In last week’s victory over the Giants, Miami’s defensive unit looked as though they were turning a corner. Last night against the Cowboys, however, the Dolphins defense looked eerily similar to the team that ranked 25th in total defense last season.
The Dallas Cowboys punter almost had the night off last night as the Dolphins defense was unable to stop the Cowboys offense all night. The punter did come out on the Cowboys first possession but it was, essentially, the Cowboys who stopped themselves with an array of penalties called against the first-team offense. Aside from that first drive, the Cowboys offense had their way with the Dolphins in their 41-14 victory.
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Last week’s victory over the New York Giants saw the Dolphins first-team offense perform horrendously while the defense looked impressive in creating four turnovers and shutting out the Giants offense after the 1st quarter. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. were kept out of the game. Had they played, it could have had a different outcome.
The Dolphins defense looked very similar to the team that ranked 25th in total defense last season and 28th against the run. The Cowboys pushed the Dolphins defense around all night in their second preseason game. Alfred Morris ran up and down against Miami as he finished the night with 85 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown. Morris’ touchdown run came on a 15-yard run as Andre Branch whiffed on an arm tackle. He had another 20-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter but it was called back for an illegal formation. Rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott sat out for the Cowboys.
The game was blown wide open for the Cowboys when backup QB Dak Prescott entered the game. Prescott was very impressive in his first preseason game with the Cowboys and he backed it up with an even stronger performance against Miami. His first touchdown of the evening came on a perfectly thrown ball to the outside to Dez Bryant. On the Cowboys next possession, Prescott scrambled from 20 yards out on 3rd and 10 to give the Cowboys a 21-7 lead.
The fact that the Cowboys were able to score with such ease in the red zone is concerning for Dolphins fans. The Cowboys finished the first half with 27 points. One can argue the old-aged excuse that it’s just preseason, but those 27 points were scored against Miami’s first and second-team defenses, players that will be on the field during the regular season.
Mistakes made last night were all too familiar with what we’ve seen from the Dolphins defense the past few seasons. New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph brought in the wide 9 defense to help with the Dolphins pass rush and keep everything contained inside. Dolphins players did a poor job of executing, however, as the Cowboys quarterbacks had all day to throw it seemed and successfully bounced plays to the outside for large gains.
The lack of a pass rush did not concern me as much as the big yards in the running game since we can expect the Dolphins to use more blitz packages when the regular season starts. As bad as last night was, it’s important to not show your cards too much in the preseason. The Cowboys ability to rush for big gains and receivers getting wide open were what stood out the most.
The good news for Miami is that officially it still is preseason and they still have two games to get better before the regular season begins. Hopefully, the Dolphins defense can have a similar turnaround to their offense. The Dolphins bright spot of the game was the improvement from the first-team offense from just a week ago.
Ryan Tannehill quietly had a very good game, finishing 12 of 20 for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kenny Stills caught both of Tannehill’s touchdown passes and very well could have had a third. Stills caught a deep ball from Tannehill on Miami’s 2nd possession and would have scored had his momentum not carried him out of bounds. Tannehill still should have had a touchdown on the drive but Jordan Cameron dropped a perfectly thrown ball on 1st and goal. Jarvis Landry, uncharacteristically, also missed a catchable ball as well on the possession and the Cowboys eventually took over on downs.
The Tannehill critics can’t blame him for Miami’s dreadful night this time around. Still, Miami will look to forget this night ever happened as they move forward. Their next opportunity will be against the Atlanta Falcons in their 3rd preseason game this coming Thursday in Orlando.