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It’s not about final scores; it’s about storylines. Keep that in mind during each of these five preseason games. Yes, the Dolphins lost to the Cowboys Sunday night. Yes, they looked sloppy. Yes, there were turnovers and penalties and missed tackles and dropped passes and enough things to give Joe Philbin hours to talk about in his next team meeting.
But let’s not over-react. The Dolphins have been in camp exactly two weeks. Many of their starting players – including some of their most important starting players — didn’t see the field in Canton. I’m not making excuses. I’m merely stating facts.
What matters these days has more to do with young players searching for attention, with new veterans trying to fit in and with an entire football team gradually getting ready for a long regular season.
It is time to experience, to explore and to emerge.
And right now, what is evident more than anything else, is that this team isn’t close to where it needs to be, which is kind of what you expected for this time of year, isn’t it?
Storylines – not final scores – that’s what these early preseason games are all about.
Like Dion Jordan seeing his first game action and continuing to look like he belongs. Like Lamar Miller overcoming an early fumble with a couple of nice runs. Like young receiver Keenan Davis, signed just last week, making a nice touchdown catch. Like Matt Moore showing enough poise to lead a late scoring drive, young linebacker Jonathan Feeney making a nice open field tackle and Chad Bumphis suddenly appearing on our radar screen.
Sure, there are “big picture” storylines of importance as well. A revamped offensive line must step up. The defense must get takeaways. The red zone offense must improve. There wasn’t much progress in any of these areas against the Cowboys, but let’s give this preseason a chance to play out. Let’s wait until the starters are in there together for more than a handful of plays.
So sit back, take a deep breath and we’ll revisit the 10 things I wrote I’d be focusing on in this game:
1. Tannehill for however long he plays: Well, he didn’t play very much. Three series to be exact. And there wasn’t much continuity, which I guess is expected for the first preseason game. He did complete back-to-back short passes before leaving. Bottom line: Needs more work.
2. More Miller Time: It couldn’t have started worse for the second-year back as he fumbled on his first carry without taking a hit. He did, however, quickly rebound with a couple of nice 10-plus yard runs. Bottom Line: Miller will get plenty of chances this preseason to eliminate the mistakes and continue to show his big-play potential.
3. The continued growth of Dion Jordan: Pressured the quarterback on his first pass rush and really wasn’t much of a factor after that. But, after watching him in practice, I firmly believe he will make a significant impact this season.
4. Who will emerge as the second tight end? Michael Egnew had his most productive game with four catches and Kyle Miller caught a late touchdown pass. Rookie Dion Sims had no passes directed his way. Some interesting possibilities here.
5. How will the pieces come together on the offensive line? This remains my biggest concern as the third week of training camp begins. There are some good components here, but they have to mesh together. And that has yet to happen. Left tackle Jonathan Martin is trying to prove he can be effective protecting Tannehill’s blindside. Early reviews are up and down, which makes the next few weeks very important.
6. Which young player will step forward on the defensive line? Derrick Shelby and Vaughn Martin got the start ahead of Jared Odrick and Randy Starks, who were both rested. Shelby clearly stood out with two sacks and could make things interesting come decision-time.
7. Who haven’t we heard much about? A pair of young linebackers, Jonathan Freeny and Austin Spitler, did some good things with the second team defense. Running back Jonas Gray had a big 29-yard run and there was Keenan Davis with his touchdown catch. Someone, you can be sure, is going to surprise us and make this team.
8. The young cornerbacks: Well, Jamar Taylor sat this one out, still not quite 100-percent. Will Davis did play and was called for pass interference on a first quarter play. Other than that, not much happened against the back-up quarterbacks of the Cowboys.
9. Trying to catch someone’s eye: Some good, some bad. Bumphis showed promise on one catch and run, but then took a step back by deflecting a pass into the hands off a Dallas defender. Marvin McNutt had a couple of chances early on, but he dropped one pass and another was off target. Davis had that touchdown catch. Right now, the fourth and fifth receiver spots are wide open.
10. Just for kicks: Caleb Sturgis did not play Sunday night after being slowed earlier with a groin injury. Dan Carpenter, the incumbent, did everything asked of him – converting two field goal attempts — and this competition will likely continue well into camp. Do you go with a less-expensive rookie with the huge leg or with the veteran with a solid resume? Going to be a tough call.
With the Dolphins part of the Hall of Fame weekend, it is only appropriate to wonder: Which former Dolphins player has the best chance to be inducted next?
There are nine Dolphins there already: Don Shula, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Nick Buoniconti, Jim Langer, Larry Little, Dwight Stephenson, Paul Warfield and Dan Marino. An impressive group, no doubt.
Number 10? I’ve got to believe it will be Jason Taylor.
Bob Kuchenberg doesn’t seem to be getting much consideration anymore and receiver Mark Clayton just doesn’t have the numbers. As for Zach Thomas, he will always be one of my personal favorites. But the Hall of Fame? Probably not.
Taylor is the most likely choice and perhaps the only likely choice for quite some time.
It is rare to find a defensive player, capable of a one-man trifecta: Stripping the ball, recovering the ball, returning it for a touchdown. Taylor made a career out of those types of plays and I believe his impressive list of credentials will be hard for the Hall of Fame committee to ignore. He is also a class act off the field, which only adds to his credibility.
Taylor, however, isn’t eligible until five years after he is done playing, which means the 2017 class at the earliest.
Coming Tuesday morning: A.C. in the A.M. calls upon the greatest back-up QB in team history to offer some advice to Matt Moore.
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.