The second test of the preseason came Friday night for the Miami Dolphins, as they faced off in a closely contested battle which saw them fall 27-20 to the Carolina Panthers. If you find yourself scouring Dolphins fans social media you will quickly notice many people jumping to focus on the negatives and what the team could have done better. We were able to learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the team Friday night. Here are three negative takeaways from the bout:
Run Defense is a Big Problem
Tailback Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers offensive line didn’t waste any time exposing the Dolphins on the ground. On the second play of the game McCaffrey initially ran it up the gut and then bounced it outside for a 71 yard touchdown. The Panthers were just getting started, as they put up a total of 226 yards on the ground.
Defensive Tackles Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence were moved off their spots on multiple occasions. This allowed for wide open holes for the Carolina’s backs to easily reach the second level. It didn’t stop there either, as it seemed the linebackers were stuck in quick sand the entire night. Thus, allowing backs to set the edge and get around the corner.
All of this happened without Cam Newton rushing for a yard, which is possibly the most alarming thing. It’s no secret that mobile quarterbacks have been problematic for the Dolphins over the years. In a game where the run pass option is becoming more prevalent things could get ugly in the future. The Dolphins may want to consider seeking outside help. At this point defensive tackle is a glaring weakness on this team.
Penalties and Conservative Play Calling
You never want to show your cards too early, but one of the main takeaways from the game against Carolina is that Head Coach Adam Gase has been hesitant to stretch the field. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill may have completed 82% of his passes, but many of those were dink and dunk passes and screens.
Increasing Tannehill’s confidence in the pocket is obviously a priority for Gase. Getting the ball out quickly allows him to build that confidence. However, it doesn’t always lead to long and successful drives. It also makes long yardage situations difficult to overcome. This is due to the fact that it allows the defense to sit back in a zone. Pair that together with untimely penalties it’s almost impossible to sustain a drive once they fall behind.
With that being said, there were two huge holding penalties in Friday’s game that ended up taking points off the board. The opening drive was going smoothly until Guard Jesse Davis was beaten badly on a run play and was caught for holding. This effectively knocked Miami out of potential field goal range. The other big call was on Offensive Tackle Ja’wuan James in the red zone following Cornerback Xavien Howard’s interception. This killed the momentum and forced Miami to settle for another field goal.
Xavien Howard Needs Help Opposite Him
I have expressed my concerns regarding the lack of consistent help in the defensive backfield, specifically the other corner position. It’s pretty safe to say at this point that the Dolphins have a star on their hands in Howard. The young defensive back looked very solid as he picked off Cam Newton in last night’s game and returned the ball all the way inside the 20.
That was about the extent of the positives from the secondary though. Excluding the interception, Newton went 9 of 12 for 88 yards. He didn’t seem to have trouble finding an open man when he had time. The opposite side of the defensive backfield was often occupied by Bobby McCain and Cordrea Tankersley. It wasn’t pretty to say the least. McCain was beat often. Most notably on a 3rd and 11 where he allowed a 13 yard reception.
Howard bailed him out with the interception on the very next play, but it was a sight all too common as the night went on. Tankersley was flagged for a long pass interference call as well as the secondary as a whole struggled outside of Xavien Howard.