Game Review: Pre-Season Week 3 vs. Atlanta

Falcons 6

Dolphins 17

Arian Foster showed the moves that made him a superstar back on Thursday

Although not outstanding by any measure, that performance gave me a much better feeling heading into the season. The best news of all, assuming Ndamukong Suh’s ankle injury is as minor as we’re told, the Dolphins get out of this game without any serious injuries and appear poised (knock on wood) to go to Seattle with an almost perfectly healthy squad.

The defense’s effort was much better in this game, the first team offense moved the ball successfully and the special teams were okay minus one big lapse on kick return. Some of the units we had concerns with (running back and linebacker played much better) while others (tight end and corner) raised more cause for concern.

As has been the format for these pre-season pieces, we’ll start with the first teamers and essentially make our way down. I promise I will condense these pieces once we get to the regular season and there are half as many players to chart and talk about.

When coach Adam Gase speaks, he commands your focus and attention. The polar opposite of the awkward, waffling Joe Philbin, Gase is direct and asserts his point with confidence.

We’ve heard a lot about Gase’s support for Ryan Tannehill and its evident when he speaks. The strides you’re going to see the 5th year quarterback take playing under someone that is actually familiar with the quarterback position is going to be night and day.

Speaking of night and day, Tannehill just looks like a different guy. He’s in command of the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. His footwork looks much more refined and internal clock seems to be rewired. His mechanics are cleaned up as he’s throwing strong, tight spirals with good accuracy. He’s playing with anticipation and going through his progressions.

tanny in charge
Much like the Somalian pirate in Captain Phillips, Ryan Tannehill is captain now.

I don’t have the coaches tape so it’s difficult to see what the receivers are doing downfield but he came off a lot of reads checking it down to the backs. He made one bad decision on the near Desmond Trufant interception and another ball thrown behind Jay Ajayi but, other than that, he was crisp. He had a deflected pass intercepted and his yards per attempt were low at 5.38, but if Devante Parker holds on to an exceptional pass right in his bread basket he tacks another 35 yards onto his total and that average jumps to 6.5 YPA – not great, but better. If Kenny Stills isn’t impeded late in the first half, it couldn’ve been another 40 yards and a touchdown. That ball was well located as Tannehill panned left and quickly snaps his head to Stills and delivered a catchable ball.

Tannehill is an athlete and these designed runs need to be a thing in the regular season, I’m not too sure about pre-season.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Jarvis Landry but this hasn’t been his best stretch of games. The rapport with Tannehill is evident, but he had another drop and one catch where he had an opportunity to turn a reception late in the first half up field but got horizontal costing the team yardage.

I’ve been confused with the offensive line decisions the staff is making but it is much more clear to me now. I wrote that I wished they would just stick with Billy Turner as the first team right guard and stop moving him around. He played both guard positions and right tackle tonight and I think the plan is clear.

They plan on rolling with Turner as the 6th lineman that can play any position but center. Jermon Bushrod is a slightly better pass protector and Coach Gase knows this is going to be a pass heavy offense, so he’s going that direction. This team could have 70-30 pass to run ratio, so it makes sense that three of their lineman are natural left tackles.

Albert-Tunsil-Pouncey-Bushrod-James: That’s your starting five.

Pass protection was terrific all night. Ja’Wuan James was fantastic in the run game and in pass pro. Laremy Tunsil got beat and freelanced a couple of times, but he had another good night. Branden Albert was in the same boat as Tunsil and Anthony Steen was good in pass protection. He offers very little as a run blocker but, as was mentioned earlier, that’s not the main concern.

Short yardage will be a concern with this team but it’s obvious that coach Gase is holding back scheme wise. He showed a very brief glimpse of his ability to scheme yards in the running game with some misdirection and combination blocks. But just as soon as they showed it, they got away from it – a smart practice.

