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Dolphins beat Falcons 34-27: Revisiting players to watch for Miami

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Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-27 on Thursday night, starting their preseason schedule with a victory. While the results of the game will not mean much once the regular season starts, the performances of individual players and the position groups could be critical to the future roster position for a player. Who stood out on Thursday?

Before the game started, we took a look at five players/areas to watch for Miami against the Falcons. This morning, we take a look back at those players, and see how they performed. Did they better their position for the roster or depth chart? Did they hurt themselves?

Josh Rosen

Ryan Fitzpatrick started at quarterback, but Rosen played the most at the position. He had a few gunslinger moments, where he whipped the ball downfield hoping a receiver would make a play. It never really bit him, and the receivers - especially Preston Williams - did make plays for him. He had a bad interception, but it just looked like he never read the linebacker in the area, and he tried to make a throw that he should not have made.

He had one of the prettiest throw-away passes I have seen lately as he danced away from pressure, breaking a would be sack, rolled out, looked, but did not try to force anything and just got rid of it. It felt like a second-year quarterback trying to prove himself would have forced a bad pass, but Rosen was cool and calm, making a good choice.

He finished the game 13-for-20 for 191 yards with the interception, giving him a 75.2 passer rating.

“I think there was some good and bad,” Rosen said when asked after the game to grade his performance. “I don’t know about a specific grade. The pick was pretty bad in the sense of my read told me to go here and I didn’t. It wasn’t like a ball play kind of pick. It was a read kind of pick, so it’s definitely something to build on. I think there was some good, some bad and everything in between. I’m looking forward to breaking down the film and trying to get better from it.”

When asked his comfort level now compared to just a couple of weeks ago when training camp opened, Rosen explained, “Oh, to the moon and back, but I’ve still got ways to go. I feel substantially better now than I did two weeks ago. But like I said, I’ve got a long ways to go. The way ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) in our meeting room can break down a defense and how quickly he can make comments on where everyone is, where the ball should go, is pretty impressive and I think if I can kind of hedge that gunslinger attitude a little bit and put a little bit more thought into it, I think I could develop pretty nicely.”

Rosen probably did not surpass Fitzpatrick (2/5, 20 yards, 52.1 rate) on the depth chart, but he definitely showed that this is not a run-away quarterback competition. Rosen needs more time with the starters and behind the starting offensive line.

Secondary not named Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Dolphins secondary had some good moments, especially early in the game where they managed to keep coverage for what felt like several minutes as the pass rush struggled to get after Matt Schaub. They also had some struggling moments, with missed tackles and penalties the biggest culprit.

Eric Rowe, who is the leading candidate to start opposite Howard, did not play. Undrafted rookie Nik Needham got the start at cornerback, and the Falcons definitely went after him. While it probably was not an intentional game-plan decision - given teams do not typically spend much time game planning for Preseason Week 1 - when Howard is covering one receiver, the offense is likely going to be forced to target the other cornerback. Needham finished the game with four tackles and two passes defensed, so he actually was okay at times, but he also was beaten a few times and was called for holding twice.

“I think Nik has had a good camp,” head coach Brian Flores said of Needham. “I think he’s had a solid camp, he’s worked hard, he’s gotten better, he’s been consistent really throughout the spring and in these training camp practices. I think tonight he struggled. But I still have a lot of confidence in Nik Needham. There’s been a lot of tough games for a lot of young corners in this league. It’s definitely a learning process. There’s some talented receivers. The speed of the game is something that I’m telling you, it’s new to these young guys and it’s something they got to adapt to quickly. We’ll try to help them do that. I think he had a couple good plays, but he definitely missed a couple tackles and had a couple tough coverage situations and some penalties. Overall, look, we got to watch the tape and see really what it was. He had some struggles, that’s for sure.”

Needham definitely had some struggles. Hopefully Rowe is able to cement down that spot, or else Needham needs to quickly grow into his role. He is a young player who will make mistakes, but the Dolphins have to solidify that cornerback position opposite Howard somehow.

Offensive line

Laremy Tunsil did not play, so Jordan Mills started at left tackle and Jesse Davis was at right tackle. Daniel Kilgore was the starting center, while Michael Deiter was at left guard and Shaq Calhoun was at right guard. Kilgore and Davis played all of 13 snaps, while Mills, Dieter, and Calhoun each were on the field for 38 plays. The initial 13 plays were okay for the offensive line - and will be better when Mills is out and Tunsil is in.

The starting offensive line still needs time working together, so it is not overly concerning as of now that there were struggles on the line throughout the game. The depth behind the starters is still concerning, but there are not a lot of changes that can happen there.

Deiter and Calhoun getting extra playing time makes sense as the Dolphins look to rely on rookies at both guard positions. Mills definitely struggled throughout his 38 snaps, and he has to clean up his performance (and part of it could be playing him out of position at left tackle) to make sure he has a roster position.

“At first glance you got to take a look at it, but we had two rookies in there,” Flores said of the offensive line and if there were issues other than just Tunsil not being in the game. “Their first game action in this league as you could imagine the game moves fast. I think there’s some getting used to the game speed was something that showed up just from the naked eye that I saw. I think it got better as the game went on for those guys. And then the next group came in and they had some of those same issues. I think it’s a little bit of first-game jitters, a little bit of you can’t simulate game speed, you just cannot – the kicking game, offensively, defensively. We do as much as we can from a practice standpoint, but you can’t simulate it. We talked about that specifically the last couple days, but you really got to feel it as a player and then adjust. I think we made some adjustments. I thought the protection was better in the second half and hopefully it will be better moving forward.”

“We’ve come a long way, and like you said we have a ton more to do,” guard Michael Deiter said after the game. “Especially me and Shaq (Calhoun) being rookies – there’s a lot that we can clean up. We were not perfect at all and, we’ve got to get there. I think the other guys – the vets – are doing a really job of bringing us along, and I think that we are the two that have to kind of pick it up because we are rookies. There is a lot we don’t know, and there is a lot we have to learn and we are doing a good job of getting there but we are not there yet at all. We have a lot more to do, which is good. If we can get better and this is our starting point, then we’ve got to be happy with that, but we’ve got to get better.”

It feels like Miami has their starting offensive line, Tunsil-Deiter-Kilgore-Calhoun-Davis, and now they just need to get time together and develop some of the depth. It may not be the perfect offensive line, but it should at least be good enough for 2019.

Bobby McCain

McCain started and played 17 snaps. That is about the extent of the impression he had on the game.

Mike Gesicki

Gesicki did not get the start, as Nick O’Leary and Durham Smythe were on the field first, but he did play, catching one pass for six yards on a quick slant after lining up out wide as a receiver. He was targeted one more time, on a pass from Fitzpatrick, but it was badly overthrown. The tight end only saw 19 snaps, so there was not any extended playing time for him.