The Miami Dolphins’ 2013 season got off to a sloppy start in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 24-20 on Sunday night. Two first-half turnovers that led to 14 Cowboy points and shoddy pass protection highlighted a forgettable first 30 minutes.
For a team that has worked so hard through two weeks of training camp to take better care of the football, starting running back Lamar Miller’s inability to secure a handoff on the offense’s first play from scrimmage and Matt Moore throwing a pick-six during a promising second-quarter drive didn’t give Dolphins fans much to cheer about.
But it wasn’t all bad for Miami, who was without several key starters, including Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Oliver Vernon.
Third-overall pick Dion Jordan looked as good as advertised, providing frequent pressure on the Cowboy quarterbacks. The running game also showed some promising signs, led by 41 yards from Jonas Gray, 21 from Mike Gillislee and another 21 from Lamar Miller. Backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Pat Devlin also played well.
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to give head coach Joe Philbin his first preseason win as head coach of the Dolphins. The two first-half turnovers were just too much to overcome and countless missed tackles from the second and third-team defenses helped the Cowboys stay in control for the majority of the game.
Losing is never fun, but the result of Sunday night’s game carries little significance for the Dolphins. And the two turnovers that blew the game open in the first half were rather fluky plays that can be attributed to first-game rust more so than any shortcomings on the Dolphins’ roster.
What fans should be concerned about, however, was the play of second-year left tackle Jonathan Martin. He didn’t give up a sack during his two series of action, but he was beaten badly on a third and long that forced quarterback Ryan Tannehilll to scramble right and throw the football away. The scrutiny will only be amplified for Martin, whose poor play has been well-documented in camp.
Let’s take a look at five players who fared much better on Sunday night.
Fab Five Fins
1. Matt Moore, QB: The Dolphins’ backup played very well tonight, hanging tough in the pocket and delivering several strikes down the field. He did throw an interception that was returned 75 yards for a touchdown, but it was far from his fault, as the pass bounced off of receiver Chad Bumphis’ hands. 19/29 for 238 yards and 1 touchdown with 1 interception was the official stat line for Moore.
2. Dion Jordan, DE: The rookie made his presence felt on Sunday night, pressuring the quarterback several times. He got in on one quarterback hit and even made a nice tackle in space standing up at linebacker. It’s going to be difficult to resist getting Jordan on the field as much as possible for defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle this season.
3. Jonas Gray, RB: 41 yards on seven carries and 35 receiving yards on three catches highlighted a very impressive effort for Gray. He entered training camp as a long shot to make the team, but he’s well on his way to seriously competing for a spot with more performances like tonight’s. Gray is a tough runner who could challenge Daniel Thomas for the team’s short-yardage role.
4. Derrick Shelby, DE: The Cowboys ran right at Shelby for a few big runs on the opening drive of the game, but the second-year defensive end got going rushing the passer. Shelby produced two sacks on Sunday night, proving that he should be considered for a spot on 53-man roster.
5. Chad Bumphis, WR: The undrafted rookie receiver had a difficult drop that led to the Cowboys’ pick-six, but he was a playmaker all night otherwise. He had 5 catches for 85 yards, including a 45-yard catch and run. The fourth and fifth receiver spots are wide open for the Dolphins, so Bumphis certainly has a chance to play his way onto the team.
No matter how bad a team may look, no matter what the scoreboard says, it’s still a successful night during the preseason if there are no significant injuries. There were none for the Dolphins.
Third-string quarterback Pat Devlin was pulled out of the game for the offense’s final two drives with a hand injury, however.