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It’s all about making progress and last Friday night in Jacksonville, the Dolphins took several important steps in the right direction.
Where do you start? With a first-team offense that finally found its way? With a first-team defense that showed it has a chance to be special? With four takeaways? With so many players stepping up?
First, we need to put this in perspective. The Jaguars are not a very good football team. At least they weren’t on this night.
As for the Dolphins, there are still several legitimate concerns. Ryan Tannehill looked shaky in the first three possessions, leading me to believe that he needs significantly more playing time in the next two preseason games.
Tannehill showed some good things on his one touchdown drive. But this is still a second-year quarterback trying to get in sync with a new cast of playmakers. They need time together. You can only do so much in practice. Building a rapport and some continuity is what the preseason games are all about. I’m hoping Tannehill and the first team offense plays at least half Saturday in Houston. I’m hoping that Tannehill and Mike Wallace start developing a trust in one another.
The offensive line, giving up a sack on the first play of the game, remains a work in progress and a starting five needs to surface sometime soon. The running game is still searching for a player to separate himself from the others.
All of these things should rightfully temper the enthusiasm of an overall solid effort against the Jaguars.
Nonetheless, there was plenty to build on, plenty to feel good about. Here’s 10 positives to ponder:
• What a difference it makes having linebacker Dannell Ellerbe back in the lineup. In just one quarter, it was evident that this is a special player who should have a huge impact on this defense.
• The Dolphins are deeper at cornerback than they have been in years. Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall are all having an excellent camp and when you add rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor into the mix, well, the potential becomes intriguing to say the least.
• Speaking of Davis, I’m not sure anybody on last year’s team catches that interception he had against the Jaguars. I haven’t seen enough of Taylor to form an impression, but I can tell you that Davis will play this season and play a lot.
• Dustin Keller is the pass-catching tight end this team has so badly needed.
He is so smooth running routes and catching passes. You can already see a bond developing between him and Tannehill. It is that same bond I want to see between Tannehill and Wallace.
• Caleb Sturgis made a huge statement with his 58-yard field goal, not to mention those kickoffs deep into the end zone. If everything is relatively equal, you’ve got to consider Sturgis the frontrunner over Dan Carpenter because he was drafted and because he is less expensive. They both, I believe, will be kicking for an NFL team this season.
• The red zone offense was two-for-two. Granted, the starters weren’t in the game at those times, but it’s still important to note considering last year’s struggles and the emphasis on that in this training camp.
• Running back Jonas Gray continues to have an outstanding preseason. With his size and physical running style, could he make the team as a fullback and a halfback? This will be one of those tough decisions.
• Another tough decision will come at receiver. Do the Dolphins keep five or six? One thing for sure, with young players such as Rishard Matthews, Chad Bumphis and Marvin McNutt, they are far better off than they were in 2012.
• Left tackle Jonathan Martin looked far more comfortable than he did in the preseason opener. He is another player who needs plenty of playing time in the next two preseason games.
• And finally, rookie Dion Sims is a keeper at tight end. He has excellent hands and can block. I look forward to seeing Sims and Keller on the field together in two tight end formations. How many tight ends the Dolphins keep – and where they count Charles Clay — will help determine Michael Egnew’s fate.
Now it’s time to move on and hope that the same progress we saw against Jacksonville continues Saturday night in Houston.
On Tuesday, A.C. in the A.M. will tackle fans questions
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.