After a busy and extremely anticipated off-season for Miami Dolphins fans, the team kicked off the 2019 preseason against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. Inside of Hard Rock Stadium, Miami rose victorious in game one of the preseason, 34-27.
At the end of the day, preseason results mean absolutely nothing. However, the players that are fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster still need to come out and show they deserve a spot.
Earning a spot
A late touchdown scamper from seventh round draft pick, running back Myles Gaskin, ended up being the game winner. Atlanta did make it interesting again however, when head coach Dan Quinn went for it on fourth down from the Falcons’ 16-yard line in the previous possession in hopes of keeping the drive alive. It is preseason after all, and it was a good situation for both teams to play out a scenario like that in an exhibition game.
On offense for Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick got the start and played in only the first two drives. On the opening drive, Fitzpatrick completed two of his five pass attempts for 20 yards. He also utilized his nimble 36-year-old legs to run for a first down too. He led the team down on a 10 play, 49-yard drive that ended in a Jason Sanders field goal and the early 3-0 lead. Fitzpatrick did come back out for a second drive, but it resulted in a three-and-out, effectively ending his night.
Rosen’s Dolphins’ Debut
Josh Rosen then took over for Fitzpatrick, and played a majority of the game. It’s also important to note that Rosen didn’t get the luxury of having a majority of the starting offensive line blocking for him, resulting in a few hurried passes and miscues. Rosen was efficient, going 13-for-20 for 191 yards, but did have a careless interception.
Rosen threw the interception deep in his own territory after failing to read the zone defense. After receiving the snap, Rosen stared down his receiver, but failed to see Falcons linebacker Jermaine Grace in the help-side defense. Grace picked it off easily as it was thrown basically into his bread basket. The only silver lining of the play came from the Dolphins’ defense, as it held the Falcons to only a field goal on the possession.
Again, Rosen didn’t exactly have the best protection, but he made the most of it throughout his extended playing time. He stepped up in protection without hesitation and wasn’t afraid knowing a hit was coming. He also delivered the ball on target numerous times and it was evident that Rosen trusted his arm, rocketing a couple throws down the seam in tight coverage.
If you’re picking a game one winner for the quarterback competition, the edge would have to go to Rosen. A larger sample size allowed him to get into more of a groove and show off his arm talent a little bit. He seemed to find a special connection with undrafted free agent Preston Williams. Williams to put it lightly, stole the show Thursday.
The six-foot-four receiver out of Colorado State had four catches for 97 yards. Each of his grabs stood out separately for their own reasons.
During a two minute drill at the end of the first half, Williams made a fantastic 36-yard one-handed catch down the sideline. He followed that up shortly after with a toe-tapping catch on the sideline that was originally called incomplete, but overturned by a booth review after another look. In the second half, Williams jumped up and grabbed the ball at its highest peak over the top of two defenders and pulled it down for another head turning reception.
The rumblings from training camp about the potential Williams has was distinctly shown in his first opportunity. Fans shouldn’t overreact to one performance in a meaningless preseason game, but Williams was nothing short of impressive, and by far the standout performer from either team.
Dolphins who struggled
On the flip side, a couple other guys struggled. Jordan Mills made the start at left tackle with Laremy Tunsil getting the night off, and he didn’t look comfortable. Mills was beaten badly a couple of times, allowing two sacks to Falcons defenders.
Mills allowed the teams’ only two sacks, but he wasn’t the only member on the offensive line struggling. Throughout the night, the Dolphins quarterbacks were hit a total of seven times. In hindsight, Mills’ performance might not be all that head-scratching after all. According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the last time Mills played left tackle in a game was all the way back on December 3, 2009: his rookie year in college.
On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest struggle came from Nik Needham and the second defensive back position. The Falcons offense had a game plan for their opening drive, and that game plan was to attack Needham from the get-go. Needham allowed three catches and had a defensive holding penalty on the first drive alone. He also picked up another defensive holding penalty later on in the game.
Finding a second defensive back to play opposite Xavien Howard regularly is one of the biggest things the Dolphins have to focus on. So far, Eric Rowe did not play in Thursday’s game, supposedly nursing an unknown injury, and he was expected to compete with Needham for the job. Needham’s struggles have now created the prime opportunity for Cornell Armstrong or Torry McTyer to step up and try to take it.
Additional Notable Performances
- Rookie Christian Wilkins played the entirety of the first half.
- Rookie Fullback Chandler Cox made his presence known, making a key block and leading the way on a Mark Walton touchdown run.
- Defensive Lineman Dewayne Hendrix recorded two sacks, building on a solid training camp he has been having.
- Kicker Jason Sanders was perfect on the day, going 2-for-2 on extra points and nailing both of his field goal attempts.
- Third string QB Jake Rudock finished with a passer rating of 138.0 after completing six of eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.