MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins kicked off their 2019 preseason on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons, beginning what’s expected to be a long road back to football relevance.

It was an exciting game, or as much as can be expected from an NFL matchup in August.

The game went down to the wire and it was a big defensive play that set up Miami for the win.

With the game tied at 27 late in the 4th quarter, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn elected to go for it on 4th and 9 despite being deep in their own territory.

Undrafted rookie defensive end Dewayne Hendrix stepped up and made the play, sacking Falcons QB Matt Simms to gave Miami a 1st down inside the Falcons 10-yard line.

Seventh round pick Myles Gaskin scored from six yards out to put the Dolphins ahead for good, 34-27.

Sure…it was exciting, but ultimately this is a preseason game, and the results are always secondary to more important issues that will have a bigger impact when games actually count.

One area of focus that many people are taking a close look at this preseason is the Dolphins’ quarterback competition.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came into the game listed as Miami’s starting quarterback, and he played the first two offensive drives for a total of 13 plays.

The 15-year veteran looked solid on the opening drive, showing he can still be spry with a 3rddown scramble to keep the offense on the field. He also made a nice throw while rolling outside the pocket, hitting DeVante Parker for his only catch of the game.

Josh Rosen played the majority of the Miami’s offensive snaps, a clear indication that the coaching staff wants to get a good look at the second-year pro this preseason.

Rosen started out playing with confidence, making a nice throw on the run (to his right) to hit tight end Nick O’Leary.  While the play only picked up three yards, Rosen displayed poise and quickness to elude the Falcons rush and make a play while escaping the pocket.

Then on very next play he avoided another potential sack and hit rookie Preston Williams, who himself had a heck of a game, for a 16-yard conversion on 3rd and 8.

Overall Rosen looked very strong in the pocket, avoiding pressure consistently and showing an alert pocket presence with quick feet.

“I feel substantially better now than I did two weeks ago, but like I said, I’ve got a long ways to go,” Rosen said after the game. “The way ‘Fitz’ [Ryan Fitzpatrick] in our meeting room can break down a defense and how quickly he can make comments on where everyone is, where the ball should go, is pretty impressive and I think if I can kind of hedge that gunslinger attitude a little bit and put a little bit more thought into it, I think I could develop pretty nicely.”

Second year running back Kalen Ballage only carried the ball six times but did some damage during his limited time, running downhill and quickly seeking out holes. He had a big gain of 16 yards to set up Miami in the red zone during Rosen’s first drive.

Six plays later, a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Ballage capped off the 9-play, 71-yard scoring expedition for the Dolphins.

Rosen’s second attempt at leading the Miami down the field didn’t go nearly as well or last nearly as long; he threw an interception over the middle on his first attempt.

Bouncing back during his next opportunity, Rosen tossed a gorgeous over-the-shoulder pass along left sideline to Williams, who made an even nicer one-handed grab while falling to the turf.

“When we were warming up, I practiced it earlier and the opportunity presented itself,” Williams said of the catch. “So it happened the same way I practiced it.”

Williams later made another spectacular catch, rising up in coverage and snaring a 27-yard strike from Rosen at its highest point to set up the Dolphins at the Atlanta one-yard line.

He finished with 4 receptions for 97 yards.

“When coach gave me the opportunity, I was just tried to make the most of it,” said Williams. “I didn’t have any expectations really coming into this game, but when my number was called, I just wanted to answer.”

Mark Walton popped in for a touchdown three plays later, giving Miami a 20-19 lead early in the 3rd quarter.

Rosen finished the game completing 13-of-20 passes for 191 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, leading Miami on a pair of touchdown drives.

“I thought Josh managed the game well, he got the guys in and out of the huddle, obviously didn’t play turnover-free but specifically in the second half I thought he put together a couple good drives,” said Dolphins head coach Brian Flores

OBSERVATIONS

  • The Dolphins are going to have a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield with Drake and Ballage, but their ultimate ceiling will depend on how the offensive line holds up.
  • Yeah, the offensive line. To put it nicely…the unit had a rough night. Sure, two rookies made their NFL debuts in the starting lineup, and struggled. But penalties and missed assignments plagued the group as a whole, and it kept Miami’s quarterbacks on the run all night.
  • Undrafted rookie Nik Needham got a long look Thursday, starting in place of the injured cornerback Eric Rowe, but it wasn’t a good look. He was beaten several times for big gains in during the first half, with Falcons QB Matt Schaub looking his way, instead of towards Xavien Howard, constantly.
  • Remember earlier when we touched on rookie Dewayne Hendrix’s sack late in the 4th quarter? He wasn’t done there, picking up another sack on a big 3rd down shortly after, when Atlanta was attempting to put together a game-tying touchdown drive after Miami’s score.
  • Undrafted rookie running back Patrick Laird was given an opportunity to flash, and he made the most of it. A 19-yard rumble late in the 3rd quarter highlighted his six carry, 24-yard night.
  • Miami played a very disciplined game, committing eight penalties for just 47 yards (five of those penalties were committed by the offensive line). They also showed composure after whistles, not getting involved in altercations or scuffles. This is absolutely due to the strict policies put in place by new head coach Brian Flores.
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