were unable to block, run, pass, or catch. Other than that, they were fantastic. There is no point in rehashing the statistics, because it was obvious to everyone that the 1st string offensive line cannot block. They are unable to open any holes in the running game, and unable to prevent free rushers from going after Tannehill. So it is impossible to really tell how much of the problem is the playcalling, the quarterback, or the skill players.
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Interestingly, once the first teamers came off the field, the Dolphins offense started to show some signs of life. Perhaps that is because they were now facing the Giants’ back-ups, or maybe not. I prefer to think that the better line protection, led by Laremy Tunsil at left guard, helped backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Brandon Doughty to make some plays and show off some of the ingenuity in Gase’s playbook. Gase was able to put his skill guys, particularly Jakeem Grant, in space so that they could use their speed and quickness to gain a bunch of yards after the catch. There was a lot of dink and dunk, but that allowed the Dolphins quarterbacks to quickly spread the ball around and move the chains. On third downs, the playcalling was very good, allowing the Dolphins to pick up first downs that a year ago would have ended with sacks or pointless passes five yards short of the sticks.
On defense, the Dolphins had some trouble with up the middle runs and dumpoffs in the middle of the field. That may be a result of the wide-9 defensive formations, which Miami showed on multiple occasions. However, the Giants were unable to take advantage of those yards, because while New York was able to move the ball a bit, they were constantly stymied by sacks and turnovers. The Dolphins defense, even with all of their starting defensive linemen and Reshad Jones not playing, were pretty dominant, with Chris McCain, Bobby McCain, and Walt Aikens, among others, constantly stepping up and making big plays. Chris McCain was especially impressive, as he played most of the game, and constantly had his motor running.
The special teams play was very strong, with Jakeem Grant again playing a big role, picking up a bunch of yards on kick and punt returns. If he can keep up this pace, then he will be a rookie of the year candidate.
And who could forget that awesome 51 yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore to Matt Hazel, which flew over the head of intended receiver AJ Cruz into the waiting arms of Hazel, who showed amazing concentration in tracking the ball. What a play.
I was lucky enough to have tickets right behind the Dolphins bench, so I was able to see some positive things on the sideline. Among them were Dion Jordan, who was wearing a compression sleeve over his healing left leg, attentively listening in as the defensive line coach talked to the active players; Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams talking to senior defensive assistant, Jim Washburn, throughout the game; the team going wild when Bobby McCain pulled down his interception and Deandre Coleman recovered a fumble; Devante Parker looking like the definition of “fast”, even while he was just walking around the sidelines; Cam Wake dancing at one point to the stadium music; Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Jay Ajayi talking as a group once they came out of the game; Ryan Tannehill smartly ignoring some drunken heckler in the front row.
The Dolphins looked like a competent bunch on Friday, which is a step up from where they were a year ago, when they looked like a bunch of high schoolers at times. They didn’t have many stupid penalties, and they played in control but with passion. It was a pleasure to watch. Here’s hoping that they can continue to improve this week, when they travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys, on Friday, August 19, at 8PM, eastern time.