The Miami Dolphins earned their second win of the preseason in a 25-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the Week 3 of the preseason. This is the game where game-plans were installed and starters played for a full half (and one series in the third quarter for the offense), so we were able to gauge what this team will look like Week 1 of the regular season.
Overall it was a promising display on both sides of the ball, but there were mistakes that need to be corrected in order for this team to play at optimum efficiency.
Here are my five thoughts on the Dolphins victory over the Cowboys.
1. The Dolphins looked sloppy
It's only the preseason but this game was meant to be a simulation of the regular season. The mistakes were simple, but they were often and costly.
A drop by Lamar Miller cannot happen in this offense.
Brian Hartline, who normally has one of the most reliable set of hands on the team, was bailed out by a defensive penalty after he dropped a pass on third down.
Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill each threw ugly interceptions.
2. The Dolphins defense looks like it had potential to be dominant
Miami's defense allowed only six points and allowed only 251 total yards on the night (nearly half of the Dolphins 490 yards of total offense). The Cowboys have a very good offensive unit, but the Dolphins defense was up to the task.
The Cowboys averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but this number is a bit inflated due to defensive line gashing runs by the Cowboys' back-up running back Ryan Williams, against the Dolphins second string defense.
The first team offense did a good job of tightening down the screws on third down and in the red zone. After a long kickoff return set up the Cowboys with excellent field position close to midfield, the Dolphins defense stepped up to force the Cowboys into settling for a 52-yard field goal attempt.
Cameron Wake was a beast off the edge, bringing Tony Romo down twice. Olivier Vernon also got in on the action on a classic Vernon-hustle strip/sack where he chased down an improvising Romo in the pocket from behind.
Earl Mitchell proved he can make impactful plays from the defensive tackle spot with a few nice penetrations and a tackle for no gain.
Philip Wheeler was also very effective when asked to rush the passer. This is Wheeler's most effective role as he still seems very uncomfortable in space, as exhibited in his attempted tackle of Demarco Murray in the second quarter (and any time he is asked to play in coverage for that matter).
Based on this preseason game, I'd say the defense is ready for the regular season. If they can keep opposing offenses to six points a half then (which, realistically, won't happen) then this team will dominate football games.
Miami's offense needs to now step up and be able to finish...
3. The Dolphins offense was efficient but couldn't finish drives
The Dolphins first team offense moved the ball efficiently and effectively. Miami had only one three-and-out and three of the five Tannehill-led drives lasted at least 10 plays and went deep into the Cowboys' side of the field.
As I said above, the Dolphins offense nearly doubled the Cowboys' offensive output on the night.
Whenever the Dolphins got into scoring territory, however, the mistakes would overwhelm.
A Dion Sims' fumble on a third-and-three from the Dallas 36-yard line prevented a promising possession from producing points. An interception thrown by Ryan Tannehill (on a ball where he made a terrible read that I imagine Bill Lazor let him know about) halted another potential scoring drive from yielding success.
Tannehill also missed badly on a deep throw to Mike Wallace. It seemed like a miscommunication between the two (an excuse I will grow tired of using) so I won't harp on it too much. Wallace was a large part of the gameplan on Saturday, though, corralling six passes for 67 yards.
The Dolphins new offense is encouraging and fun to watch, but if the team is to have any success this season the Dolphins need to score touchdowns when the opportunities arise.
4. The run game came alive (thanks in large part to Shelley Smith and Knowshon Moreno)
Hallelujah! This was the area of the team I have been most concerned about throughout training camp, and the unit really showed up Saturday night. The Dolphins ran for 200 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry.
This is a dramatic, yet much needed, turnaround from a running game that had produced just two yards per carry in the two games prior to Saturday.
This improvement can in large part be credited to Shelley Smith, who was plugged into the starting right guard spot for a struggling Dallas Thomas. Smith, who is renowned for his run blocking, was paving huge holes all night and creating phenomenal push in the running game.
Smith drove his man off the ball on nearly every play and many of the biggest runs of the night burst through lanes that Smith had created.
Knowshon Moreno's Dolphins debut was faultless. Moreno's superior vision was clear as he found the correct lanes to run through to create long runs. Moreno ran tough all night and, something that is a personal favorite of mine, fell forward on every run.
Moreno finished the night with 67 yards on 10 carries.
Smith likely earned himself the starting right guard spot with his play, and Moreno is inching closer and closer to swiping Lamar Miller's starting role at running back.
The Cowboys defense isn't very good and Miami should have been able to run on them, but it's encouraging to see them more than double their total rushing yards from the first two preseason games (98) in this single outing.
The Dolphins also got very solid showings from rookie undrafted free agents Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa. Williams has likely already solidified his spot on the 53-man roster and Darkwa is practice squad material, so that means Daniel Thomas, who didn't play Saturday night, will likely suffer a similar fate to that of Michael Egnew.
5. Gator Hoskins is a touchdown scoring machine
I had been waiting all preseason to see Hoskins play, so when I found out he was suiting up last night I couldn't help but get excited.
On Hoskins' first target of his NFL career, the undrafted rookie tight end, who scored 28 touchdowns in 38 collegiate games, pulled pass from Matt Moore and dove for the goal line to get the touchdown. It was the perfect introduction for Hoskins, who I call Charles Clay Junior.
Hoskins was injured for a large portion of training camp, so his name has lost the momentum it had begun to carry when he was receiving reps with the first team in OTAs in June.
However, Hoskins is picking up where he left off pre-injury. If Hoskins can continue to play at a high level, and do it consistently, he could land as the number three tight end in this offense behind Charles Clay and Dion Sims.