Dolphins’ Studs and Duds: Preseason Week 3


The Miami Dolphins have a slew of roster decisions to make this preseason. Some players will make those choices easier by shining in the spotlight while others fade.


1. Reshad Jones – Jones is picking up right where he left off last season, making big plays when it counts. He intercepted a Matt Ryan pass at Miami’s goal line and returned it 17 yards, bringing Atlanta’s most impressive drive of the night to a crashing halt.

Why It Matters: The Dolphins need all the stability they can get on the back end of their defense, and Jones’ leadership and big play ability may buy defensive coordinator Vance Joseph just enough time to get the rest of his DBs up to speed and working as a unit.

2. Ndamukong Suh – Suh’s big play ability was on full display as he penetrated deep into the Falcon’s backfield to stop running back Tevin Coleman on a fourth and one, giving the Dolphins possession of the ball at the Atlanta 48 yard line.

Why It Matters: Suh’s stop was the kind of play that wins games. In this case, it set the Dolphins up to score their opening touchdown and, from then on, control the tempo of the game. Moreover, his penetration opened a gaping hole through which middle linebacker Kiko Alonso followed to help down Coleman. That is exactly the one-two punch the Miami coaching staff was hoping to see .

3. Ryan Tannehill: While his numbers weren’t spectacular, thanks to several dropped passes and a deflection that led to an interception, Tannehill appeared in complete control of the offense. His passes were crisp, and for the most part, on the money, and he proved, once again, that he is a threat with his legs as well.

Why It Matters: The entire season hinges on Tannehill’s ability to direct Adam Gase’s multifaceted offense, and on Thursday night he showed that he is well on his way. Just as important, he seems to be getting away from his overdependence on Jarvis Landry, while continuing to build much needed chemistry with Kenny Stills.

4. Adam Gase: The rookie head coach continues to impress with dynamic play calling and the kind of cool, confident leadership absent during the Joe Philbin era .

Why It Matters: The Dolphins have one of the youngest rosters in the league, but Gase’s steady hand and insightful guidance provide hope that the team will show continued improvement all season long. Furthermore, unlike Philbin and Dan Campbell before him, Gase seems intent on developing the Dolphins’ running game to ensure the offense does not become predictable.

5. Michael Thomas: the fourth year safety made a terrific head’s up play at the end of an Austin Hooper 23 yard reception, knocking the ball out of the tight end’s hands and pouncing on it at the Miami 46 yard line.

Why it Matters: The combination of young defensive backs and Vance Joseph’s aggressive attacking style is likely to produce a lot of “feast or famine” scenarios. As such, the ability to create turnovers will be key to offsetting mistakes that are sure to come.


1. Tony Lippett: Julio Jones’ early departure due to a minor leg injury was the best thing that happened to Lippett all night, as the Falcon’s superstar receiver was having no difficulty putting distance between himself and the young cornerback. Then again, things didn’t get much better when he found himself one-on-one with Aldrick Robinson, as he gave up a 36 yard reception despite being flagged for illegal contact on the play.

Why It Matters: This may have been Lippett’s final opportunity to make a case for the starting cornerback spot opposite Byron Maxwell. Rookie Xavier Howard’s recent return to practice doesn’t bode well for Lippett’s chances.

2. Andrew Franks – Franks didn’t just miss a field goal at the end of the first half, he brutalized it, sending the ball spinning, which may have been tipped,  low and to the left like a badly thrown frisbee caught in a crosswind.

Why It Matters: Tannehill and the Dolphins offense drove the ball 56 yards down the field on a nicely executed two minute drill, but thanks to Franks’ shank, they were left with nothing to show for it. Worst still, missing kicks at the end of the half or near the end of a game can often mark the difference between victory and defeat. Those sorts of mistakes stick in a coach’s mind around cutting time, especially when your competition, Marshall Koehn, hit on a 45 yard field goal of his own.

3. Jordan Cameron – Cameron was targeted four times, yet, only came down with one catch. He dropped a pass out in the flat when he was completely uncovered, and for the second week in a row, failed to haul in a potential touchdown.

Why It Matters: Gase loves to use two tight end sets to confuse defenses, but that entire facet of Miami’s game may have to be scrapped if Cameron can’t get his act together because, while Dion Sims is a solid blocker, he is not much of a receiving threat, and rookie Thomas Duarte has pass catching ability, but is an bysmal blocker.

4. Miami’s Running Game: Tannehill got the Dolphins’ running game off to a good start, but it was all downhill from there. Jay Ajayi was ineffective. Arian Foster showed some life as a receiver, but was again unable to do much on the ground. All-in-all, Miami ran the ball 31 times for just 78 yards (2.5 yards per carry).

Why it Matters: The Dolphins’ backs need to step it up or Tannehill may finish the year as the team’s leading rusher. That said, it isn’t all on Ajayi, Foster and company. Miami’s front five have shown tremendous improvement over the past two weeks when it comes to pass blocking, but they are still getting next to no push off the line on running plays. That sort of inconsistency will eventually hinder Gase’s hope of fielding a balanced attack and, as a result, any chance of making the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins have a slew of roster decisions to make this preseason. Some players will make those choices easier by shining in the spotlight while others fade.