Not that the record really matters, but the Miami Dolphins are 1-2 in the preseason. That's not exactly a positive thing; however, what is positive is the fact that the Dolphins' starters have improved in every game.
There are more positive surprises this preseason that give optimism to Dolphins' fans going into the 2013 season. Here's a look at some of those surprises.
The quiet efficiency of Ryan Tannehill
In three preseason games, Ryan Tannehill has taken his fair share of criticism from yours truly and others throughout the media.
A lot of you in the Dolphins' fanbase haven't exactly liked that. Most of the Tannehill criticism has been along the lines of "he's doing good, but could be better," based off of what we have seen on the field.
Well the statistics during the preseason do show something: Tannehill has been pretty dang good and a model of efficiency.
In three preseason games, Ryan Tannehill has played 12 series in three-and-a-half quarters. His numbers in that time: 17-of-29 for 227 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 106.5.
The Dolphins win if Tannehill puts up those statistics or better. Now here's the part where you guys hate me: They can be better.
Only three of those 12 drives wound up ending with a touchdown, which is a fairly bad 25 percent rate. Tannehill also tends to hold onto the ball for too long, which accounts for why he's been sacked three times and also why his completion percentage isn't higher.
These are all things that can, and most likely will, be improved.
As a whole, I am satisfied by Tannehill's performance this preseason. I would just like to see him do better.
Is that too much to ask for?
The Daniel Thomas Renaissance
How many of you thought Daniel Thomas was on his way out the door?
I'm typing this with one hand because I was one of the many who thought so. It was pretty much a given going into training camp that Lamar Miller would be Miami's starting running back, he would be backed up by Mike Gillislee and Jonas Gray, and Daniel Thomas would at best be traded for a low draft pick and at worst be released.
Then training camp happened, and we found that with a revolving door at right guard thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, some backfield blocking reinforcements are in order. Daniel Thomas provides just that better than anyone on the roster.
This has given Thomas more opportunities to play with the first-team offense, and when he has played with the first-teamers, they've been successful. Miami has scored a touchdown on three of the series that Thomas has played with the first-teamers thus far.
His job is saved, but more than that, he's an integral part of their offense, one that makes me hope that the Dolphins coaching staff thinks outside of the box in light of recent events.
Have Thomas and Miller on the field at the same time.
You could put them both in the backfield, have Miller line up in the slot or even try having Thomas line up as a joker tight end for a play or two.
The coaching staff's imagination is the only thing that can put a limit on what can be done here. However, on offense, I want as many skill players on the field as possible as well as the best skill players on the field.
If Thomas and Miller are both among the best skill players (which so far they have been), use them both as such, play around with them and get creative.
The Steady Improvement of Jonathan Martin
You want a surprise? Think back two weeks ago: What was being said about Jonathan Martin?
Not just by experts, but the fans themselves? Remember the stories of him being beaten constantly by Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan? The fears that the Dolphins made a mistake by not locking up Jake Long and not making a trade for Branden Albert?
You haven't heard much criticism of Martin in a while, and his play shows why.
Against the Jaguars and Texans, Martin did well to ensure that Ryan Tannehill remained upright in the pocket when the two were both on the field. The pressure has come more from the right side (and we know who/why, but we won't discuss that here), but from Martin's side, nothing.
You might not have noticed, but Pro Football Focus did. Against Houston, Martin graded out at plus-2.5 from Pro Football Focus, and he has only allowed one sack so far during the preseason .
Martin's blocking has become a lot more fluid, and it seems like he's knocking guys into that second level on running plays, while doing a good job of containing pass-rushers. He's slowly proving himself to be worth that second-round pick during the preseason, a trend that hopefully continues into September.
Brent Grimes Leads a Surprisingly Deep Secondary
What was the main weakness on Miami's defense?
The secondary, thanks in part to many players who had issues playing zone and couldn't hold onto the ball.
This season, that weakness has become a strength in a way that no one has expected, at least through the preseason.
The reason for this actually falls on one man, and that is free-agent acquisition Brent Grimes. Grimes already has an interception for the preseason, and this wasn't an interception based on luck. Grimes saw where the ball was going, tracked it down, made the leap and then the catch.
Meanwhile Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall are both competing to play opposite Grimes in the secondary. They may not be the ball hawks that Grimes is, but they are solid zone coverage corners.
Also solid but not quite steady is Will Davis. I love that this kid is a gambling man and will do anything to make the pick. I just wish that he would pick his spots, because it does get him burned at times. This is something that will likely get fixed over the course of this season, though. Hopefully it does because Davis has plenty of potential to be a special player in the league.
Another player with the opportunity to be special is second-round pick Jamar Taylor, who has missed most of the preseason due to various injuries. As the regular season progresses, look out for him as he makes his way onto the playing field.
What surprises await the Dolphins in their next two preseason games? It should be fun to find out.
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