This past Saturday night, the Miami Dolphins concluded their second preseason game with a 37-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. But I couldn’t just let this game pass by without providing some of my takeaway’s on the Dolphins performance.
QB Tua Tagovailoa
Miami’s starting quarterback– Tua Tagovailoa– again started off strong. And, unlike the week before, was able to finish strong (in a way). Tua led Miami on an opening-drive score which was capped off by a Myles Gaskin touchdown. On his final two drives, Tua led Miami on an 11-play, 83-yard drive, which ended with a missed 4th-down conversion on the Atlanta 17 yard-line. (It seems Miami got aggressive when they didn’t have to. But it’s preseason, and now is the time to experiment in these situations)
Tua’s final drive ended in the closing seconds of the first half. He led the team on a 4-play, 20-yard drive into Falcons field-goal territory where the team’s kicker–Jason Sanders– just missed a 58-yard attempt.
Tua ended the night with 183 yards and 1 touchdown. His best pass of the night seemed to be his 30-yard hookup with tight end Mike Gesicki over the middle. Tua threw this pass with force and right on the money for Gesicki to make an easy catch in stride.
The 2nd-year quarterback continues to show his growth this offseason and qualities of why Miami selected him 5th overall in the 2020 draft. He’s processing the field quickly, stepping up in the pocket when he feels pressure from the edge, knowing where his receiving outlets are during any given play, and demonstrating that timing and precision with his weapons that all the great quarterbacks do in this league. Even without his main playmakers in DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and Albert Wilson, it doesn’t seem to matter who Tua is playing with; he flashes chemistry with all his receivers.
Honorable mention: Dolphins backup Jacoby Brissett continues to demonstrate his value. He went 8 for 8 for 99 yards and 1 touchdown. Sometimes it’s almost like watching a bigger Tagovailoa out there. Brissett displayed that veteran presence. He looked poised, confident, in-tune with the playbook, and displayed some zip and touch when needed. In his two preseason games as a Dolphin, he looks like more than just a game-managing backup. (NO, Dolphin Nation. Tua’s the starter.) there is no QB battle.
Offensive-line & overall play-calling
I’ve been saying this and saying this all offseason: If you give Tua time to throw, he can do great things for you. He’s more like a Drew Brees than a Russell Wilson regarding his skill set and mobility. You got to keep him clean.
And that’s exactly what the Dolphins O-line did on Saturday.
Leading up to Saturday’s game, the Dolphins had several joint practices with the Falcons that week. And Miami’s offensive line performance wasn’t pretty. They couldn’t get a push, had trouble protecting Tua and failed to open holes for the running backs.
Maybe it was correcting the mistakes or the experience gained by competing against the same opponent multiple times, but all the issues and concerns seemed to be gone on Saturday night.
Tua was able to be kept clean and upright for the most part. He was only sacked once for a 3-yard loss. This allowed him to move the chains during the first half. I’m not sure what was causing tackles Austin Jackson and Jesse Davis problems during practice, but they stepped up on game-day.
Solomon Kindley, Michael Deiter, and Robert Hunt responded from their previous game against the Chicago Bears. This time, they created creases, holes, and enough push for running back Myles Gaskin, who was over 4.0 yards per carry with 1 rushing touchdown, and 1 receiving. Even Malcolm Brown was able to show something that night–barreling in for a short-yardage touchdown.
The Dolphins overall play-calling was smart this past week. Unlike the Bears game–when Miami seemed to be stressing a run-game which wasn’t working– the Dolphins struck the Falcons with an offensive formula to counter their pass-rush (which they had trouble with in practice). This was a combination of short developing routes like slants, drags, out’s, in’s, and dump-offs to running backs. Tua did a great job of recognizing his safety-valves when he was under pressure in the pocket. Without their starting receiving corps in Parker, Fuller, and Wilson, the Dolphins lacked that deep-strike element of their offense, but they found ways to keep the ball moving.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) August 23, 2021
I don’t mean to rain on the Dolphins parade, but the defense did exactly what it was supposed to do.
They didn’t play quarterback Matt Ryan, star receiver Calvin Ridley, or the “rookie-monster” Kyle Pitts. They played against backup rookie quarterback Felipe Franks (uh…who?) and A.J. McCarron. I would expect this talented defense to show up and shut down 2nd and 3rd-team offenses led by these two quarterbacks.
Before this game, Dolphins Defense also faced a Chicago Bears offense ranked 26th in yards per game for 2020.
So let’s calm down a little bit about this defense’s success and performance in the preseason. I would like to see them face an actual challenge before I get “excited.”
However, with all that being said, they still did their job (Patriots motto) and only allowed the Falcons to score 3 points in the first half. The defense prevented the Falcons from converting 3rd-downs (2 out of 9) and reduced the opponent’s time of possession to 23:18.
Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was the star of the night. He had 11 combined tackles, 4 sacks, and was credited with a safety. I’ve always been intrigued by Eguavoen since he came to the Dolphins from the CFL, and I’m not really sure why he doesn’t get more playing time. Flores says Eguavoen has found a niche as a pass-rusher for this team and feels he can do a variety of things. Regardless, it’s nice to see that the Dolphins’ backups can still perform even when the starters aren’t in.