The Miami Dolphins kicked off their final preseason game for 2023 against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, then immediately struggled to find a rhythm. Both teams used their starters to open the game, then quickly moved on to the depth players as the teams look to remain healthy heading into the regular season in two weeks.
The game ended early when a head injury appeared to knock out Miami wide receiver Daewood Davis. A backboard was needed and the receiver was taken off the field on a stretcher. The coaches for both teams, the NFL Player Association reps, and the referees all met and called the game with 8:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Throughout the game, we kept up with the action and provided immediate reactions. You can find them in italics below. Our final thoughts for the game are at the bottom.
Dolphins 18 - 31 Jaguars
The Dolphins faked a pitch play, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finding wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a slant that turned into a 32-yard gain and quickly moved down the field. Center Connor Williams then snapped the ball well over Tagovailoa’s head on the next play, leading to a 25 yards loss and Miami punting a few plays later.
Ouch. What looked like a great opening play was completely negated by Williams still having problems snapping the ball. He had preseason snapping problems last year as well, then corrected it in the regular season. Miami better hope he does that again this year.
The Jaguars opening offensive possession started with a couple of passes from quarterback Trevor Lawrence for 24 yards, then turned to the running game. On five straight carries, three from running back Travis Etienne and two from Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville picked up 22 yards and moved the ball into Miami territory. After another pass picked up 11 yards, the Jaguars again went to the ground game, running four straight times and picking up 21 yards. The final run of the sequence saw Bigsby fumble the ball at the goalline with Miami safety Jevon Holland recovering and giving Miami back the ball.
That was not an impressive defensive series for the Dolphins. Starting defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler are not playing tonight, but the run defense should still be able to have some impact on the game. They got lucky with the forced fumble by linebacker Jerome Baker and Holland’s recovery.
After a two-yard loss by running back Raheem Mostert on first down, Tagovailoa found receiver Robbie Chosen for a 15-yard gain. After three runs from Mostert gained nine yards, the Dolphins elected to go for it on 4th-and-1, with a flat pass to fullback Alec Ingold converting with a nine-yard gain. Running back Salvon Ahmed found daylight for a 42-yard run, moving the ball down to the Jaguars' seven-yard line, before a two-yard run and a one-yard loss from Ahmed set up 3rd-and-Goal. Tagovailoa targeted Chosen on the next play, a throw that would not have scored even if it was completed. Kicker Jason Sanders connected from 24-yards out and Miami took the lead. Dolphins 3-0.
Chosen could use a big game tonight to lock in his roster position; he comes into tonight on the bubble ahead of Tuesday’s roster cut deadline. Ingold should be a bigger part of Miami’s offense this year, including potentially working as a tight end if the Dolphins want to save a roster spot. Miami has a decision to make when it comes to a fourth running back on the roster. Will it be Ahmed or Myles Gaskin? With runs like that, Ahmed should slam the door on Gaskin - though Gaskin did look really good in the first preseason game.
After the kickoff, the Jaguars appeared to pick up 15 yards on a run, but a holding penalty brought back the play. The first quarter ended following the penalty.
Second Quarter Reactions
After the break, the Jaguars again returned to the ground with Etienne picking up nine yards. After a pass from Lawrence to receiver Calvin Ridley picked up 11 yards, Bigsby added another six yards on the ground. The alternating run and pass plays continued with a pass for seven yards followed by a one-yard run. A pass to receiver Zay Jones set up a 3rd-and-6 play, with Lawrence misfiring toward Jones. On 4th-and-6, Lawrence connected with Christian Kirk for eight yards and a first down. Bigsby then took a handoff up the middle, running over Holland as he picked up 14 yards. After an incomplete pass, linebacker Bradley Chubb pressured Lawrence, who threw a ball up for grabs with Ridley coming down with the ball. After a replay challenge, Etienne powered through the middle for a three-yard touchdown run. Jaguars 7-3.
The defense is not doing itself any favors right now. They just cannot get off the field and are giving up way too many chunk yards on the ground. Miami challenged the catch, but the replay ruled the call stands and Miami head coach Mike McDaniel’s miserable record at challenging calls continues.
Through two Jaguars' offensive possessions, the Dolphins defense is showing they need Christian Wilkins. He has been “holding in” by showing up to camp but not participating in team drills or the preseason games the last couple of weeks. He is needed out there.
Miami started pulling their starters on the drive, with Tagovailoa out and Skylar Thompson taking over at quarterback. Ahmed picked up no yards on a first down run, then Thompson threw off target toward Chosen, setting up 3rd-and-10. Thompson rolled out to his right before overthrowing receiver Cedrick Wilson, Jr., and having the ball picked off.
