The Miami Dolphins lost to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, dropping the first preseason game 27-10. Since it is the preseason, the loss does not matter nearly as much as what happened with individual players and position groups. The goal of every team in the first preseason game is to get depth players playing time so they can be better evaluated and come out of the contest healthy. Unfortunately for Miami, the healthy part may have been missed.
Linebackers Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain both left the game with apparent ankle injuries. Tripp spent the rest of the night in a walking boot and on crutches. Hopefully both players are able to return quickly and the boot was simply precautionary for Tripp.
The game included a combined 27 penalties for 163 yards. It is not unusual for teams to see a lot of flags during the early preseason contests (Miami and the Atlanta Falcons combined for 19 penalties for 160 yards in the first preseason game last year), but it is still something that needs to be addressed.
Tannehill, Miller Sharp
While the bottom of the depth chart struggled and Miami ultimately gave up the lead, the first team offense came out firing on all cylinders. Ryan Tannehill finished the game 6-for-7 for 56 yards and a touchdown, giving him a 139.6 passer rating. He only played in one series, but his accuracy appeared to be on point and he was making great decisions.
Miller only carried the ball three times during the game, but he looked good. A nice long 27-yard cut back demonstrated his vision and speed are ready for the season. The Dolphins did a good job of getting Miller involved in the game early, something that will hopefully carry over to the regular season when Miller is playing more than just the first series of the contest.
Suh disruptive, Wake benefits
Ndamukong Suh's presence on the defensive line is not about stats, but rather what offensive lines have to do to try to slow him down. That was apparent in Suh's brief appearance in the game, where the Bears were forced to double team him on every snap. The focus on Suh could prove to be opposing offense's biggest issue, as defensive end Cameron Wake suddenly benefits from the single blocker he will now be facing. Wake crushed Jay Cutler early in the game, easily working around a single blocker, but, unfortunately, offsetting penalties (including a hold on Wake) negated the sack.
After Tannehill, the Dolphins' backup quarterbacks looked rough. Matt Moore was 4-for-9 for 43 yards, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was 5-for-12 for 71 yards with 2 interceptions, and Josh Freeman was 5-for-16 for 76 yards with 1 interception. None of the three looked overly impressive, with Bethel-Thompson and Freeman doing nothing to convince anyone that Miami should keep more than two quarterbacks this season. Moore will continue to get more playing time to shake off the rust.
Jones impressive, secondary solid
Reshad Jones appeared to be everywhere when he was in the game, either making the tackle or being the next guy in to ensure the tackle was completed. He also had a nice pass breakup during his time on the field. The rest of the secondary was solid throughout the game, with no horrible mistakes. Jamar Taylor was good on the boundary, while Brice McCain played the nickel position. Bobby McCain was good in coverage, but did commit a couple of penalties. Will Davis played well, while Zack Bowman had a good pass breakup in the endzone - though he was a little rough at times in coverage. Cedric Thompso struggled on tackles, missing a couple that could have kept the game closer than a 27-10 final.
Kickers still in a battle
Caleb Sturgis played the first half and connected on a 31-yard field goal as well as the strange 33-yard extra point that is now in effect. He had a kickoff that bounced out of bounds, but overall it was a decent outing from Miami's incumbent kicker. Andrew Franks took over the kicking duties in the second half, but only had the opening kickoff of the half as his moment on the field. Unless the coaching staff was convinced of the winner of the position battle heading into the game, nothing was decided on Thursday.
The most discussed position battle of the offseason and training camp for Miami has been the starting guards. Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are holding the spots, but everyone expected the team to need an immediate upgrade. After the Bears game, there are signs that the line might be able to hold on without having to spend big money on someone like Evan Mathis.
Tackle Jason Fox and Turner were each hit with penalties on the Dolphins' opening drive, and the line struggled on the first play of the game, a one-yard run from Lamar Miller, but after that, they seemed to get their act together. It was one game, and limited snaps at that, but the starting offensive line was solid during their time on the field. Not great, but at least solid.
Turner stayed in the game longer than any other starter, and he used those snaps to continue to build on his experience and confidence. After facing Suh every day in camp, Turner was decent on Thursday. There is still work to be done, but it appears that that work can be done - a complete rebuild may not be necessary.
Thomas was good at right guard, with no major issues. Perhaps he gets the best compliment an offensive lineman can receive, in that no one really noticed him. There were not a lot of mistakes, he was not called for penalties, it was just a good game from Miami's right guard.
Behind the starters, the offensive line struggled - which could be part of why Moore never seemed comfortable at quarterback. But, the story of the game, really, was that the starting offensive line held their own in their first game situation. More needs to be seen before the line can be declared ready for the season, but this was at least a good start.