Miami Dolphins: Top 3 Questions of the Week Preseason Week 4

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Can Jay Cutler’s veteran skill set compensate for the faults of the offensive line?

In his 12th season in the NFL, it’s easy to see that Jay Cutler is a more than capable passer with above average awareness—despite his flashy gunslinger antics. Cutler’s presence is a welcome addition to Miami’s offense, but will that mean anything if his offensive line fails to do their job?

The answer is yes. Even with a faulty offensive line, Cutler went 5 for 8 with 105 passing yards on Thursday night. Cutler is fully capable of producing with less-than-stellar blocking. Although Cutler would benefit from an offensive line that consistently and effectively carries out their blocking assignments, his “playmaker” mentality helps him survive even when his protection is substandard.

Cutler’s judgment and resilience were apparent in some “no-win” scenarios resulting from ineffective protection against the Eagles. During one play in particular, Cutler was nearly sacked but got the pass off to an eligible receiver’s feet; avoiding the sack and an intentional grounding call. The play was ultimately a bust, but Cutler’s split-second decision making proved to be an effective form of damage control.

Overall, an improved performance from Miami’s offensive line would prove quite advantageous to Cutler. He has shown thus far that even with shoddy protection, he is still fully capable of keeping the play alive and being smart with the ball—for now.

Will Jay Ajayi’s concussion have any effect on his play style?

With 53 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns, Jay Ajayi performed admirably Thursday night. With this performance in mind, it’s hard to believe that he suffered a concussion less than a month ago. Ajayi’s energy on Thursday night was highlighted by two red zone power runs finding paydirt through sheer force. The sheer force displayed is reminiscent of Ajayi’s successful 2016 season where he not only rushed for 1,272 yards with eight touchdowns, but gained an average of 3.46 yards after contact, one of the highest averages in the league. He averaged 5.1 yards after contact on Thursday.

This display of strength leads to the belief that his training camp concussion should be a non-issue this season. It’s a hopeful but fair assertion that Ajayi should be able to carry his momentum from preseason game 3 into the regular season and put up some impressive numbers during the 2017 campaign.

Can Miami’s secondary make major improvements?

First of all, it is worth noting that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is no ordinary second year quarterback. He started his entire first season with the Eagles and proved to be a competent passer worthy of the job. However, Wentz simply being above average is no excuse for Miami’s secondary to fold and allow the huge plays that they did.

The series of blown assignments began with a 50-yard touchdown connection from Wentz to Torrey Smith in the first three minutes of the game that had safety Rashad Jones and cornerback Byron Maxwell looking absolutely dumbfounded. This defensive meltdown Miami experienced led to the Dolphins 38-31 loss—with big plays being a key factor.

The big pass plays that Miami’s secondary gave up were primarily a result of poor communication between the defensive backs. Reports indicate that Miami’s secondary had a considerable amount of trouble with Philadelphia’s passing attack all throughout their joint-practices.

Some criticism should fall on the shoulders of defensive coordinator, Matt Burke. Defensive blunders get a pass during the preseason. However, the blown assignments need to be addressed before the season opener against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers certainly have the weapons to give Miami’s defense trouble early on in the 2017 campaign.

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