Not sure what happened there with Thompson. Just a really bad throw.
Jacksonville also began pulling their top players, including Lawrence coming out, replaced by C.J. Beathard at quarterback. Starting at their own 49-yard line, Jacksonville quickly moved into Miami territory with two running back D’Ernest Johnson runs for 10 yards. Beathard then three two passes, picking up 26 yards and moving into the redzone. A short run and an incomplete pass were followed by a sack of Beathard, with defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel splitting the sack. The Jaguars settled for a 37-yard field goal. Jaguars 10-3.
The interception made it tough, but Miami’s defense is still struggling to slow the Jaguars, especially on the ground. Twyman making an impact could help him claim a roster spot, or make him a priority addition to the practice squad.
On the kickoff, Dolphins safety Elijah Campbell appeared to sustain a left leg injury and needed assistance to get off the field. On the first play after the kick, Thompson threw another questionable pass and it was intercepted.
Campbell could be in line to start at safety this year. If his injury is anything major, that could be a huge blow to Miami’s defensive plans. Thompson’s throw was not a good one and he now has two interceptions already.
The Jaguars immediately moved into the redzone with a five-yard run, then a horsecollar penalty on Miami moved the ball down to the eight-yard line. Johnson ran straight up the middle and into the endzone on the next play. Jaguars 17-3.
Miami needs to wake up. Offensively and defensively.
Miami started the drive with a pass to Ahmed for five yards, with the running back getting hit from multiple directions and staying down with an injury. He was helped off the field, with Myles Gaskin replacing him. Gaskin picked up two yards on the next play, leading into the two-minute warning. Thompson then found wide receiver River Cracraft for nine yards, then scrambled out of a sure sack to pick up nine yards. A pass to Berrios picked up 16 yards, and then Cracraft picked up eight yards on a catch. Gaskin converted the first down with a three-yard catch. After an incomplete pass, Thompson threw to Cracraft for 13 yards, then to Gaskin for two yards. On 2nd-and-8 from the Jaguars’ 10 yard-line, Thompson completed a screen pass to Gaskin, but it did not gain anything. After a timeout, Thompson was forced to throw the pass out of bounds, setting up 4th-and-8 and a second Sanders field goal. Jaguars 17-6.
At least the offense moved some on that drive. Hopefully, Ahmed is not seriously injured. Gaskin looked good, especially working out of the slot as a receiver. Thompson needs to settle into a rhythm - he looked much more comfortable on this drive and not pressing as much as he was on the earlier drivers.
Working the two-minute drill, Beathard threw incomplete on first down, then picked up nine yards and seven yards on his next two passes, with a timeout called after each. Another pass picked up 10 yards, with wide receiver Elijah Cooks able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. An eight-yard pass to Johnson again stopped the clock by the running back getting out of bounds. Another pass to Johnson was stopped for no gain and before he could get out of bounds, leading to the end of the half.
Not the first half Miami was hoping to have. Will the second half be any better? Will any of the depth players, trying to force their way onto the 53-man roster, stand out in the last 30 minutes of the preseason?
Third Quarter Reactions
After a one-yard run to start the half, the Jaguars turned to the passing game and Beathard found a wide-open Tim Jones for a 74-yard score. Jaguars 24-6.
Well that did not take long. Rookie cornerback Cam Smith was in coverage on the touchdown pass and just bit on the double move. He tried to hold on to Jones as the receiver ran past him, but he was just completely out of position and Jones could have walked into the endzone.
The Dolphins, with Thompson still in at quarterback, started with a pass to Cracraft for 15 yards, then a Gaskin run for three yards. After an incomplete pass, Thompson scrambled out of the pocket and picked up six yards on 3rd-and-7. Going for it on 4th-and-1, Thompson threw to Gaskin for 18 yards and the first down. The Dolphins ran the fake pitch, quick slant play that worked for Hill on the first play of the game, this time with Thompson throwing to Cedrick Wilson for a 16-yard gain, but an illegal man downfield penalty backed up the Dolphins. Thompson threw to Erik Ezukanma for three yards on the next play, setting up 2nd-and-12 from the Jaguars 32-yard line. Thompson looked deep to Wilson, who turned the in-route into a 22-yard gain and a first down at the Jaguars’ 10-yard line. Gaskin picked up a yard on a run around the right end, then Thompson threw incomplete. Thompson was pressured on the 3rd-and-Goal play, scrambling in the backfield and eventually targeting Gaskin in the back of the endzone, with the running back just missing being able to pull in the pass for the score; an illegal contact penalty gave Miami a 1st-and-Goal from the four-yard line. Rookie running back Chris Brooks punched it in for the score; Miami failed to convert on the two-point attempt when Cracraft caught the pass but could not get both feet down inbounds. Jaguars 24-12.
