If there was one word that comes to mind in reaction to Smokin’ Jay’s Miami Dolphins debut, it would be “promising”. He may not have ended up with points on the board, which would be the only real negative, but he did pass an important test. Cutler passed the eye test.
Cutler had an excellent first drive. Unfortunately, holding penalties from Sam Young negated 54 passing yards on consecutive plays. Overall, Cutler looked comfortable and displayed good pocket awareness rolling out and stepping up to throw when needed. The most enticing takeaway is the clear chemistry between him and DeVante Parker. Considering Cutler’s tendencies for bigger receivers, I personally expect Parker to have a better season than Jarvis Landry this year with him under center.
Jay Ajayi also had a solid showing, although you wouldn’t know it on the stat sheet. He managed two lackluster runs and one breakout run which one of Young’s holding penalties negated. He also added a nice 11-yard reception where he broke a tackle in space. It was nice to see the concussion didn’t make him shy away from that signature angry running style we grew accustomed to last year.
Sinorise Perry had a whirlwind of a game. He had a good day on offense capped by an 11-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter, but struggled on special teams. His first return was solid, but he muffed the second return, scooped it up, and fumbled again returning the kick. That’s never a good play to have on tape.
Damien Williams had a very good day in pass protection. Twice he picked up the blitzing linebacker to allow Cutler time to take a shot at DeVante Parker down the field. He may be our best blocker out of the backfield.
The offensive line didn’t look good at all. The offense couldn’t muster up much of a running game. Also, the quarterbacks didn’t have a clean pocket to work from. The score and total yards directly reflect that. It’s hard to expect much with only two of your projected starters in, but you would still like to see a better showing than that. Sam Young showed how important having Ju’wuan James in the lineup is going to be, hopefully he’ll be able to recover from that shoulder injury sooner rather than later.
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The starting defense had a pretty good outing, although it was against Ryan Mallett and not Joe Flacco. They didn’t allow points from the Ravens starters and had some nice stops on 3rd and 4th down. The line played well, with Suh and Wake wreaking their usual havoc and allowing others to benefit from the extra attention needed to contain them. The primary benefactor of this has been Davon Godchaux, who had another good showing playing against the Ravens starters, or at least what’s left of them. He has really capitalized on this opportunity to start and doesn’t look like he’ll give it up without a fight.
Charles Harris didn’t have a great night, losing containment on a couple of run plays his way. Mike Hull had an impressive game racking up 5 tackles and a pass breakup on 4th down. He looks comfortable playing in the “Mike” position and should continue to start if he can remain consistent.
The secondary was the shining unit of the defense Thursday night. Bobby McCain missed an open field tackle, but the top three players on the depth chart all made impact plays. Byron Maxwell showed a Peanut Tillman-esque knack for jarring the ball loose. He causedd two forced fumbles in the first quarter alone. Xavien Howard had a nice over the shoulder interception, basically running the wide receiver’s route for him and snagging it out of the air. The third-round rookie Cordrea Tankersley made a heads up, scrappy play prying the ball away from a Ravens receiver before he hit the ground for a nice interception. Rashad Jones and T.J. McDonald also looked good out there, it’ll be exciting to see these two work together consistently once McDonalds eight game suspension is up.
Special teams looked awful. They played poorly against the Atlanta Falcons in week 1 of the preseason. After that, you would expect a Dan Rizzi led squad to improve on a substandard performance. If anything, they actually regressed. Fortunately, it is still preseason, and players who will most likely be cut made most of the miscues.
Perry fumbled twice on a return and is hoping Miami keeps four running backs. Winston Chapman, the longshot of longshots to replace the ageless John Denney, was the primary reason for the muffed punt. It still is disconcerting to see them play so bad. Hopefully Rizzi is just trying out different players at various positions and seeing who fits.
Regardless of what the 31-7 final score would lead you to believe, the Miami Dolphins showed a lot of promise in their second preseason game. The starters weren’t spectacular, but they looked ahead of where many were expecting considering the circumstances. Jay Cutler looked much more comfortable in the offense than anyone was expecting. The team clearly needs to work out some of the kinks. Luckily there are still three Sundays before our home opener against Buccaneers.