Similarly, on defense, they rolled back into some more zone coverage. This has been a theme at times this pre-season. They haven’t ran as much press man as I expected and blitzed one notable time this game. We’ll get to the defense later, though.

Kenny Stills looks like the best receiver on the team. He had three catches for 34 yards and what might have been a 39 yard touchdown reception if not for the penalty, and he did it all against an elite cornerback in Trufant. He turned Trufant around on two comeback routes and the timing with Tannehill is on point. Devante Parker might be more of a third, downfield option. He has terrific body control and really shielded the defender off before Ricardo Allen made a great play to separate the ball on the long incompletion on the perfect throw from Tannehill.

I’ve been rough on Jordan Cameron, and he had another drop, but he had a great seal on the Arian Foster touchdown run. I’m almost inclined to start Dominique Jones. At worst, he makes the team as the third tight end but he had an exceptional lead wham block and creates separation in short yardage.

The running back battle seems much more clear after tonight. I was critical of Arian Foster but that criticism was premature. His touchdown run was vintage Foster, and he had another run where he pressed the hole and bounced it outside to gain the edge. He slipped a tackle on a pass reception and picked up 10 yards after contact – he looked smooth.

I’m not sure if Jay Ajayi is long for this offense. He’s often slow to the lane and kind of just plods through lanes. There was a couple of times Tunsil and Albert opened lanes and he basically dove through them.

Isaiah Pead won the third down job in my book. He had a great blitz pick up and turns north and south once he catches the ball.
Damien Williams had a nice night showing better vision and shifty running, but I’m not sure if there’s room for him.

I know it sounds like I’m all over Laremy Tunsil, and as great as he’s been, there are rookie moments still that need cleaning up. He’s not a natural guard and it shows at times – perhaps that damn pot smoke is slowing him down.

Expanding on that, I always find it humorous when major networks or news outlets report on marijuana stories. They annunciate the term ‘mar-uh-wanna’ like it’s some kind of bad word. The kid smoked a little harmless weed in college, who fucking cares?

tunsil bong
Tunsil is the first human to not have his life derailed by marijuana.

Other than that, NBC’s broadcast is so damn good. I want to start winning so we can get more Sunday Night Football games. Collisnworth is awesome, Tirico is great and Al Michaels is a legend.

The Dolphins offense won the first team battle in this game. Tannehill was sharp and showed the ability to extend plays and throw from the pocket and the pass protection was flawless.

Defensively, the first team was even more impressive. Ndamukong Suh played like the all-pro he was. He was stacking up blockers and freeing up linebackers.

Speaking of linebackers, welcome to 2016, Kiko Alonso. He was good in coverage, he played the run downhill and even had an effective blitz. His run fit on the 4th down stuff was textbook middle linebacker play.

Koa Misi had a hell of a game too. He was impossible to move from the second level and played close to the line of scrimmage.

Jelani Jenkins turned around his bad week two performance and played very well. He blew up one screen play sniffing it out and shooting his gun making the play in the backfield. He covered much better too, which is nice to see considering he’s probably one of two nickel package backers.

Back to the defensive line, Jason Jones was in the backfield all night. He was continuously walking his man into the quarterback, specifically on the Reshad Jones interception.

I’m not sure what Cam Wake’s snap count was but he had two quarterback pressures. This role is tailor made for him and he might even make a pro-bowl playing 50% of the Dolphins defensive snaps.

I wanted to wait to talk about the second team after I finished with the starters, but Julius Warmsley played like a starter all pre-season. I watch the game live then go back on tape and watch the plays over and over again to see what happened tallying what occurred on each play.

On one drive I have Warmsley blowing the play up four consecutive snaps. He was in the backfield all night, stacking the line of scrimmage and was chasing plays down on the opposite side of the field with pure effort. He not only made the team, he’s earning playing time. He was the player of the game, hands down.

If he keeps playing like this, Julius Warmsley will get game action images on Google.

