It took six tries, but Joe Philbin finally has his first preseason win as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, the result of these exhibition games don’t mean much. How the team looks–particularly the starters–carries more weight as far as perception goes. And the Dolphins’ first-team units got the best of the Jacksonville regulars on Friday night.
The Dolphins’ starting defense only gave up one first down in three series and certainly looked the part against the Blaine Gabbert-led Jaguars.
Miami’s offense, meanwhile, led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, got off to a shaky start, but found their footing on series four, marching down the field for a touchdown drive capped off by a 22-yard strike from Tannehill to Dustin Keller. It was just what Tannehill and the offense needed to establish some confidence and momentum moving forward.
Speaking of which, how about left tackle Jonathan Martin? The second-year tackle didn’t give up as much as a pressure and silenced many critics tonight–at least momentarily.
The Dolphins’ second and third-teams handled the Jaguars the rest of the way, most notably keeping Chad Henne and company out of the end zone.
I wrote a piece early today that highlighted five keys to success for the Dolphins in tonight’s game. Let’s see how they did:
Good health? There didn’t appear to be any significant injuries. Check.
Tannehill-led scoring drive? Tannehill and the offense’s fourth drive was a thing of beauty. Check.
Clean up turnovers? Matt Moore threw an ugly pick in the second-quarter, but the Dolphins were +3 in the turnover department tonight. Check.
Validation from Hall of Fame Game stars? Chad Bumphis made a couple difficult catches over the middle and Jonas Gray scored two touchdowns. Check.
Better tackling? The Dolphins’ tacking was far from perfect, but overall, an improved effort from last week. Check.
Preseason or not, the Dolphins put together a complete game tonight. If you’re a Dolphins fan, be encouraged but don’t overreact, though. Just like the sky wasn’t falling last week in Canton, the Dolphins aren’t Super Bowl bound after beating up on the lowly Jaguars.
Take tonight’s win for it’s worth: A nice step in the right direction.
Fab Five Fins
1. Ryan Tannehill: The second-year quarterback didn’t get off to a great start. He was getting happy feet in the pocket and was indecisive with the football during the offense’s first three drives. He responded nicely on his final series, however, marching 80 yards down the field and connecting with tight end Dustin Keller for two completions that totaled 46 yards and a touchdown.
2. Dustin Keller: I have a feeling former New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller is in for a Pro Bowl-caliber season in Miami. With Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline demanding attention on the outside, Keller could be a force over the middle for Ryan Tannehill to work with. His two catches for 46 yards and a score in the first quarter began to show that.
3. Caleb Sturgis: August 9th is Caleb Sturgis’ birthday. He celebrated by locking up the starting kicker job tonight in Jacksonville, splitting the uprights on 58-yard field goal. He later tacked on a 36-yarder and boomed his kickoffs deep into the end zone throughout the game.
4. Will Davis: After picking off a handful of passes in just the last week of practice, rookie cornerback Will Davis showed off his ball-hawking skills with an interception against the Jaguars. The kid is making too many plays not to see the field when the regular season arrives.
5. Jonas Gray: The Notre Dame product continues to look like a solid short-yardage option after scoring two touchdowns in Jacksonville. Gray is a tough runner who wastes no time hitting the hole. But will it be enough to beat out Daniel Thomas, who ran well tonight, as the team’s goal-line back? We still need to see more, but it’s hard to envision Miami cutting Gray if he keeps running so well. There’s always room on the 53-man roster for good football players.