Well, the Miami Dolphins lost their first preseason game of 2023 in a 19-3 snooze fest against the Atlanta Falcons. While plenty of fans woke up this morning feeling frustrated, it’s important to remember that the preseason isn’t about wins and losses. What you really want is to see promising performances from your new additions (especially rookies) and get some clarity on starting positions that are still up for grabs.
One of the most impactful position battles for the Dolphins upcoming season is the one for left guard. You could argue that right tackle is more impactful, but there isn’t really anyone to take Austin Jackson’s spot there. Back to left guard; I came into this game expecting it to be a two horse race between Liam Eichenberg and Isaiah Wynn. After rewatching the Falcons contest a few times, I’m throwing a third name in the ring: Robert Jones.
To gauge whether each player improved or hurt their stock, lets look individually at each players performance last night.
The coaching staff has clearly given Eichenberg every opportunity to take this job and run with it. The reports out of camp have been mixed for Eichenberg and he only played two series (just 14 plays) in this game.
It was the first of the three that I watched (as he started the game), and I came away mildly pleased. He had some good snaps and some... ok snaps. There wasn’t anything that is going to hurt him in this race and there isn’t anything that will necessarily help him either. He looks like Liam from last year, with some mild improvements. We need to see him more this preseason to make any serious judgement.
When the Dolphins added Wynn, there were questions about where he would end up. After training camp and this first preseason game, it seems obvious that the Dolphins see him as a guard. The biggest concern with Wynn remains his ability to stay healthy, but it was still refreshing to see him perform well.
Isaiah Wynn got an extended look at LG last night and did not disappoint. No sacks or pressures allowed and had some really nice plays in the run game.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 12, 2023
Will it be him or Liam week one?#FinsUp pic.twitter.com/v08MLaZikb
He looked good against the Falcons here. He got a long look at left guard and was a clear notch above what we saw (and have seen) from Eichenberg. I think there is a good chance that this game gave him a small bump in the left guard competition and I could see him come out to start next week against the Texans.
I had no intention of specifically watching Jones, as I expected there to be only two guys battling for this one spot. Jones kept popping out though, so I went back and watched all of his snaps from this contest. I can unequivocally say that Jones was their best lineman last night and I think he may have just played his way into the conversation for this left guard spot.
Would it shock you to learn that Miami's best offensive lineman last night was #65 Big Robert Jones?— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 12, 2023
Clean pass sets with no pressures/sacks allowed on 23 pass blocking snaps… and he MAULED dudes in the run game.
The best he's ever looked... my new Darkhorse for LG #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/VPlr8HJHZ2
It’s important to remember that Jones played over 400 snaps for the Dolphins last year, mostly at left guard. He was better than Eichenberg last season, but was just solid-not anything spectacular. Well, this is the best he’s looked on tape since joining the Dolphins as a UDFA back in 2021. His pass sets are totally clean and he moved guys off the ball all game long. I think it would be coaching malpractice to not give him a closer look after a performance like this.
Where Does the LG Competition Stand Now?
Well, this is a tricky one. If it were up to me, Jones would be getting some first team reps immediately. We have to keep in mind though that these coaches get to watch these guys compete everyday, their opinion wont be as swayed by a good (or bad) performance in game action. For that reason, I think the competition is probably shaping up like this:
It’s still anyone’s spot at this point and it should remain a competition throughout the preseason. Wynn’s experience and history of high-level play should give him the edge here. Though I would expect for both Eichenberg and Jones to make the 53 man roster (I’ll be highly disappointed if they cut Jones at this point).
Other Bright Spots
While the team squandered opportunities, there were some really encouraging performances from up and coming players on the roster. We saw De’Von Achane for the first time in game action and that dude is going to be a problem for defensive coordinators. I would expect him to be heavily involved in the offense this upcoming season.
We also saw rookie Cam Smith flash on some plays. His instincts and make up speed are both so impressive when you see them on tape. He still has a ton to learn, but Smith is going to be a good corner in this league for a lot of years. Smith unfortunately left the game early with a shoulder injury that we’ll learn more about today, hopefully it isn’t anything too serious.
I think the Dolphins got something in Cam Smith. pic.twitter.com/2RsTfrmvgf— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) August 12, 2023
If this were a regular season game, there wouldn’t be much to be happy about; luckily, it wasn’t. We saw some encouraging performances from a number of players and hopefully the Dolphins will continue to improve leading up to the regular season. Look for these young players to continue to contribute this preseason and for things to eventually clear up at left guard going forward.