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Miami Dolphins: Stock up, down against Atlanta

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Thursday night contest against the Atlanta Falcons gave Miami Dolphins’ fans a little hope. With the dress rehearsal game, the offense was looking to reestablish some degree of success. Often last season, Miami Dolphins struggled with consistency.Stringing together progress two games in a row was a must. The starters played most of the first half and other than a few minor injuries; they calmed a few fears. Looking back on it, who’s up/down after three weeks of preseason play.


Two thumbs up:
It’s hard to love a quarterback who didn’t throw a single touchdown and had a 67.5 passer rating. However, Ryan Tannehill found some ways to get things done. His first play from scrimmage was a 22 yard, read option scramble. Later, that drive brought him back down to earth as a pass was batted down at the line and intercepted. From then on out Tannehill went to work completing 68.97% of his passes.

While none of those passes were brought down in the end zone, Tannehill has never looked more comfortable in an offense. With only one sack in 2 games, a large part of his success is due to his revamp offensive line. However, even when coverage broke down, he showed his strength passing on the run. If Tannehill can continue to grow in this offense, look for Miami to be very happy with their new head coach.

One thumb up:
Arian Foster may not have looked like a starter in the run game, but none-the-less he was effective. Foster may have only carried the ball five times for 10 yards, but 2 of those ten were on a touchdown run, another for a first down. The Dolphins needed someone who could help move the chains, and he did just that.

Where Foster excelled was in the passing game. 2 receptions for 20 yards might not blow up on the stat sheet, however in the open field teams will have to account for the running back. The former Texan might have to shake off a little rust, but he came a bit more alive than he did against Dallas.

Honorable mention:

Ja’waun James along with the rest of the offensive line enjoyed another successful night. James stuck out a bit more this game as footage showed him pushing defenders out and away from Tannehill more often than not. There were a few missteps in the week two match up, but the line is starting to gel. Even fill in Anthony Steen looked like he belonged in Mike Pouncey’s absence. If the unit can hold up the way it has the past two games, and figure out run blocking, Tannehill should make huge strides this season.

Kenny Stills was a frequent target again this game. For the second week in a row, he led the team in receiving yards with 46. That’s six more yards than Tannehill’s favorite target Jarvis Landry. Hopefully, for Dolphins fans, that turns into a friendly rivalry. Stills is proving he can not only be the leader in the locker room but on the field as well. With the number of formations Adam Gase has lined the offense up in, a deep threat who can get open anywhere on the field makes the rest of the field look even better. Tannehill threw to Stills often in this game, the more comfortable he gets, the more big plays we’ll see.

Two thumbs down:
Miami’s secondary looked like the finest Swiss cheese out there. Sure they were solid in some spots, but huge holes all the way through. Aldrick Robinson was made to look like a superstar. Austin Hooper also enjoyed lots of success. Even when receivers weren’t gaining huge yards, they were given to them. Miami had their fair share of penalties downfield that made the Falcons better than they were. If not for a 4th down stop and an interception in the end zone, the Dolphins might not have walked out of there winners. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph needs to get these guys fast tracked to the big, physical, defenders fans wanted them to be. Coaches hope rookie Xavien Howard can pick up the playbook fast and be an immediate impact on defense. If not, Miami will have some holes to fill.

One thumb down:
Starting running back Jay Ajayi has gone missing this preseason. Coaches have had high hopes for Ajayi this season. However, his seven carries for 11 yards and two receptions for 12 weren’t anything to write back home about. Of the two running backs, Foster seemed a bit more of a playmaker. While Ajayi ran hard, he often found himself running for the sidelines instead of making a move upfield. He needs to be more successful at planting his foot, lowering his shoulder, and powering through.

There’s nothing wrong with finding a hole to run through, but a couple of runs Thursday looked like would be arm tackles that someone with strength would’ve broken through. Ajayi needs to settle in and find himself in the Dolphins offense or he won’t be the starter for long.

Dishonorable mention:
Jordan Cameron looks like a man lost out there. A couple dropped passes again last night. After multiple concussions, Cameron is playing like he’s scared to take a hit. He’s a big target the Dolphins really could use if they don’t want to rely on kickers to win every game. Miami has needed a red zone threat in the worst way for seasons now.

Whatever is going on inside Jordan Cameron’s head right now, coaches need to figure out fast. The guy still has talent. He’s still an asset to the team. However, he can’t run around in a fog like that. He needs to use his size and strength to catch balls. As long as other receiving options materialize in the red zone, the Dolphins can afford to be a bit more patient. Look for fans to grow tired of the drops should they continue on Sundays.

Isiah Pead looked awful against the Falcons first unit. Enjoying success in the preseason, Pead looked to be a sure thing to make the roster. His single carry went for 1 yard, and his three catches for 14 weren’t much better. With a pass in the backfield and Pead could’ve had a big play if he beat one man. There was no such luck.

Unlucky for Pead, fellow Dolphin Damien Williams ran in for a touchdown as well. Williams and Pead seem to be fighting for the same roster spot and showing up in the clutch is what matters. Combine that with Williams being a better asset in pass protection and Pead might have one game left to show what he’s got. Preseason week four will make or break a lot of backups’ hearts next week. Let’s see which one shows up.

The Dolphins got the benefit of the preseason in this contest. The box score for the Dolphins shows a win that looks better on paper. A few less mental errors by the Falcons would’ve had Dolfans sweating. Miami didn’t get a ton of pressure on Matt Ryan, receivers had too much room to run, and Julio Jones came out in the first quarter after a mild injury concern. The Falcons could’ve easily got away with a win, but that’s why they play four quarters and not two.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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