Dolphins’ outlook remains murky after two exhibitions
First-team offense fails to convert on opportunities
Through two preseason games it’s tough to determine whether the Miami Dolphins are an ascending team or a team headed the other way.
Friday night’s 27-20 loss at Carolina, which introduced Miami’s revamped defense, didn’t do much to push opinions in either direction.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (14 of 17 for 100 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, 91.2 passer rating) almost epitomized the Dolphins’ night with his mixed bag of results in a five-possession outing.
He was sharp between the Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn earns one of his two sacks on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Friday night.
20-yard lines. But he didn’t get the first-team offense into the end zone. Tannehill and the starting offense were 0 of 2 on red-zone opportunities even though corner-
back Xavien Howard set them up at the Carolina 9-yard line after an interception.
Miami’s starting offense was 1 of 6 on third downs in the first half, and trailed,
13-9, which was the halftime score, when they exited the game late in the second quarter.
Tannehill was to blame on an incomplete pass to wide receiver Jakeem Grant on third-and-12 from the Panthers’ 24-yard line. Tannehill threw deep into the back of the end zone while Grant ended his route somewhere near the goal line.
“Ryan just kind of lost it there for a second,” Gase said of Tannehill’s mental error.
As for good stuff from the game, defensive end Robert Quinn had two sacks, showing he could team with fellow defensive end Cameron Wake to give Miami a mean 1-2 passrushing punch from the edges.
The defensive line, which featured newly-acquired Kendall Langford exclusively at tackle, produced two sacks officially. But defensive tackle Davon Godchaux sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on a two-point conversion attempt, indicating the pass rush might be a threat this season.
Newton ended 9 of 12 for
89 yards with one touchdown and one interception
(88.5 passer rating).
As for other good stuff, the first-team offensive line didn’t allow a sack, running back Kenyan Drake (eight carries, 54 yards; three receptions, 4 yards) showed big-play ability on a 34-yard run, and the first-team offense, while executing the nohuddle with relative precision, was key to the unit running 37 plays in the first half and holding a fiveminute advantage in time of possession (17:33 to
Oh, and rookie kickers Jason Sanders (42- and
29-yard field goals) and Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake evades two Panthers defenders for a 34-yard gain. He finished the game with eight carries for 54 yards and three receptions for 4 yards.
Greg Joseph (54-yard field goal) were perfect.
As for the bad stuff, there was the 71-yard touchdown run by Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey on their second offensive play. McCaffrey bolted right and outraced safety T.J. McDonald, who appeared to take a bad angle, to the end zone.
The defense, which debuted new personnel in three spots — slot/nickel cornerback Bobby McCain on the boundary, rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at slot/nickel, and rookie outside linebacker Jerome Baker — showed it can make big plays and give up big plays.
Offensively, Miami’s red-zone woes came with penalties. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was flagged for holding on a seconddown play in the first quarter, giving Miami a secondand-goal from the 16. Two plays later Miami was flagged for delay of game, giving the offense a thirdand-goal from the 14. The possession ended with Sanders’ 29-yard field goal.
Miami ended with eight penalties for 69 yards, including
four for 46 yards in the first half against the starters.
Among the youngsters Fitzpatrick, the first-round pick, is still trying to find a home. He finished with two tackles.
“Last week I played free safety, this week I played nickel,” he said. “Still just trying to figure it all out.”
Tight end Mike Gesicki, this year’s second-round pick, and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the
2017 second-round pick who missed his rookie season with a knee injury, had low-key nights against Carolina. Gesicki didn’t have a reception or a target, even in the red zone, and McMillan ended with three tackles, but one went for a
2-yard loss on a screen pass.
And cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, last year’s third-round pick and an
11-game starter as a rookie, said he played like “straight trash” in his reserve role. Presumably, Tankersley, who ended with four tackles and might have lost ground in his quest to earn a starting job, was speaking of his pass coverage.
If all of this sounds as
though the Dolphins are a team struggling to find out how they will win games, well, that might be the right conclusion.
Gase said as much while speaking of his re-tooled defense.
“There were some plays we made, and there’s some plays I’d like to see us make,” Gase said. “That’s why we’ve still got to practice. We’ve got to go out and get better, tighter coverage, get our rush tighter, have our linebackers be consistent in how we’re fitting the run game.”
As for the offense, Drake said the difference is in the details when it comes to third-down efficiency and getting touchdowns in the red zone. Drake said the Dolphins must “iron out the wrinkles.”
“Obviously, we want to have a higher third-down percentage and get the ball in the end zone when we’re in the red zone, but that comes with time,” he said. “Once we iron out those details everything will be a lot smoother.”