ORLANDO (CBSMiami) — Every year the Miami Dolphins find themselves with gaping holes in their 22-man starting squad and every year, as they attempt to plug up the gaps, like a bad leak, more keep springing up.
Blame it on the management, blame it on the coaches, blame it on the players. If it’s one thing South Florida fans are good at, it’s finding someone to blame.
This year’s team is more of the same, with the biggest needs coming on the offensive line, linebacking corps and secondary.
In Thursday night’s third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, some of those holes seemed to fill themselves.
Up front, center Anthony Steen looked great taking over for a banged up Pouncey, cementing his blocks, staying on his feet and keeping his opponent in front of him. Other than a fumbled snap during a key drive, Steen had as good of a performance as you could hope for.
The offensive line played pretty well as a unit, too. Jermon Bushrod and Dallas Thomas both split time at right guard and Miami quarterbacks were able to stay on their feet the entire night without taking a sack.
The running game still needs work. These guys won’t at all be confused for a power running team unless the playbook really proves to have some new blocking schemes up its sleeves. Ryan Tannehill and 4th-string QB Zac Dysert led the team in rushing with a combined 40 yards. Damien Williams, Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster all got work but didn’t stand out.
Foster had a nifty 6-yard touchdown run that resembled his days in Houston, but was stuffed on his 4 other attempts, netting just 4 yards. He did show he could still be a threat in the passing game and that could actually be where he’s most utilized when these games start to count to relieve the workload of a premiere running back.
On defense, the linebackers are likely to be the team’s largest weakness and Thursday night showed nothing to change that opinion. Koa Misi looked solid with 3.5 tackles but his role has always been a quiet one — involved in the pile ups but never really making plays. Only time will tell if Jelani Jenkins and Kiko Alonso make this group formidable enough to give the defensive front the help they need.
The big guys played solid, suffice to say, stuffing the Falcon’s rushing attack and Ndamukong Suh appears to be in mid-season form.
Ball hawk Reshad Jones intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the red zone and if he can stay healthy and turn it up like he did a year ago — leading the team in tackles and picks — this becomes a respectable secondary. Tony Lippett will fit in somewhere in the backfield. The former Michigan State wide receiver was exposed on a few occasions and became a target to pick on all night. Safety Shamiel Gary found himself in the mix and led the team with 5 tackles. The 2nd year practice squad player has a good chance of making the team and could add needed depth to the defensive backfield.
Tannehill continued a solid preseason, moving the offense and making sharp throws. It looks like Kenny Stills just may be his new favorite target, considering we haven’t seen much of sophomore wideout DeVante Parker. The 6’3″ receiver hasn’t been given many looks in the red zone and with TE Jordan Cameron’s chances of catching Zika more of a possibility than catching a football, Tannehill’s weapons are wearing thin during scoring opportunities.
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