By David Dwork

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PHILADELPHIA (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins came into Thursday’s preseason game in Philadelphia hoping to see a step forward by its starters.

The offense did not disappoint but the defense continues to be an issue, something that first year defensive coordinator Matt Burke will need to fix before September 10 when the regular season begins.

In a turnover-happy game, the host Eagles outscored the Dolphins 38-31 to send Miami home with its second straight preseason loss.

Perhaps the biggest positive to take away from the game is that there were no major injuries on either side of the field.

The third game of the preseason is generally known as the dress rehearsal game because it’s the best chance for the starters to work at a high level before the regular season arrives.

Led by new quarterback Jay Cutler, the Dolphins first team offense performed well. Cutler was efficient during his first extended playing time with the offense, connecting on passes all over the field.

His day didn’t start out well, though. On Miami’s first drive, second-year left tackle Laremy Tunsil was badly beaten by the Eagles’ Vinny Curry who strip-sacked Cutler.

Three plays and 59 seconds later, Eagles QB Carson Wentz hit Torrey Smith for a 50-yard touchdown.  Safety Reshad Jones was chasing Smith on the play, but immediately turned around and said something to Byron Maxwell after the touchdown. Maxwell appeared to blow the coverage on the play.

“I had him covered,” Maxwell said. “I should’ve just stayed on the post but your eyes play tricks on you. You think you see a little, you see a lot and sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”

Two drives later, Cutler hit DeVante Parker for a 72-yard passing play that set up a 2-yard Jay Ajayi touchdown run.

Parker did a great job of timing his jump and catching the ball at its highest point before turning on the jets to get down the field.

Later, Cutler threw a 65-yard bomb looking for Kenny Stills in the end zone but Stills was mauled, leading to a pass interference penalty.

On the very next play Cutler hit Julius Thomas for a one-yard touchdown.

Gase pulled Cutler out of the game early in the second quarter.

Cutler was on the field for 18 plays, completing 5-of-8 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.  The Dolphins’ offense scored three touchdowns while Cutler was leading the offense in the first 15:12 of the game.

He showed good pocket presence and a very strong arm, two of the attributes he’s best known for.

“He made some nice step ups and sliding in the pocket to find some lanes; there were some broken plays where he hooked up with some guys,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said of Cutler. “I thought that was a step in the right direction.  Last week, he was kind of still feeling his way out and tonight he looked more comfortable.”

JAY TRAIN CHUGGIN

Like Cutler, Ajayi was used sparingly but made an impact during his limited snaps.

The first time he touched the ball he broke a couple tackles and picked up 26 yards.

Ajayi ran the ball a total of nine times and picked up 53 yards and a pair of short touchdowns.

One of the scores was set up by a Jordan Phillips interception that he returned to the Eagles two-yard line.

MOORE STRUGGLES

As sharp as Cutler looked during limited snaps, Matt Moore had a hard time getting into a groove.

After Miami linebacker Lawrence Timmons made a great play to intercept Eagles QB Matt McGloin and set the Miami up with a 1st and goal at the seven, Moore threw a fade into double coverage and was intercepted in the end zone.

He was picked off again on Miami’s next drive, though that one wasn’t entirely his fault.  C.J. Smith made a great play on the ball, deflecting the pass that was heading into Julius Thomas’ hands.  It would be plucked out of the air by Mychal Kendricks and returned for an Eagles touchdown.

It wasn’t all bad for Moore though. He threw a gorgeous pass across the middle to Jarvis Landry for a 32-yard gain during the final minute of the second half to set up an Andrew Franks 56-yard field goal.

KICKERS ON POINT

Franks absolutely drilled that 56-yard field goal, continuing his stretch of solid and consistent play.

Punter Matt Darr has been quietly kicking the ball very well throughout camp and preseason.

The Dolphins are extremely fortunate to have two young, reliable kickers.

Overall it much better night for Miami’s special teams compared to the first two games of the preseason.

OTHER NOTES

  • Jakeem Grant scored a 69-yard touchdown on a pass that he caught 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.  He bounced off two hits and shifted into hyperdrive, easily pulling away from the pursuing Eagles defenders.
  • Mike Pouncey started the game and was out there for the Dolphins first three drives before being replaced by Jake Brendel.
  • Starting right guard Jermon Bushrod appeared to get nicked up on Miami’s second drive but later returned to the game after being looked at by trainers.
  • Andre Branch had the Dolphins only sack of the night, pushing the Eagles out of field goal range on a first quarter drive.
  • The game had a total of seven turnovers, four by the Dolphins and three by Philadelphia. All four of Miami’s giveaways were by quarterbacks. Moore threw two interceptions, Brandon Doughty threw one and Cutler lost a fumble.
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