Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill got his first home start in a 23-6 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
In what typically amounts to a dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Dolphins were able to establish some semblance of a running game but had some trouble moving the ball consistently.
Here are my five key takeaways from last night’s game
- It Was Good To See Cam Wake Back: Even given some of the notable absences–Wake, Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett–the first team’s inability to get to the quarterback in the first two preseason games surprised many. When the starters played, the front seven gave Cam Newton and Josh Freeman far too much time to operate, and the results were predictable. Enter Cam Wake, the Pro Bowl pass rusher. After Kevin Coyle challenged the defense to fire up the intensity, Wake returned with an explosiveness that set the tone for the entire defense. In limited action, Wake finished with two tackles and 1.5 sacks, showing an impressive first step that kept Matt Ryan on his toes.
- Lack of Wide Receiver Consistency: With Brian Hartline still sidelined with a calf injury, there’s been a huge opportunity for a young receiver to make a name for himself. Dolphins coaches keep waiting for someone to emerge, but last night, again, everyone felt like they took two giant steps back. Aside from Davone Bess, who was unsurprisingly solid, the unit did not inspire a whole lot of confidence. Hopefully, Hartline is on the mend and will be able to start contributing shortly. As for Anthony Fasano, whom you’d assume would be one of Tannehill’s safety valves, it was just one of those nights, but the drops shouldn’t linger into the regular season.
- Someone Needs To Play Center Field: In Coyle’s defense, the two safety spots are less defined than they may be in a more traditional scheme. They are more or less interchangeable, giving both the strong safety and free safety chances to play the deep ball. But, to this point, nobody has stepped up and made a play. The Dolphins need a Willie Mays-type center fielder, someone who can roam around and easily locate a ball once it leaves an opposing quarterbacks hands. Thus far in the preseason, Jimmy Wilson and Reshad Jones have each had legitimate opportunities to make a play over the top, and they are 0-for-2.
- Jonathan and Jerry: Move over Ben and Jerry’s, you may have some competition. The right side of the Dolphins’ line–one of the bigger question marks heading into last night’s game–submitted a nice, bounce-back performance. Jerry, who replaced an injured Artis Hicks, was a focal point of Tuesday night’s Hard Knocks episode. Perhaps the extra attention–both negative and positive–was just what the third-year guard needed. After practicing together nearly the entire week, the duo looked as if it has built a little chemistry, adequately holding their own in the much-improved running game.
- Tannehill’s Decision Making: If you judged Tannehill’s performance solely by his statistics, you’d probably assume the rookie had a mediocre night–he finished 11-of-27 for 112 yards and an interception. But the box score didn’t tell the whole story. There were times that he looked look like, well, a rookie quarterback. Other than the tipped interception he threw in the second quarter, though, he showed impressive command of the offense. I loved the location of the football when he threw into tight coverage, even throwing the receiver away from defenders at times. With just one preseason game remaining, there’s no doubt that Tannehill has grown a little bit each week.