The Miami Dolphins looked sloppy for most of their 24-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in last night's Hall of Fame Game. There were plenty of positives and negatives during the game, but here are my top three of each.
- Pass rushers - Derrick Shelby and Dion Jordan were impressive. While Jordan did not tally a sack, he was able to get pressure on the Cowboys' quarterbacks, and he caused Shelby's second sack when the quarterback stepped up into Shelby's rush. Jordan also dropped into coverage and played linebacker during the game. Jordan demonstrated that he is ready for full contact, getting in on a couple of tackles, and taking multiple hits. Shelby continued to show the flash that had him work his way onto the roster last year after being undrafted. Shelby started on the defensive line in place of Olivier Vernon and looked comfortable throughout the game.
- Reserve receivers/tight ends - While the quarterbacks and receivers seemed to be a step off all night, Chad Bumphis came into the game and was impressive. Bumphis caught five passes for 85 yards, including a 45 yard catch and run from Matt Moore. But, he was not the only one who had a decent night. Tight end, and punching bag, Michael Egnew actually caught four passes for 52 yards, with a long of 25, on the night. He did have one bad drop, as well as one that was thrown behind him that he was able to reach but could not bring in. Keenan Davis came in late in the game and tallied three receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, while Kyle Miller scored on a deflected pass that somehow he rolled around the endzone to catch.
- Jonas Gray - Lamar Miller looked good on his two carries, and Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee both ran hard during the game, but none of them looked as good as Gray Sunday night. After sitting out all of last year following an ACL tear, Gray came back to the team and carried the ball seven times for 41 yards against the Cowboys, as well as four receptions for 35 yards. Gray could be making a case to make the roster this season.
- Tackling - I said this in my immediate reactions post last night too, but the Dolphins must spend this week fixing their tackling. Multiple players, and it didn't matter if they were starters or reserves, simply tried to arm tackle Cowboys players, only to watch them keep running. It was especially bad on running back on running back Phillip Taylor, who ran for 59 yards on 10 carries - after only tallying 61 yards all of 2012. The Dolphins have to go back to basics and fix tackling immediately.
- Turnover Battle - All offseason and throughout training camp, the coaches have preached the need for more turnovers from the defense and controlling the ball on offense. Then, Sunday night happened. The Dolphins fumbled away the ball on a hand off from Ryan Tannehill to Miller, on the first play for Miami's offense. Later in the game, the Matt Moore say a pass get deflected and DeVonte Holloman scampered 75-yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins had a clear chance to get one of those turnovers back when Cowboys quarterback Alex Tenney fumbled a ball, that rolled through multiple Miami defenders before being recovered, for a first down, by the Cowboys.
- Red zone offense - After turnovers, the coaches talked about red zone and third down offense the most. It just was not there most of the night. While Keenan Davis did score on a short slant from Pat Devlin, the red zone opportunity for Matt Moore was ugly. With first and goal from the three yard line, the Dolphins ran the ball with Mike Gillislee for -2 yards. On second down from the five yard line, Moore ran backwards, holding onto the ball inexplicably, for a 14 yard loss on a sack. Third down saw Moore pass to Gillsilee for a 10 yard gain, only to set up a 4th and 9 27-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter. Play like that, and scoring three points after having first and goal from the three, is not going to win games in the NFL.
In the end, Sunday night was the first of five games the Dolphins have this preseason. They now have a game of experience no other team, besides the Cowboys, will get this season. The Hall of Fame Game is really a glorified scrimmage, designed to see what is and what is not working.
For the Dolphins, what is and what is not working was blatantly obvious.