Last night, the Miami Dolphins looked outmatched all across the board, with the team falling 23-17 to the Carolina Panthers. The Dolphins could not block, could not run, could not catch, could not tackle, could not cover, and could not pressure Cam Newton, or any of the Panthers' quarterbacks. But, other than those minor things, the Dolphins looked good last night.
Before the game, we took a look at five non-starters to watch throughout the game. Now it's time to take a look back at those players.
First up, we have wide receiver Chris Hogan. Hogan became an overnight celebrity this week when he was featured on HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins. Reggie Bush called Hogan "7-Eleven" during the show, and it instantly become the key line from the show. Last night, Hogan was able to grab three passes, tied for the second most on the team, gaining 30 yards (fourth on the team). He worked primarily with quarterback Matt Moore during the game, and was targeted four times. While nothing he did during the game made him look like a number one wide receiver, Hogan did look good enough to make the 53-man roster, even if he is near the bottom of the depth chart. He still could be a candidate for the practice squad, but at least he had a decent performance last night.
Jimmy Wilson, like the rest of the Miami secondary, seemed non-existent last night. He did tally two tackles, but the Dolphins secondary, both the cornerbacks and the safeties, seemed out of place all night. The only times the secondary made a difference, they we being called for one of 27 penalties in the game. Sean Smith got called for pass interference on an interception he made, with Steve Smith pulling on his arm the whole way. Vontae Davis gave up 15-yards on a personal foul when he allowed, again Steve Smith, to yank of Davis' helmet and wrestle him to the ground.
To be fair, that Davis penalty should probably have been offsetting penalties on both players, but the fact that the refs only called it on Davis was just plain ridiculous.
But, the fact that a discussion of Wilson's play last night can devolve into a look at the refs should tell you all you need to know about Wilson's performance. The sophomore defensive back will still make the 53-man roster, and is still trying to learn to be a safety after playing cornerback last year, but Wilson needs to step up his game if he wants to challenge for playing time this year.
Derrick Shelby, an undrafted free agent, was in the Phinsider's rookie spotlight on Thursday, and was probably the star of the show last night. He recorded four tackles, with one sack, and two tackles for loss. He forced a fumble on the sack, and just overall looked like a developing wrecking ball on defense. He may not be ready to become the dominant pass rusher on this team, but he clearly has established his role on the defense, and his place on the roster.
Josh Samuda, our fourth non-stater to watch, had a decent game, though the offensive line as a whole needs improvement. Samuda, like Shelby, is an undrafted free agent attempting to make the squad; and, again like Shelby, is currently listed with the second team, behind Mike Pouncey at center. Samuda has been a surprise throughout camp this year, and should be just about locked in to the roster. His play last night was not dominating, but for a rookie center, still working on things like exchanges with whomever is behind him at quarterback, he really should be the primary backup for Pouncey.
Finally, Rishard Matthews, who stepped up last night. For a wide receiver to establish himself as one of the eleven guys to claim one of just six positions, just being a good returner is not going to be enough, and Matthews showed last night, he could be a receiver as well. Matthews tied with undrafted rookie Jeff Fuller for the game high in receptions, with four. He finished the game one yard short of running back Marcus Thigpen for the game high in receiving yards, and he caught the only Miami passing touchdown, on a late game throw from Pat Devlin.
In the the end, last night was more about getting players some repetitions than it was about a win or loss. The team clearly has things to work on between now and the start of the season. But, at least for the guys above, the game was a success (except maybe for Wilson).
Next week, the Dolphins should work the starters for the majority of the game, which means a number of these players could see limited, or no, playing time before the first round of cuts after the Atlanta Falcons contest. Tonight could be the last, good chance they have to impress the coaching staff. We will all have to watch to see how many of them were able to do just that.