7,000 fans attended the Miami Dolphins intrasquad scrimmage in 2012. Three times that many filed into Sun Life Stadium to watch the team play tonight for an official turnout of 22,876.
By comparison, the Miami Marlins have averaged 17,673 fans per ballgame this year. And those are real, regular season games. The Dolphins managed five thousand more fans for a glorified practice.
After an aggressive offseason, the fan base is clearly ready to embrace this franchise once again. Ryan Tannehill showed the potential to be a franchise quarterback as a rookie and Jeff Ireland went out and loaded the team with talent in free agency and the draft.
The combination of the two clearly has the fans’ interest.
How long their interest is kept will depend on what plays out on the field this season. If the Dolphins become winners, tonight’s amazing turnout will only be the tip of the iceberg.
Hartline, Wallace sit out
The Dolphins were without their two starting receivers tonight and nobody seems to know why. Some have speculated that Miami was simply resting Hartline and Wallace a day after Armon Binns tore his ACL and Rishard Matthews was declared out for several weeks.
But one rumor suggests Brian Hartline appeared to tweak one of his calf muscles during warm-ups If that was the case, Dolphins fans can only hope Hartline was held out for precautionary reasons.
Without his two go-to targets, Ryan Tannehill was forced to make do with Brandon Gibson and Marvin McNutt as the first-team wideouts.
Tannehill throws three touchdown passes
With no Wallace and Hartline, quarterback Ryan Tannehill relied on his safety valves at tight end tonight. Tannehill found Charles Clay on a 24-yard strike down the seam for a score and later hooked up with Dustin Keller on an out-route for another during red-zone work. Daniel Thomas was the beneficiary of Tannehill’s third touchdown pass.
Tannehill was unofficially 9-13 for 75 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Tonight’s practice was his fifth consecutive without turning the ball over.
Let’s not blow his performance out of proportion, though. Two of Tannehill’s touchdown passes came while the team was working on red-zone packages, meaning the drive began inside the 20-yard line. It wasn’t like Tannehill was marching up and down the field on Miami’s defense.
But he certainly did well in the situations he was put in, especially considering the wide receiver corps was depleted.
Philip Wheeler impresses
Fans and media alike were raving about the performance of new outside linebacker Philip Wheeler tonight. He was all over the field, flying to the ball and breaking up a few passes.
Wheeler is out to prove he wasn’t a one-year wonder last season in Oakland. He certainly looked the part of legitimate playmaker tonight.
Dion Jordan records at least one sack
After starting camp on the NFI list, rookie defensive end Dion Jordan has come on strong in recent days. Tonight might have been his best practice to date, providing pressure on several snaps and getting to the quarterback for a sack at least once (some say twice).
Jordan is very quick and explosive off the edge and if he continues to get after the quarterback, Miami might not have a choice but to start him.
Olivier Vernon also recorded a sack, forcing a fumble in the process, though. Having too many pass rushers would be a great problem to have for the Dolphins.
Interceptions for McCray, Davis
Two defensive backs got their hands on the football towards the end of the scrimmage.
Kelcie McCray, who is competing for a backup safety spot, picked off a Matt Moore pass and returned it all the way back to the house for six. It was just the kind of impact play McCray needed to get the coaches’ attention. Will Davis, meanwhile, intercepted a Pat Devlin pass in the end zone.
Backup receivers impress
With the Dolphins in dire need of depth at receiver, Marvin McNutt continued his impressive camp with three receptions for 23 yards and rookie Chad Bumphis racked up 41 yards receiving on two catches.
Jonas Gray runs hard
Roster-fringe running back Jonas Gray ran the hardest out of Miami’s stable of backs, unofficially picking up 13 yards and a touchdown on the night. It’ll be interesting to see if Gray can legitimately challenge for a roster spot.
With Lamar Miller entrenched as the starter, the Dolphins could use a power back for short-yardage situations. Gray certainly fits the bill. But can he run with authority on a consistent basis during the preseason?
The players won’t hit the practice field again until Wednesday night at 6 pm.