Chris Jones had some nice plays but more not so nice plays. He deserves a roster spot, but he’s the fifth defensive tackle right now although I’d just prefer we cut Earl Mitchell.

Jordan Phillips had one run defense play where his technique was flawless. He got behind his weight, placed his hands perfectly and shed his blocker. But that was few and far between as he often got pushed off balance. If he puts it together, he’s going to be a stud.

Byron Maxwell played a good game. He was only targeted a few times and had an opportunity on the blitz for a pick six but he dropped it. I think he’s going to play really well in zone when we blitz heavy and when we’re in man press on the boundary.

Tony Lippett had a rough night. He’s not ready for first team action. His technique is, simply put, bad. He gives up an inside release and gets twisted so far back that he’s on his heels and playing catch-up.

Bobby McCain is going to be a pro-bowl quality slot corner but he has no business on the perimeter. Matching him up with Julio Jones was always going to be bad news.

We can finally talk about Reshad Jones. I live tweeted the game and on the play before the interception, I said an accurate Matt Ryan throw would’ve been a pick six. The next play, Jelani Jenkins gets a rub on the receiver and Jones beats him to the route and picks it off in the end-zone. Reshad Jones has a chance to win a defensive player of the year award in his career.

reshad jones
Forget best player on the team, Reshad Jones is one of the best in the NFL.

Isa Abdul-Quddus is better suited playing single high, I think, and that’s where I imagine he’ll be come regular season.

How did the backups do? Not quite as well.

1st and goal from the two and there’s our favorite Dolphin whiffing and allowing the play to get stacked up. I should be fair with Dallas Thomas, though. He had some nice road grading blocks in the run game at right guard including paving the way on the Damien Williams touchdown run. He still has one or two plays a series where he’s just abused, though.

The backup offensive line, as a hole, is atrocious. Ulrick John just chases his guy around the field, Jamil Douglass gets turned regularly, Rueben Carter spends a lot of time at the bottom of the pile and Kraig Urbik is uninspiring in both facets of the game. Sam Young is the next right tackle in a long line of bad right tackles for this team.

Zac Dysert may have made this team with Matt Moore’s concussion and Brandon Doughty’s bad couple of weeks. Dysert coming in before Doughty was very telling.

Griff Whalen has a spot on this team if they keep six as a veteran presence that can step in for an injured player. He can run clear out routes and find soft spots in zone coverage.

Chris McCain’s spin move hasn’t been affective and he whiffed on an interception opportunity when he dropped in coverage – another little teaser from Vance Joseph.

AJ Hendy is an imposing hitter and Shamiel Gary had an up and down night but he flashed at times.

Neville Hewitt had a much better night. He correctly read misdirection and closed on the weak side dump off pass and made a good open field tackle.

Spencer Paysinger and Mike Hull both looked good again in backup roles showing gap integrity and playing downhill.

Jordan Lucas made it into my notes by way of, “Jordan Lucas deserves to be mentioned.” He played late with the reserves but he held his own.

What the hell was up with that Andrew Franks kick? I’m not the biggest Franks fan but it sounds like he is the kicker – so that’s that.

Every team has to get down to 75 played by tomorrow (Saturday.) With 86 players on the roster, Miami has to make 11 cuts. My picks for those cuts are:

Ruben Carter

Brandon Shippen

Daniel Thomas

Cleyon Laing

Rashan Melvin

Ulrick John

AJ Cruz

Lafayette Pitts

Gabe Hughes

Al Louis-Jean

Brandon Harris

We are one step closer to the regular season and this team looks much more prepared for Seattle than it previously did.

Be sure to check back in next week for a 53 man roster prediction thread and the season preview thread. Then it’s time to kick off for real as I will focus on film study of the opposition and get you ready for the Seahawks.

You can catch me on Twitter @Travis_Writes

Contact me via email at

Don’t forget to check out the podcast with Chris and Sam.

And almost doctor, Will Merring, will keep you posted on the injuries.

Phins up!

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