Preseason Premiere: Best and Worst Performances from Miami’s 27-10 Win

Although a 50-minute weather delay deprived us of Miami Dolphins’ football for what felt like an additional week, the season is finally here. And, for a split second, I already wanted it to be over. The Dolphins started very poorly, quickly allowing 10 points to an Eli Manning-less Giants team in a classic display of ineptitude at the line of scrimmage. In all fairness, the Dolphins were down many of their starters; Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, Byron Maxwell and Reshad Jones did not play on defense and DeVante Parker did not play on offense. Ryan Tannehill and the starting offense struggled mightily in the two series they played- the outside offensive line especially. But, thankfully, the team rallied around their defense in the 2nd quarter after an incredible interception from Bobby McCain and from there the offense followed suit. Vance Joseph’s aggressive defense caused four turnovers and harassed the Giants’ quarterbacks throughout the night. The offense played well under the direction of the backup quarterbacks, ultimately scoring 27 unanswered points after the starting lineup’s slow start. While the game did leave some to be desired, there was certainly a lot to be excited about.

Players Who Impressed:

Chris McCain (DE):

Chris McCain started off a little sloppy, negating a sack with an offsides penalty in the first series, but he was great as the defense got settled. His athleticism was on full display, as he effortlessly tracked down running backs before they had a chance to hit the open field. When he wasn’t giving Andre Williams headaches, Chris McCain helped ruin Ryan Nassib’s night, managing an athletic sack of the Giants’ quarterback in the 2nd quarter. McCain definitely made his case to be the team’s 3rd option at defensive end after Cameron Wake and Mario Williams.

Bobby McCain (CB):

Bobby McCain great pick

On a night where the secondary played exceptionally well, Bobby McCain stood out and then some. His interception of Ryan Nassib was one of the highlights of the night, and he nearly had another one early in the game. His coverage as the nickel option was impeccable, and he figures to be a logical option as the starter in that position going forward.

Mike Hull (LB):

While Hull probably won’t be a starting linebacker anytime soon, he proved that he definitely could have a place on the roster. The tackling machine lived up to his reputation as a great special teams contributor and performed well as a backup linebacker as well. He ended the night with three solo tackles and should benefit from more snaps after such a solid performance.

Walt Aikens (FS):

The third year safety was among the most impressive players on the field throughout the night. He did not spend a whole lot of time in coverage, acting instead as run-support and going after the quarterback. His 5 total tackles were the most on the team, and his sack-fumble of Ryan Nassib set up the Dolphins’ first touchdown of the season.

Laremy Tunsil (LG):

The first round pick was strangely absent from the team’s starting lineup during the first two series, but was present with the second team where he played the rest of the half as the starting left guard. While not perfect, there were two or three stellar blocks by the product out of Ole Miss who also managed to avoid any major mistakes on a night where the offensive line as a whole made plenty of them. Expect Tunsil to be in the starting lineup as a left guard when the regular season starts.

Brandon Doughty (QB):

After fumbling on the first snap of his NFL career, Brandon Doughty regained his poise and made a number of beautiful throws on the two drives he piloted. He seems to have a very good rapport with fellow rookie Jakeem Grant, as the two teammates connected on three solid first downs. He ultimately went 7-9 for 66 yards and will be battling Zac Dysert for the third quarterback spot on the roster going forward.

Julius Warmsley (DL):

I’m not going to lie, I had no idea who Julius Warmsley was a few hours ago. I do not believe that I am alone in that boat. However, plenty of fans now know Warsmely’s name. The undrafted rookie defensive lineman definitely had his Wheaties in the morning. He managed three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in his coming out party against the Giants. He has a lot of competition battling for a spot on the roster as a defensive lineman, but he probably just earned himself a legitimate chance to prove he belongs.

Jakeem Grant (WR):

Screen

I knew that the Dolphins drafted Jakeem Grant with the intent of adding an electric returner who can take the onus off of Jarvis Landry, but I admit I was a little skeptical of Grant’s viability as a receiver. After watching him run crisp routes and make great plays (four catches for 68 yards) off a diverse route tree, consider me all aboard the Jakeem Grant hype train. Oh, and he’s not too shabby at punt returning either.

Matt Darr (P):

The Dolphins could very well be a train wreck once the regular season begins, but take solace knowing that Matt Darr is very, very good at punting footballs.

Players Who Disappointed:

Branden Albert (LT):

Bill Kostroun AP

(Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP)

In the first two series, the outside offensive line play was horrendous. Ryan Tannehill had negative time to throw the football, and Branden Albert was one of the worst offenders. He was beat badly by some of the more athletic defensive ends, including none other than Olivier Vernon. Unfortunately, I see this as a recurring theme for Miami going forward. Albert is a Pro Bowler who is technically sound, but struggles against more athletic pass-rushers. It makes me wonder whether the team would be better off with Tunsil at tackle and Albert at guard.

Ja’wuan James (RT):

Like Branden Albert, Ja’wuan James struggled for the short period of time he was on the field. He was beaten badly at least once and nullified a first down by Jay Ajayi with a holding penalty. It was definitely not a strong showing by the starting offensive tackles Friday night.

Jordan Phillips (DT):

Jordan Phillips wasn’t bad so much as not up to par. He made some good moves and ate up space as good defensive tackles are supposed to, but often struggled disengaging blocks. He didn’t record a single statistic save for a hands to the face penalty early in the game. Not a strong showing from a potential starter, but expect him to bounce back next week.

Isa Abdul-Quddus (FS):

Ray Stubblebine AP2

(Photo: Ray Stubblebine/AP)

Isa Abdul-Quddus was criminally underrated as a Detroit Lion. He was one of my favorite free agent signings during the offseason, but I’m having second thoughts after seeing him struggle in his debut for the Dolphins. After being relegated behind Michael Thomas in training camp, IAQ did not play well on Friday. He missed some tackles, including one where Shane Vereen made him look quite silly. He figures to have a roster spot regardless, but don’t be surprised if he loses out on the starting job.

Ulrick John (OT):

The depth offensive tackle struggled with penalties and was beaten a few times on the outside. His struggles exemplified the issues that the Dolphins have had with outside offensive line play.

Kiko Alonso (LB):

Alonso didn’t play all that much on Friday, but he still managed to miss an essential tackle that led to Rashad Jennings’ touchdown. Not a good look for the presumed starting linebacker, although he did record two tackles.

Ryan Tannehill (QB):

Tannehill’s 2-4 for 8 yards was primarily on the offensive line, but his throw to Ajayi that nearly resulted in an interception could have been executed better. As the quarterback, he bares ultimate responsibility.

Miscellaneous:

  • Vance Joseph’s aggressive defensive playing style worked wonders and makes for exciting football.
  • The penalties on both the offensive and defensive sides are concerning, though hardly a surprise given that it’s preseason Week 1.
  • Three wideout sets were used almost exclusively, as predicted.
  • Zac Dysert’s touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte was probably the best example in the game of how Adam Gase’s route concepts will help red zone efficiency.
  • Offensive line struggles may only be exacerbated by constant shifting.
  • Matt Moore has earned the title of luckiest man alive after his stunning touchdown to Matt Hazel.

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