Dol­phins’ out­look re­mains murky af­ter two ex­hi­bi­tions

First-team of­fense fails to con­vert on op­por­tu­ni­ties

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Chris Perkins Staff writer

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.”



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