After the Dolphins 23-6 loss to the Falcons dropped their preseason record to 0-3, it is evident that the team still has plenty of work to do with just over two weeks before Miami kicks off the regular season in Houston. Although many areas of concern remain for this young Dolphins squad, last nights exhibition game provided Joe Philbin and his staff with several positives to build on going forward.
The pass rush that has been non-existent in the Dolphins first two preseason games was bolstered by the return of Cameron Wake to the lineup. It didn't take long for Wake to make his presence known as he recorded a critical third down sack, forcing Atlanta to attempt a 44 yard field goal. Wake was at it again this time teaming up with rookie third round pick Olivier Vernon to bring down Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and end the first half. The Dolphins secondary also showed flashes of their full potential with cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis making many key tackles to stall what looked to be a promising drive. Davis' performance will go a long way in his efforts to win back the starting CB job from free agent acquisition Richard Marshall. Overall the Dolphins starting defense who were without Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett looked sharp, holding a potent Atlanta offence to long field goal attempts and only allowing nine points heading into the break.
While in the midst of a quarterback competition between Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore the Dolphins neglected the running game in the first two preseason tilts. The gameplan chenged for Friday night as the Dolphins backs carried the ball 13 times for 61 yards in the first half. Starting RB Reggie Bush picked up where he left off last season and opened the game with an 18 yard dash through the gaping hole provided by the left side of the offensive line. Bush gave way to Daniel Thomas in the second quarter who rushed for 26 yards on 5 carriers and showed why the Dolphins traded up into the second round to select him in the 2011 NFL Draft. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also showed off his athletism as he scampered for a 15 yard run to keep the chains moving. For the Dolphins to have any success this season they must rely on their strengths and the run game is certainly one of them.
Kicker Dan Carpenter put all the doubters to rest as he drilled a 52 yard field goal for the second consecutive game. He has rebounded nicely after missing two field goals in the week one preseason loss to Tampa Bay. With the Dolphins not expected to light up opposing defenses this season, Carpenter will be relied on to put up points therefore strong play from him is crucial.
The Dolphins most glaring need was on display once again. Miami's wide reciever core didn't do Tannehill any favors last night and made his final stats of 11 of 27 for 112 yards and 1 INT look much worse then they actually were. In total the Dolphins wide recievers dropped six passes. The usually sure handed Anthony Fasano dropped two including one in the end zone, Legedu Naanee dropped two of his own and Charles Clay and Julius Pruitt each dropped a pass from backup Matt Moore. The Dolphins leading reciever Davone Bess was one of the lone bright spots in the offence as he made four receptions for 59 yards and proved that he is the only legitimate wide reciever currently on Miami's roster. General Manager Jeff Ireland must work quickly to acquire another weapon for Tannheill whether it is via trade or a waiver wire addition.
The great thing about the preseason is that it's merely a test run and like every other NFL team, the Dolphins have yet to lose an actual game. With several positives to build on there is still reason for Dolphins fans to be optimistic about this season and beyond. Miami will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday in their final preseason game and even though it doesn't count, a win will provide the team with some momentum entering the regular season.