The Miami Dolphins’ 2013 preseason has picked up where their 2012 preseason left off. The Dallas Cowboys jumped out to an early 17-3 lead in the first half on Sunday night, which mirrored many of Miami’s lopsided losses last August.
The Dolphins looked like a team that, well, hasn’t been practicing for very long. Of course, neither have the Cowboys, though, who actually resembled a competent pro team despite resting more starters than Miami did.
The sloppy performance by the Dolphins is sure to hurt their grade in our first installment of Preseason Report Card. It will be easier to evaluate Miami when they are at full strength, but for now, all we have to gauge is the product that took the field in Canton.
Here are the Dolphins’ first grades of the preseason:
A botched handoff on the offense’s first play from scrimmage said it all: The Dolphins looked unprepared and out of sync on Sunday night.
The offense managed a couple of first downs during their second series, highlighted by two Lamar Miller runs that totaled 21 yards. But it ultimately stalled thanks to a drop by Marvin McNutt, an inaccurate throw from Ryan Tannehill and poor pass protection.
The starting offense, which was without receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, did return to the field for a third series. Ryan Tannehill was able to complete a four-yard pass to Dustin Keller and a seven-yard connection to Brandon Gibson to move the chains. But after one first down that ended an otherwise sloppy night on a good note for the starters, Matt Moore and the second unit took the field.
Overall, it was a forgettable first exhibition game for the Dolphins’ starting offense. The coaching staff has emphasized protecting the football in training camp. The quarterback to running back exchange is one of football’s most basic plays and there’s absolutely no excuse for fumbling it away.
Ryan Tannehill was far from sharp in limited time. It didn’t help that he was without Wallace and Hartline, but his accuracy was a bit off on both throws to McNutt.
We’ll see if Tannehill and company can bounce back on Friday night against the Jaguars, but their grade for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is deservedly low.
Preseason GPA: 1.0
It wasn’t really the Dolphins’ starting defense, as there was no Jared Odrick, Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon or Dannell Ellerbe. But the unit that was first on the field for Miami is going to be evaluated anyway.
That unit allowed the Kyle Orton led Cowboys to drive inside the 40-yard line with a couple big runs off left tackle and an 18-yard strike to tight end Dante Rosario, who burned Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler in coverage.
Really, it was a poor pass from Orton to an open receiver that stalled the Cowboys’ drive at the 36-yard line. Otherwise, it would have stayed alive and likely resulted in at least three points.
Regardless of who was on the field for Miami, the first-team defense looked a little shaky on their one and only series.
Preseason GPA: 1.7
Backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Pat Devlin both had productive nights throwing to the likes of Chad Bumphis, Michael Egnew and Keenan Davis.
Moore shredded the Cowboys’ secondary with 238 passing yards and one touchdown. He did throw a pick-six, but blame for the play rests on the shoulders of receiver Chad Bumphis, who allowed Moore’s pass to bounce off his hands.
Pat Devlin, meanwhile, was very efficient on his eight completions for 86 yards and a score. Backup running backs Mike Gillislee and Jonas Gray each showed some promise on the ground, but with the Dolphins playing catch-up for most the game, neither had more than seven carries.
One lowlight was the pass protection from left tackle Dallas Thomas. The rookie was clearly overmatched and doesn’t appear qualified to play left tackle at the NFL level. It might be time to let Thomas focus on playing guard and to roll with someone like Nate Garner or Will Yeatman to backup Jonathan Martin for the Dolphins.
Overall, though, it was a solid night for the second and third-team offense. The turnover and Thomas’ struggles hurt, but there wasn’t much else to complain about offensively from the backups.
Preseason GPA: 2.7
Missed tackles were an issue throughout the night for the Dolphins’ defense. It’s something that might be attributed to how rarely the team tackles to the ground at practice, but it’s not like the second and third units haven’t played football before. And I don’t recall seeing the Cowboys miss nearly as many tackles as the Dolphins did.
It’s an issue I expect to improve drastically by Week 1 as the team becomes more accustomed to live game speed and contact, but it was an ugly display of fundamentals on Sunday night.
Takeaways are something the Dolphins’ defense wants to create a lot more of in 2013. They didn’t force Dallas to commit one turnover in Canton, though. When the defense had the opportunity to recover a fumble, several Dolphins failed to fall on the football and it was kicked around until the Cowboys recovered for a first down.
So far, not so good for the Dolphins in the turnover department.
On the bright side, the second and third stringers didn’t concede much through the air and were able to provide a pretty consistent rush on the Cowboys’ quarterbacks. Derrick Shelby produced two sacks, Tristan Okpalaugo had another and first-round pick Dion Jordan managed a quarterback hit to along with several pressures.
There was some good with plenty of bad from the Dolphins’ reserve defenders.
Preseason GPA: 2.0
It was an encouraging night for the Dolphins’ special-teams units. Punter Brandon Fields averaged 46.3 yards a boot with a long of 59, Dan Carpenter made both of his field goal attempts–including a 45-yarder–and Miami’s coverage units didn’t allow any big returns from the Cowboys.
Return man De’Andre Presley almost cost the Dolphins a possession, by muffing a punt in the second half. Marcus Thigpen, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury, will likely assume the return-man role during the regular season, though.
Preseason GPA: 3.0