Miami moved the ball well, and they did it with several players who need to make an impact. Wilson has been conducting a disappearing act since signing with the Dolphins last year. Ezukama and Cracraft are both hoping to make the roster and be in consideration for a good share of the playing time. Brooks and Gaskin are both hoping to make the roster as well.
The Jaguars move to Nathan Rourke at quarterback for the drive. He immediately ran a bootleg to pick up five yards, then threw to Cooks for a seven-yard gain. A missed handoff led to a fumble, with Rourke falling on it for a one-yard loss. Rourke then threw incomplete to bring up 3rd-and-11. Rourke found Cooks for 18 yards to convert for the first down. After an eight-yard run from JaMycal Hasty, Rourke threw to Seth Williams for a 43-yard gain. Hasty then finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. Jaguars 31-12.
The Dolphins defense continues to struggle to get the Jaguars offense off the field. They make a play or two, but then allow a big play or make a mistake and the drive continues. Hopefully part of this is the lack of wanting to put too much on film in the preseason, but Miami needs to figure out what is happening here and fix it before the regular season.
Miami started the drive with Gaskin, picking up nine yards and four yards on back-to-back runs. After an incomplete pass, Thompson found Cracraft for seven yards, then Wilson for another seven. A run from Gaskin added four yards before Brooks picked up nine yards and a first down. A deep pass toward the endzone fell incomplete, but an illegal contact penalty gave Miami a free first down. Brooks then took a handoff outside and powered his way through the defense for 13 yards. After a one-yard run from Brooks, the clock ran down to the end of the fourth quarter.
Fourth Quarter Reactions
Gaskin caught a pass to start the period, gaining seven yards and setting up 3rd-and-2 at the Jaguars’ nine-yard line. An incomplete pass led to another fourth-down play for Miami, with Thompson scrambling to his right and picking up three yards and the first down. Brooks ran for two yards, taking the ball to the four-yard line, then ran up the middle for four yards and the score.; Miami again tried to pick up the two-point conversion, but Brooks was stopped short. Jaguars 31-18.
That was a sustained drive, picking up 75 yards on 14 plays for the score. Gaskin adds a pass-catching option out of the backfield to the roster, having five receptions for 30 yards along with his six runs for 23 yards. Is it enough to make him have a roster spot? Brooks has six carries for 33 yards and he gives the team a power back, which they do not have without him. He still feels like a practice squad player, but there is talent there that Miami may use this season.
Snoop Conner picked up five yards to start the drive for the Jaguars before a holding penalty on Twyman gave the Jaguars a first down. Rourke was sacked by Randy Charlton on the first down play, then Miami forced Rourke to check down for just a six-yard pass. After an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-14, the Jaguars punted.
A much better defensive performance for Miami. The holding penalty was unfortunate, but the defense stepped up and finally got off the field, forcing the first punt for the Jaguars with about 10 minutes left in the game.
The Dolphins started the drive with a false start penalty, then a holding penalty negated a four-yard run from new quarterback James Blackman. Blackman threw to Brooks for a 10-yard gain, then to Ezukanma for 12 yards, setting up a 3rd-and-3. Blackman attempted to fit a pass into to receiver Daewood Davis, with the pass falling incomplete but an unnecessary roughness penalty gave Miami 15 yards and a first down. Davis lay on the field facedown after the play, with the cart and backboard brought out on the field.
The pre-snap penalties that had been a problem for the Dolphins had not been an issue tonight until the start of the drive, then a holding penalty made it worse.
After Davis was taken off the field, the coaches and NFL Players Association representatives (defensive tackle Christian Wilkins for Miami, kicker Brandon McManus for Jacksonville) met with the referees. The game was called with 8:32 remaining following the injury.
Immediate Post-Game Reactions
There will be plenty of time to go back over everything from this game, but the ending with Davis having to be taken off on a cart after a head injury just does not make it feel like the right time to break down who may or may not have made the roster. The game did not go how Miami would have wanted, especially with the interceptions from Thompson and the injuries that occurred.
The running back competition only got more convoluted as Ahmed appeared to have an injury and Gaskin and Brooks both played well. Christian Wilkins needs to be paid by the Dolphins so he can get back on the field because the run defense clearly needed him on Saturday. The injury to Elijah Campbell may shake up the plans for the secondary where he may have been penciled in as the starter.
We will pick up with more indepth reactions tomorrow. Right now, it is more about Davis and concern for him.