Deciphering the Debut: Best & Worst Performances in the Miami Dolphins’ 2015 Preseason Opener

The Miami Dolphins could not have started out the preseason any better than they did with the starting units on Thursday night. Both the offense and defense looked to be sharp en route to a quick scoring drive and a three and out forced against Chicago. While the first and second teamers played well, the reserves did not look to be ready for game action. Here is our breakdown of the top performers, underachievers, and general observations from the Dolphins’ preseason debut against the Chicago Bears.

Who Looked Good-

Ryan Tannehill: 

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The Miami Dolphins’ $97 million man looked the part on Thursday evening, leading the team down the field decisively early on in the game. The opening drive was capped off by a short touchdown to Jarvis Landry; a sight Dolphins’ fans hope to become very familiar with in 2015. This was one of the most predictable performances of the night given the progress we have seen from Tannehill thus far in training camp. Yes, it was just one drive, and yes it was the first game of the preseason. But fans have to be excited by Ryan Tannehill’s comfort level in his first action of year two with Bill Lazor.

Jordan Phillips:

In the second quarter against the Bears, Jordan Phillips appeared to dominate the opposing offensive line. He was able to push back Chicago’s guards and appeared very disruptive in the run game. This is a great sight for Dolphins’ fans after the team invested a second round pick in Phillips this past spring.

Billy Turner:


Turner only had his name called once (on a holding penalty). If you are an offensive lineman, having nobody say your name is a very good thing. Even when the Chicago announcers have no idea that you are in fact not a first year player.

While he did nothing stellar, Billy Turner didn’t really have any moments that would cause anyone to believe he is a liability. Turner was given plenty of reps (the entire first half), which shows that the team is moving towards committing to him as the starting right guard for the season. He did nothing tonight that would cause the team to change their mind.

Jelani Jenkins:


Jenkins looked to be playing on pure will power tonight. He wants to start for Miami, and he wants to start now. Jenkins made a huge tackle for loss on a run early on, and actually displayed good coverage ability throughout the game. With Koa Misi and Chris McCain penciled in as starters at linebacker, there are plenty of players who will start jockeying for the last spot. If the first game is any strong indication, Jelani Jenkins is gunning hard for that role, and appears to have improved his tackling and coverage ability.

Who Looked Bad:

Bobby McCain & Anthony Johnson:

This one hurts. It really does. I love McCain, and think that he could be a good piece for Miami this season if he cuts down on the penalties. Tonight his name was called three times by refs, which is far too many flags even for a young defensive back. McCain had a serious holding problem in his first game, and will have to work hard in next week’s game and joint practices to regain the coaches’ good graces.

The same can be said for Anthony Johnson, who had THREE neutral zone infractions. Even when Johnson stayed onsides he didn’t look great. For a player trying to earn a roster spot on one of the league’s deepest defensive lines, it was not a good evening for Mr. Johnson.

LaMichael James:

This one was disappointing given him promising performances in practice. James took the opening kickoff out of the end zone when he clearly should have taken a knee and ended up tackled well before the 20 yard line. He also bumbled another kickoff in the second half.


James was not much better returning punts, as he was unable to gain any substantial field position, and really did nothing to instill confidence that he could help the Dolphins next season. LaMichael James also appeared to struggle running the ball, and was far too jumpy when deciding on cuts. He appeared indecisive, and often found himself just falling forward to gain a few extra yards. James is lucky however that Jay Ajayi is currently not practicing, as it gives him more reps even with the lackluster performance. The clock is ticking on James, and he will have to show much more ability next week, and hope that Jay Ajayi doesn’t shine brighter in games than he does on the practice field.

Josh Freeman and McLeod Bethel-Thompson:

I don’t even want to talk about if these two will be on the practice squad when the season starts. I am more concerned with if they will be on the team this Monday morning. I would not be surprised if Miami called in a veteran option (like they did with Brady Quinn last year) in order to replace the abysmal two passers behind Moore and Tannehill. This is not a cause for concern as it is unlikely either player would have seen the field in a real game, but it is worth noting that these two could not have played any worse than they did tonight, each throwing an interception and contributing to the Bears’ 24 unanswered points.

Game Notes:


  • The starters really looked good. Miami’s offensive line held up, and the first string defense pitched a shutout against the Bears.
  • Jordan Tripp appears to have suffered a potentially serious foot/ankle injury. According to Armando Salguero (Miami Herald), Tripp left Solider Field on crutches and in a protective boot. Chris McCain’s injury does not appear as serious, as he walked off under his own power and was seen pacing the sidelines later in the game. It is however somewhat concerning given the fact that Koa Misi is already not fully healthy. If Miami sustains injuries again at linebacker in 2015, it could be a long year for Kevin Coyle and the Dolphins defense.
  • Mike Hull looked good on the goal line. He was reactive and displayed good short-area quickness. For the amount of poor play on the team’s back end of the roster the coaches have to be excited to have seen flashes from Hull.
  • Caleb Sturgis still looks bad. He sent a kick out of bounds just before halftime, which is unacceptable for any kicker at this level. Look for Andrew Franks to get some serious consideration heading into the Dolphins’ next preseason game in Carolina.
  • Damien Williams is a gamer. The guy looks like a very solid one-cut back for Miami. We know that Joe Philbin likes decisive runners who just go north and south, so look for Williams to get even more reps next week to make sure he can handle a role as Lamar Miller’s primary backup.
  • Mike Gillislee did not help his case tonight, and fumbled the ball on what appeared to be a very good run. You almost forget about his existence between Ajayi, Williams, and James. If he continues to fumble the football, there is almost no chance that Gillislee is on the final roster this September.



This game left a sour taste in Dolphins’ fans mouths as the team gave up a large lead heading into the second half and allowed the Bears to trounce them 27-10. However that is not what matters in the preseason. And what did matter could not have gone any better for Miami.

Ryan Tannehill swiftly led the team down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, and the defense immediately came on and forced a three and out. I think that the team’s biggest issue in the game was penalties, but that should be corrected as time goes on and the rust is shaken off. Remember there had been fewer than fifteen practices heading into the game against Chicago. In general this was exactly what Miami fans wanted to see in the first night, especially since the offensive line was able to hold up against the Bears’ starters. The team appears to have made some progress last night, and it will be interesting to see if the starters can continue their ascension against the Panthers next week.

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