Preseason Opener: The Highs and Lows

RB Lamar Miller

As preseason openers go, what the Dolphins put out against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Sunday night wasn't that far from the norm. That the Dolphins almost rallied from a 17-0 deficit before losing 24-20 obviously is secondary to individual performances that will be the coaching staff make final roster decisions.

The general consensus was that the Dolphins played a really sloppy game, complete with a couple of bad turnovers, and should be thoroughly disappointed with their performance.

There certainly is some merit to that, although it might be a good idea to remember it was only the first of five preseason games and there also were some positive things that happened. It's just that coaches, by nature, will harp on things to work on much more so than things that went well.

So, without further ado, here's what we can take from this first preseason game:

THE GOOD

• QB Matt Moore — Any doubt that this guy is a big-time backup quarterback? Yes, he did throw an interception that was returned 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, but that one looked like might have been more on Chad Bumphis than Moore. Actually, the one bad play Moore made was when he failed to throw the ball away while he was being chased by a Dallas defender on a naked bootleg that didn't work. Instead of an incompletion, Moore wound up taking a big sack. But Moore was accurate for most of the night and hung tough in the pocket on a couple of occasions where he ended up taking a big shot after releasing the ball. And for those wondering, he only went back into the game late in the fourth quarter because Coach Joe Philbin said Pat Devlin was "nicked a hair."

• WR CHAD BUMPHIS — Yep, there was that glitch where it seemed as though he slowed down — or even stopped — while running a crossing pattern, which left him in position where he could only get his fingertips on the Moore throw that was intercepted. Overall, though, Bumphis continued to make his case for landing a roster spot. Bumphis is smallish but he sure seems to find a way to get open.

• RB Lamar Miller — Again, a lot of the focus when it comes to Miller is going to be on his failure to handle Ryan Tannehill's handoff on the first offensive snap of the game on the fumble that was charged to Tannehill (bad rule). Instead, we should focus on the next two times Miller got the ball when he showed his burst on runs of 10 and 11 yards. Unless we see more fumbles start occurring, we can chalk it up to a fluke.

• DE Derrick Shelby — Here's a guy who has flown under the radar at defensive end because of Cameron Wake's ability, Olivier Vernon's emergence this summer and the presence of first-round pick Dion Jordan, but he's always had good pass-rushing ability. Given the start against Dallas because Vernon was kept out, Shelby showed his stuff with a couple of sacks.

• K Dan Carpenter — I expected rookie Caleb Sturgis to get the kicking work against Dallas because the Dolphins know what they have in Carpenter, but that wasn't the case and Carpenter had as good a night as he could have asked for in his quest to hang on to his job. Carpenter made both of his field goal attempts — from 27 and 45 yards — and two of his four kickoffs ended in touchbacks.

• RB JONAS GRAY — Among the newcomers at running back, rookie Mike Gillislee is the one who seems to be getting the most attention, but that very well might be because he played at the University of Florida and there's a big fan base in South Florida. Gray has proven early on to be better as a pass catcher than Gillislee and he also had a nifty 29-yard run in the fourth quarter.

• DE DION JORDAN — We saved the best for last, and by that we mean it's the best because it was the most important development for the Dolphins. No, Jordan didn't get a sack against Dallas, but he got good pressure on a couple of times, including a play where he forced the quarterback to step up and into the waiting arms of Shelby. What was impressive about Jordan was how smooth he looked in a couple of different roles. Just think back to a third-and-long late in the first half when Jordan actually dropped back from the middle of the line and stopped running back Joseph Randle 5 yards short of the first down on a draw play. It was, no question, a promising start for the rookie.

THE BAD

• THE TURNOVERS — OK, we'll put it out there first just to get it out of the way, but it has gotten way overblown since last night. First, it was two turnovers, not eight. One was a muffed handoff, the other a pick off a tipped ball. That does not constitute pattern-making material. One more note on turnovers: Yes, Philbin has emphasized winning the turnover battle this season. Is that a great revelation? You don't think the 31 other head coaches are preaching to their team the importance of winning the turnover battle? This has been early on by far the most overblown storyline of Dolphins training camp.

• LEFT TACKLE — You want to get concerned about something from the preseason opener? This is the spot. And here's the thing: It goes beyond starter Jonathan Martin. After Martin had, at best, a mediocre outing, it was rookie third-round pick Dallas Thomas who replaced him at left tackle and he was worse. Again, there are four preseason games left, but this appears to be the most troublesome spot on the roster at this point.

• RUN DEFENSE — We have to mention this because the Dolphins gave up 170 yards on the ground and the top three Dallas running backs all averaged at least 5 yards per carry. Now we take a deep breath and understand that the Dolphins played without Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Dannell Ellerbe, and Paul Soliai barely played. This should not be an issue during the regular season.

• LB Philip Wheeler — Wheeler had the best defensive play on the first drive of the game when he stuffed running back Phillip Tanner, but that was negated from some coverage issues and some missed tackles. It was not a good first outing for the Dolphins' free agent acquisition.

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