Contrary to what a popular ESPN program would have you believe, sometimes numbers do lie. Like in the NFL preseason, for example. If you were to look only at the final score of Thursday’s match-up between the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears, you might think that things are looking pretty bleak for the Dolphins despite it being the first preseason game. Normally there’s not much good that can be said after losing 27-10 but that, my friends, is the beauty of the preseason. Contrary to the final outcome of the game, I saw a lot of good things from the Dolphins. A lot of things that have me pretty excited for the coming season.
Quite possibly the most important take-away from this first preseason game was the play of the offensive line. Ryan Tannehill only had one series in the game so it’s a pretty small sample size to glean anything from, but Tannehill was never under pressure. It’s a preseason game, so the defenses were basic, but with all the negativity I have heard coming from training camp so far this preseason, this seems to me like a step in the right direction since the Bears do have some guys who can get after the quarterback.
Our guards, the weakest position on the team, seemed to hold up quite nicely against a pretty stout Bears defensive line. In addition to holding up solidly in pass protection, they opened up a few nice holes for our running backs, both Lamar Miller and Damien Williams.
Billy Turner got the most action in the game, playing well into the third quarter, and those are reps he’s going to need if he’s going to get the nod at the right guard position. It’s much too early to go out on a limb and say that we’re okay at guard and shouldn’t be concerned, but if the guys continue the momentum from Thursday, we might not be in such bad shape. Certainly adding Branden Albert to the fray will provide a significant boost as well.
Every year Ryan Tannehill has gotten progressively better as the Miami Dolphins quarterback. He had his struggles his rookie season, as all rookies do, but every year he has managed to drastically improve his passing numbers across the board). What I saw from Tannehill on Thursday, however, was something I’ve rarely seen from the franchise quarterback…confidence. For the first time in his career as a Dolphin it looked like Tannehill had a command of the offense and was confident in his progressions.
Tannehill finished the game with as many incompletions as he had touchdowns, one. The accuracy and tight spirals were a nice sight to behold, for sure, but the thing I noticed that has me most excited about his future was the decision making.
Unlike past years, in Thursday’s game Tannehill seemed confident in looking towards his second and third options. Even more promising, however, was that when those guys weren’t open, Tannehill didn’t panic and take a bad sack. Instead, he tucked the ball under and used his athleticism (let’s not forget that he was a wide receiver in college) to escape the pocket and turn a negative into a positive.
On the defensive side of the ball, things went about as well as I would have expected them to. That is to say, very well. In limited action, Ndamukong Suh showed why the front office targeted him in the off-season and spent the big money to bring him in. Suh’s contribution won’t be measured in the number of tackles and sacks he has, though he will be solid in both those stats. The true measure of Suh’s impact on this team is how often he will see two, or even three, blockers in an attempt to keep him in check. This will free up Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon on the outside. I look for both Wake and Vernon to have a monster year this year, which we’re going to need with the state of our linebackers.
Speaking of the linebackers, not everything was positive in the first preseason game for Miami. Both Jordan Tripp and Chris McClain were forced to leave the game due to injury. Neither injury appears to be serious and both players should be just fine when the season rolls around, but you never like to see a player go down in a preseason game. Mike Hull and Zach Vigil were solid in their absence, but neither one was overly impressive.
For all the good that can be taken away from their first outing in the preseason, the fact does remain that they allowed 21 unanswered points and lost the game 27-10. The starters were solid and give me a lot of hope for the upcoming season, but this first game did expose a major weakness on this team: depth. Once the starters come out, there’s not much solid play behind them.
This could be a huge issue later in the season when players begin to get banged up and miss time. I don’t want to be too much of a worrywart this early in the season, but if Miami is going to be a playoff team, we need to see better play from the guys on the bench. It’s a long season and only time will tell. On to Carolina.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.