The Miami Dolphins got themselves back on track with a 27-3 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars in their second of five preseason games. With the starters playing for a few more series than they did in the Hall of Fame game, it gave us a clearer picture of where the team currently stands.
While its tough to get excited about beating a 2-14 team from a year ago in a meaningless exhibition game, it was an overall encouraging performance from a Dolphins perspective. Here are some of the things that the stood out in the victory:
1) Ryan Tannehill bounced back
After the loss in the preseason opener, many fans were ready to hit the panic button. However, Tannehill appeared to relax some of those nerves with his performance against the Jaguars. In four series, Tannehill went 5/9 of passing for 75 yards and one touchdown for a QB rating of 120.1. Considering how poor the offense looked in the first three possesions, it was encouraging to watch Tannehill orchestrate a seven play, 80 yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 22 yard pass to Dustin Keller in the end zone.
2) Offensive line is still a work in progress
The offense's struggles on the first three drives were mainly the result of a poor performance from the offensive line. On those drives, Miami had a total of 25 yards and one first down with Tannehill being sacked once and pressured nearly every other time. While the blame usually falls on Jonathan Martin, he played well at left tackle. In fact, the pressure actually cam from the right side where Josh Samuda was playing guard. On the first series, Samuda missed a block that resulted in a sack and was also responsible for three quarterback pressures. He has left the door wide open for John Jerry to re-claim his spot on the starting offensive line when he returns from injury.
3) Defense is as good as advertised
The confidence in the Dolphins defense is sky-high right now and with good reason. On three series, Miami's starting defense yielded a grand total of 14 yards to the Jaguars first team offense. Cameron Wake was in midseason form, getting to the backfield numerous times while welcoming second overall pick Luke Joeckel along with way. Dimitri Patterson was good in coverage and Dannell Ellerbe's speed was on display. However, it is crucial to remember that they weren't exactly up against a high powered offense. It will be interesting to see if they have similar success next week in Houston.
4) Running back competition is heating up
While many believe the starting running back role is still up for grabs, I firmly believe it will be Lamar Miller starting the season as the feature back. Instead, the competition is for backup running back with Daniel Thomas, Jonas Gray and Mike Gillislee being the contestants. Out of those three backs, it was Gray that impressed the most in the win. He finished second in the team in rushing, behind Gillislee, with 32 yards on 14 carries but he did add two touchdowns from the goal line, showing his ability to run with power. Thomas had a good performance as well, rushing for 19 yards on just four attempts, however, he is on the verge of being beat out by Jonas Gray.
5) Caleb Sturgis takes the lead in the kicking battle
Sturgis celebrated his 24th birthday with his first NFL field goal, which was also the longest field goal of his career; a 58 yard attempt that he made with ease. For good measure, Sturgis also added a 36 yarder and was 3/3 on extra points. He has put himself in a great position to beat Dan Carpenter for the job.
6) Dolphins won the turnover battle
Miami forced four Jaguars turnovers and only turned the ball over once themselves. Nolan Carroll recorded an interception off a tipped pass and rookie Will Davis continued to impress by coming up with an interception of his own midway through the third quarter. Michael Clay and John Denney each recovered fumbles while the Dolphins lone turnover came on a Matt Moore interception, his second in as many games. Joe Philbin has been preaching the importance of winning the turnover battle and it turned out to be a big reason why the Dolphins emerged victorious.