The Dolphins have only played one of five preseason games and fans are already panicking in Miami. High expectations heading into the season followed by an unimpressive showing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night have many thinking this year’s team is a bunch of new players, in new digs but the same ol’ Dolphins.
Let’s step away from the ledge for five minutes, though, and discuss some players who actually played pretty well against the Cowboys. There were several Dolphins, particularly of the roster-fringe variety, who showed some promise.
In the same way it would be entirely premature to judge Miami as a whole after one exhibition game where the starters who did play didn’t play very long, it probably wouldn’t be wise to buy the metaphorical stock of players who the casual fan has never heard of after one decent showing. But there may be some exceptions. It’s time for our latest installment of Buy or Sell.
Jonas Gray, Running Back
I’ve been a fan of Jonas Gray since his college days at Notre Dame. I thought he was a hard runner who could have been a mid-round draft pick in the 2012 before tearing his ACL in November of 2011.
The Dolphins were obviously a fan of his too. They wouldn’t have stashed him on I.R. last season if they didn’t believe he could eventually become a contributor when healthy.
His sample size has been small, but after running well in last week’s intrasquad scrimmage, Jonas Gray tore it up for the Dolphins in the Hall of Fame Game. 41 yards rushing on nearly six yards per carry and another 35 receiving yards highlighted an impressive first NFL game for the essential rookie.
Gray still has a long way to go before he uproots Daniel Thomas as the offense’s go-to short-yardage back, but that scenario doesn’t sound as crazy as it used to.
Chad Bumphis, Wide Receiver
Besides dropping one ball that landed in the hands of a Cowboy defender and returned 75 yards for a touchdown, Chad Bumphis was the Dolphins’ biggest playmaker at receiver on Sunday night. He displayed some good speed running after the catch and even made a couple difficult grabs in traffic.
And this wasn’t the first time Bumphis has impressed. He’s been turning heads often in practice and he’s well on his way to seriously competing for spot on the 53-man roster.
But I worry about buying any roster-bubble receiver’s stock. Just last week Marvin McNutt was the talk of the town. McNutt still has plenty of time to play his way onto the team, but he didn’t catch a ball on Sunday night and dropped at least one catchable pass.
Nothing against Bumphis, but I’m not buying a receiver’s stock until we see some consistency.
Michael Egnew, Tight End
Just when it looked like Michael Egnew was a complete lost cause, he goes out and catches four balls for 52 yards. He did have one drop, but most encouragingly, he displayed some improvement as an in-line blocker, which was perhaps even a bigger issue than the drops a year ago.
It was really nice to Egnew step up and make some plays, but I still need to see more. Go the whole preseason without dropping any more passes or fumbling away any more balls while continuing to be productive and it’ll be time to reverse my stance.
For now, I’m betting Sunday night was an anomaly and that Egnew is due for a drop or fumble sometime soon.
Derrick Shelby, Defensive End
The second-year defensive end got the start ahead of first-round pick Dion Jordan in the opener. It was a bit of a surprising move, but the Dolphins aren’t going to hand their draft picks anything. Each starting spot must be earned.
And Derrick Shelby, who started in place of the injured Oliver Vernon, just might be capable of holding down that role if need be. Shelby had a difficult time setting the edge on a couple of plays during the Cowboys’ opening drive, but he did an excellent job of rushing the passer.
Shelby’s two sacks more than reminded the coaching staff why he was able to make the team as an undrafted rookie in 2012. He’s well on his way to a repeat performance this training camp and could even challenge for more snaps in games if he continues to get after the quarterback.
Keenan Davis, Wide Receiver
Despite signing with the Dolphins less than a week ago, Davis was ready to make an impact on Sunday night, catching three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Davis gives the Dolphins something their starters at the position don’t. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and could potentially become a factor in the red zone for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense.
You should know my stance on unproven receivers by now, though…