NFL Wire News

Dolphins starters impress, backups not so much

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DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins’ first-team offense made a good showing in Thursday’s 27-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in a preseason opener. The defense, led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s dominance, had an encouraging start, too.

But the reserves, well, they remain a work in progress.

“When you’re up 10-3 (at halftime) and the turnover battle is even, and then you come back into the locker room after 30 minutes and we get outscored 24-0 with four giveaways, that’s not a good 30 minutes of football,” Miami head coach Joe Philbin said.

“That’s the No. 1 concern because that’s the first thing that we practice and we preach to the football team. I’m very concerned about our ball security and our lack of takeaways on defense. That’s the top one.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (6-of-7 passing, 56 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions) was efficient while leading the Dolphins on a 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that resulted in a 2-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

Yes, Tannehill almost threw an interception on an errant screen pass, and, yes, right guard Billy Turner and left tackle Jason Fox were called for holding. But the Dolphins converted on third-and-2 and third-and-7 and scored on a fourth-and-2 on the starters’ only possession.

“I felt like we were balanced and did what we needed to do,” Tannehill said. “We completed a few balls down the field (and) some short passes where the guys were able to turn and run, and then the run game was going as well.”

Suh only played seven snaps but was a force. He had an offside penalty but drew a false start and commanded constant double teams.

On one play, Suh drew a double-team block that allowed linebacker Jelani Jenkins to shoot through the hole untouched and make a tackle for a loss. On another play, Suh’s double team cleared the way for strong safety Reshad Jones to make a tackle.

“I think those are some of the things that may not show up on a stat sheet,” Philbin said, “but I think when you watch the tape, hopefully there’s impact on a lot of different fronts.”

Miami’s reserves, who basically entered in the middle of the first quarter, were sloppy. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson has three offside penalties, running back Mike Gillislee lost a fumble after a 25-yard gain, and quarterbacks McLeod Bethel-Thompson (two interceptions) and Josh Freeman combined for three interceptions.

At first glance, the reserves’ shoddy play seems insignificant. But when you consider how many key Miami players missed four or more games last season — Jones, left tackle Branden Albert, middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, outside linebacker Koa Misi, running back Knowshon Moreno, to name a few — the sense of urgency becomes heightened.

–Right guard Billy Turner and left guard Dallas Thomas, the most scrutinized starters on the team, turned in solid performances in Thursday’s preseason opener at Chicago. Neither was deficient in run blocking or pass protection.

Their next big test comes this week when the Dolphins practice at Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday and then play the Panthers on Saturday.

“I thought they did a good job, I really did,” Philbin said. “It’s going to be really good for them to go now to Carolina and practice against more of a four-man line. At times (against Chicago in the preseason opener), they were uncovered, which, again they’re going to be uncovered some in the Carolina game.

“But we’re going to get a lot more of these defenses where both guards are covered and an uncovered center or a tilt on the center this week, both in the two days of practice and in the ballgame. I think that’s going to be a really good next step for them. I thought they both competed hard.”

–Defensive end Terrence Fede, the second-year player from Marist, and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, the rookie second-round pick from Oklahoma, have turned heads so far in training camp. They continued their exploits in Thursday’s preseason opener at Chicago.

Fede, who backs up right defensive end Olivier Vernon, ended with two tackles, one for a loss. Phillips, who backs up defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, had one tackle.

“I think Terrence has really had a solid camp,” Philbin said. “I thought he played well in the game the other night. His run defense I thought was excellent. I think there are some things in pass protection … that he can improve upon. I thought his play speed was good.

“I like the way Jordan ran to the ball. He came close on that one screen — I think it was a screen he almost chased it down and missed it. He had some penetration on some plays, I thought it was good exposure.”

NOTES: LT Branden Albert, who tore his right ACL and MCL last season, took two repetitions Saturday. He contends he will be ready for the Sept. 13 opener. … Among those not playing Thursday were LB Koa Misi (calf). … Among those not practicing Saturday was LB Jordy Tripp (ankle).


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