The Dolphins finished their 2014 preseason with a one point victory over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium, and roster spots may have been earned and lost along the way on both sides of the football. Almost all of the 1st team starters on offense and defense didn’t play tonight, and it gave opportunities to some of the fringe players that needed to perform in order to earn a coveted roster spot on the final 53 before the final cutdowns this Saturday at 4:00. Tonight’s game gave us insight into the depth of the Dolphins, and also showcased players just looking for their one chance to shine for an extended period of time this preseason.
Here’s what I noticed during the Dolphins’ final preseason game:
1. Doing Enough
Coming into the game the spotlight was squarely on two players on the offensive side of the football. Daniel Thomas and Marcus Thigpen have been counted on in recent years to fulfill multiple roles on the offensive side of the ball and special teams. This preseason, both have been slowed by injuries that have limited their opportunities, while other young players have taken advantage of their repetitions at practice and during the preseason. Thomas didn’t get going till the later stages of tonight’s game, and that was to be expected with him sidelined for the past couple weeks. Although Thigpen did have a nice 32 punt return in the second half, he did bobble and recover his own fumble in an earlier attempt in the first half, and he failed to take the field in a punt return situation. There was some confusion as to who was going to be the returner, and St. Louis took advantage by kicking the ball with no return man, pinning the Dolphins back deep.
It will be interesting come Saturday at 4:00 to see if either one of these names remain on the Dolphins roster when it gets cut down to 53.
2. Strength In Numbers
In the fourth game of a preseason schedule, young players need to step up and take advantage of their opportunities. Defensively, there were a number of undrafted free agents that caught my attention, most of them playing at the defensive tackle position. It was good to see Kamal Johnson, Anthony Johnson, and Garrison Smith all play a significant part in getting themselves noticed by their strong efforts tonight. Smith led the way from the tackle position with a sack, but Johnson and Johnson played the run strong and were around the football the entire evening. Two other players from that front seven that caught attention were defensive ends Tevin Mims and D’Aundre Reed. There’s not a whole lot of vacancy when it comes to the defensive side of the football, but there players may have earned a position on Miami’s practice squad or another roster around the league.
3. Quick On The Edge
It wasn’t a Cameron Wake performance, but undrafted rookie linebacker Chris McCain sure did his best imitation of Wake on Thursday night, bringing a presence to the Dolphins pass rush off the edge. McCain led the team with two sacks on the night, and was a nuisance to both Rams quarterbacks the entire evening. If there’s one thing that will keep McCain around South Florida, it’s his burst off the line of scrimmage, and the knack to get around the corner to create havoc in the offensive backfield. I’m sure that his special team play will ultimately play a significant role if he makes it here in Miami. But there’s no questioning his burst and what he can give a football team with a player like Dion Jordan sidelined for the first four weeks of the season.
News & Notes
- The only starting player to get playing time tonight were right guard Dallas Thomas, who is fighting for a starting spot at right guard with Shelley Smith.
- Caleb Sturgis attempted a 56 yard field goal tonight and missed it left. It did have the distance however, and Sturgis still remains a question mark with nine days remaining till the regular season begins.
- Rookie wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Matt Hazel both performed well tonight. Landry continued his superb preseason play, while Hazel led all Dolphins receivers with 4 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
- Will Davis and Jamar Taylor got extensive playing time at the cornerback position tonight. That’s good work for two young guys that might not see permanent duty with the starters during the season, but getting more experience will be important if they have to come in during a tight spot.
- Seth Lobato handled the better half of three quarters, and played well despite an excellent Rams pass rush. He displayed good arm strength and the willingness to push the ball into tight windows when he needed to.
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