Dolphins vs. Panthers: Postgame Grades, Notes and Quotes for Miami
Despite the final score of the game, Miami's first-team offense continued its excellent play, outscoring the Panthers' first-teamers 14-0.
Ryan Tannehill was masterful in three possessions, going 12-of-15 for 105 yards and a touchdown along with 11 yards rushing. In the four series he has played this preseason, he has a quarterback rating of 126.9.
Miami's run game looked strong against Chicago, but against Carolina, it was limited. Poor blocking up front had everything to do with that.
On offense, the line was the biggest issue but not at guard. The guard play was very good, but there were issues with left tackle Jason Fox. He not only played poorly and was beaten a few times, but he was also knocked out of the game with a concussion, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
The first-team defense continued its impressive play by holding Carolina's first-team offense scoreless in four possessions. The Panthers' first two drives ended with three-and-outs, followed by a Jamar Taylor interception on the third drive that was two yards away from being a pick-six. On the final Panthers first-team offensive drive, Carolina finally got some push before being stopped on 4th-and-goal from the Miami 1-yard line.
That's not to say it was all sunshine for Miami's starting defense. The defensive line did a tremendous job of getting pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton; however, it didn't record a sack. Meanwhile, the battle for the free safety job left unoccupied due to Louis Delmas' season-ending torn ACL looked not only undecided as of this week but bad, as both Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas seemed lost at times on the field.
Here's a look at the grades, notes and quotes from the Dolphins' defeat at the hands of the Panthers.
Position Grades for the Dolphins
|Position||First-Team Grades||Overall Grades|
Ryan Tannehill's performance was excellent, but after him the quarterback play left a lot to be desired.
Matt Moore was horrendous, completing six of 11 passes for 55 yards, a touchdown and an interception. McLeod Bethel-Thompson wasn't as bad (he didn't turn the ball over) but didn't seem to move the ball much either.
The run game never really got started while the starters were in there, but Damien Williams performed well. He gained 14 yards and scored a touchdown on four attempts and made one catch for 11 yards and a touchdown.
More impressive was LaMichael James, who had six attempts for 45 yards while also doing a great job in the return game.
Tight end Gerell Robinson was impressive with a 56-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter, but more impressive was the fact that he took an 11-yard pass and turned it into that score.
The starting linebackers played better than expected, and the unit will only get better when Koa Misi returns. The secondary was missing Brent Grimes yet played well when the starting unit was out on the field. The only real issue was with how lost Aikens and Thomas looked; however, the mental side of the game got better for Aikens as the game wore on.
Jamar Taylor Impressive but Injured
One of the training-camp battles to watch before the game was the competition for the second starting cornerback slot.
It should've been locked down with an impressive performance by Jamar Taylor, who followed up a tremendous training camp with a fantastic game against the Panthers. He had two tackles, a pass breakup and an interception.
Unfortunately for Taylor, who has struggled with health issues the last two seasons, he got hurt once again. He has a quad injury, per Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, but it doesn't appear to be too serious as he walked off the field under his own power. It appears he was pulled out as a precaution more than anything else.
If Taylor's injury turns out to be more serious, Brice McCain would back him up.
Looking into the future, it will be interesting to see Tony Lippett's continued development. While he did look lost at times on the field, he also flashed talent. More reps for Lippett will be a positive, but he'll see most of them in practice during the season.
Dolphins Offense Ready, Even If the Offensive Line Isn't
If you look at Ryan Tannehill's stat line, you would think this offense is ready to explode.
He has led Miami to a touchdown on three of its four first-team possessions this preseason and has completed 18 of 22 passes for 158 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 126.9.
Unfortunately, he's had to do that while missing at least two of his starting receivers in each game (he was without Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker against Chicago and missed Parker and Greg Jennings against Carolina) and his usual starting left tackle, Branden Albert.
Rishard Matthews and Matt Hazel have picked up the slack for the fallen receivers, but replacing Albert is a bigger task.
Jason Fox has been atrocious, and Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton tweeted one of the best examples of his poor play.
The GIF in the tweet shows Fox getting beaten badly, but Tannehill is still able to get the ball away to an open Lamar Miller. He turned that into a 36-yard gain that put Miami in the red zone, which led to Damien Williams' touchdown run.
There's bad news and good news on that front. The bad news is Fox suffered a possible concussion on Saturday night, and based on the performance of the backups in the rest of the game, it will only get worse in the third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The good news is Albert is still on track to come back for Week 1.
"It Felt Good, It Felt Good"
Miami's starting defense faced its first challenge of the preseason in its fourth, and final, possession of the game.
This possession came about thanks to odd circumstances. It began with Jamar Taylor's interception, which could've been a pick-six; however, it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
On offense, Damien Williams took the handoff, and it seemed like he would score his third touchdown of the night to put Miami up 21-0; however, he was out of bounds. Joe Philbin challenged the call, as he thought that Williams had touched the pylon for the touchdown before getting knocked out of bounds, and the ruling was reversed—and called a touchback for Carolina as Williams lost the ball before touching the pylon or getting knocked out of bounds.
This gave Carolina the ball at its own 20, and the Panthers marched down the field, taking advantage of Miami's secondary (sans Brent Grimes) to get to 1st-and-goal from the Miami 1-yard line.
Then the defense took over with four straight stops.
How did Cameron Wake feel about that? He told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald: "It felt good, it felt good. We came out here, we had a big job, they got the ball down there and, as a group, we just said, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to treat this like a real game. You can’t let them in no matter what.’ All of the guys stood up and we turned them away."
Despite looking lost for most of the drive, Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas came up big with each getting a tackle on the goal line, while the defensive line did a tremendous job of penetrating Carolina's questionable offensive line.
It was encouraging to see, as before that drive Miami's defense had only forced a turnover or a three-and-out. Not every drive will do that, and in order to evaluate the defense, you need to see how it responds when a team gets deep in Miami's territory.
Based on this drive, the defense looks solid.
"I’m Not Concerned About Depth. We Would Just Like to Finish These Games."
There is another glaring weakness for the Dolphins: They are top-heavy, and the preseason has shown this.
Their first-teamers have outscored their opponents 21-0 in the first two preseason games.
But once the starters come out, Miami has been outscored 55-13.
Should you be concerned about depth? Safety Michael Thomas doesn't seem to think so, per Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post: "Even in the first half when you see us doing well, it's still a mix between first and second-stringers. And we had a lot of guys that didn’t play tonight, and we still did well. I’m not really concerned about depth. We would just like to finish these games."
Thomas is correct. Olivier Vernon missed the game, as did Brent Grimes. Greg Jennings was out on offense.
The linebackers have been without Koa Misi in both games, while Branden Albert hasn't taken a single snap this preseason either. The Dolphins have had second-teamers playing with the starters, and they have still dominated.
Miami will get healthier as the preseason continues, but the depth should be a concern if for no other reason than the simple fact that the Dolphins are a top-heavy team, one that can implode with the wrong injury to the wrong player.
That's part of what doomed the 2014 Dolphins and could well doom the 2015 Dolphins.
It was a scary week between injuries to Louis Delmas, Jamar Taylor and Bobby McCain (both injuries to Taylor and McCain, per Abramson, were downplayed by each player). The hope is that in the final two preseason games, the Dolphins can get out of them healthy.
Depth is a concern for the Dolphins, but it is a concern for the rest of the NFL as well.
As for finishing, it's not something to worry about right now. These are mainly third- and fourth-stringers finishing out each game, and despite some players who flash talent, for the most part the majority of these players won't be in an NFL uniform come September.