The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars clashed this past Saturday evening, with the Jaguars emerging with a 31-18 victory in the shortened contest. This would be a real treat in the regular season (and possibly will be in the postseason), and likely whichever team possessed the football last would come out on top.
When breaking down preseason film, it's important to look for things that will have an impact on the regular season. That means we need to consider who players are going up against and how much their preseason role will mirror that in the regular season. For this contest, we were able to break down some key moments that could have ramifications on roster construction and regular season success.
Skylar Thompson’s Inconsistencies
With Mike White sidelined (he recently cleared concussion protocol), it seemed that Skylar Thompson had a golden opportunity to stake his claim as the second quarterback up during the regular season. Unfortunately, we saw an extremely uneven performance from Thompson which started with two costly interceptions. One on an overthrow while rolling out of the pocket and another where he was under pressure and just didn’t see a defender in the zone.
Skylar Thompson bounced back in a big way on the Dolphins' final drive of the first half, just a shame that it came after two bad interceptions.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 28, 2023
Has the arm to make special throws, but needs to cut out the mistakes and inaccurate passes.#FinsUp pic.twitter.com/EuGasu4UFT
After those picks, we saw a completely different player. On Miami’s final drive of the first half, Thompson showed exactly why so many fans have been excited about the young(ish) quarterback. There’s no question that Thompson has the strongest arm in Miami’s quarterback room and it was on full display in the clips above. Throwing a deep out off your back foot into tight coverage takes serious arm talent, it’s just unfortunate that it came after two costly picks had put Miami in a 14-point deficit.
Austin Jackson and the Offensive Line Continue to Look Promising
Before we get into Jackson’s performance, let’s quickly go over how the rest of the unit looked. Robert Hunt, Lester Cotton, Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Lamm, and Connor Williams (the bad snap aside) all turned in strong performances. It seems obvious at this point that Wynn has secured the starting spot at left guard and Kendall Lamm will be the swing tackle this upcoming season. Both players had strong preseasons and should fill key roles on an improved line in 2023.
Austin Jackson only had two standard pass sets against the Jaguars (no play action, screens, rollouts etc...). Both came against Josh Allen and he looked great on both.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 28, 2023
Not nearly enough of a sample size to make any determination, but here they are. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/tY9QNnDMJn
That really just leaves one concern up-front and that’s Austin Jackson at right tackle. In order to get a fair appraisal of where he’s at, I looked at only standard pass sets (cutting out play action, rollouts, screens etc...). He only had two, but luckily they came against legit competition in Josh Allen-one of the best young pass rushers in the game.
Like in previous contests this season, Jackson’s play strength (while still not great) looks significantly better when dealing with power moves. While his athleticism and movement will always be his strong suit, being able to deal with power will make him a more complete pass protector. As for his run-blocking; Jackson will never be a road-grader. If he can just be good enough in that aspect of his game (that and dealing with power), he can be an above-average tackle this season.
Tua’s Break Falls Training Shows Up Again
There are two things that I wanted to cover here. Tua continues to look sharp as he has for most of the preseason and training camp. The offense isn’t digging too deep into the playbook or anything, but he’s executing at a high level. Physically, he is clearly more stout and it looks to be translating to velocity on some of his passes.
Slowed this down so we can all appreciate how flawlessly this is executed. Takes some stones to turn your back on the defense, sit there in the pocket, and come up firing like this. #FinsUp— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 28, 2023
+Beautiful break fall by Tua pic.twitter.com/vWeO0lblOB
The other thing that is arguably even more exciting for Dolphins’ fans, is his jujitsu training showing up in game action. This is the second week in a row where he’s pushed back after releasing the football. Instead of falling straight back and hitting his head (like he’s done before), he executes a perfect break fall using his momentum to roll backward rather than letting the turf absorb it. I love it when a plan comes together.
Defensive Contributions from Familiar Places
While the defense, as a whole, was disappointing against the Jaguars, fans shouldn’t start to panic just yet (does Vic Fangio know how to coach!?). One of the things that has made Fangio such a good defensive play-caller/coordinator is his ability to mask coverages and confuse quarterbacks. You know what would be a terrible idea? To show some examples of that in a meaningless preseason game so that your week one opponent can get tape on what you might try against them.
The other important thing to remember is that Zach Sieler and Christian Wilkins didn’t play a snap in this contest. That push in the middle of the offensive line came mostly against reserve defensive tackles (most of whom won’t make the 53-man roster). This will be a good run defense come the regular season... assuming Christian Wilkins remains a Dolphin (I think he will).
We did however have some nice performances from some familiar faces. The first that I wanted to talk about is Jaelan Phillips. He sets up his tackle to the outside and makes a beautiful inside move. The only reason they didn’t have to scrape Trevor Lawrence off the grass is because he’s mugged by that same tackle he just embarrassed (holding was called).
I have to say I’m shocked by the number of Dolphins fans with negative things to say about Phillips, but he’s one of the 10 best edge defenders in the NFL... on a rookie contract.... through 2024 (2025 if they exercise his option). The Dolphins hit the lottery with this pick and he should start to gain more league-wide praise after this upcoming season.
Darth Kader is for real folks.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 28, 2023
Cool little play design here. The Jags send a WR in motion and fake the screen to him. Kirk makes like he's going to block and then breaks to the sideline. They almost get him, but Kohou comes in at the last second to break it up.#FinsUp pic.twitter.com/XTxdOhzqQN
The other guy who deserves a shout-out is Kader Kohou. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into his sophomore season with a new defensive scheme, but he is 100% for real. It’s hard to say how Chris Grier keeps unearthing these waiver wire/UDFA gems (he just signed one to a big extension), but he does. While Nik Needham has been a solid veteran for a while, Kohou has the tools to be one of the better corners in the NFL. Keep an eye on his development going forward.
Eyes to the Regular Season
Well, the Miami Dolphins wrapped up another preseason. While they had some bad injury luck, the majority of the team is still together. They’ll have a tough schedule this year (starting with their opening game against the Chargers), but they’re as talented as anyone in the NFL. They didn’t light up the preseason (who cares?) but there’s no reason to tone down our expectations; this is a playoff-caliber team that needs to end the postseason win drought (22 years!) in South Florida.