In a game that featured many players that are unlikely to make either team’s 53 man roster, the Miami Dolphins lost 16-10 in their preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins were without key starters Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace, Charles Clay and Olivier Vernon, giving depth players a chance to earn themselves a roster spot.
During the limited time Miami’s starters spent on the field, their question marks appeared to be strengths and their strengths appeared to be question marks. The Dolphins offense, which consists of several unknowns, picked apart the Falcons defense for an opening drive touchdown. On the other hand, the defense looked unimpressive and were unable to record a stop as the Falcons ultimately evened the score on their first possession.
Which Dolphins saw their stock rise and which saw it fall in the preseason opener?
Terrence Fede, DE
After a solid start to training camp, Dolphins seventh round pick Terrence Fede made an impact in his first NFL game. The rookie defensive end played 41 snaps, more than any Dolphins defensive player and looked good doing so. Fede was a disruptive force, recording two tackles on the night including one for a loss, as well as a batted pass. When he wasn’t making tackles, Fede generated pressure on the quarterback with relative ease, despite being up against Falcons right tackle Jake Matthews, the 6th overall pick in this year’s draft. Fede is certainly a player to watch in the next three preseason games as he competes for a spot on the roster.
Marcus Thigpen, KR/PR
One thing that was evident in this game is the Marcus Thigpen’s job is not safe. He returned three punts for an average of 29 yards and one kickoff for 31 yards. Although he played well enough in this game to keep his spot, its clear the Dolphins are holding an open competition in search of a replacement following Thigpen’s poor showing last season. In addition to Thigpen, Jarvis Landry and Damian Williams returned kickoffs. Landry looked explosive in the return game, taking a punt back 48 yards and a kickoff for 26 yards. While Thigpen is used primarily as a returner, Landry’s ability to contribute both on offense and special teams gives him added appeal to the coaching staff and allows them to use Thigpen’s roster spot elsewhere.
Chris McCain, LB
Dolphins un-drafted free agent signing Chris McCain was a bright spot amongst a linebacker core that struggled against the Falcons. McCain made two tackles on the night, finding himself consistently in the backfield in addition to his contributions on special teams. His size (6’6, 245 pounds) makes him a suitable option to cover tight ends, an area the Dolphins have been unable to contain in recent years. McCain will challenge Jason Trusnik and Jonathan Freeny for the 53-man roster.
Dion Jordan, DE
There may not be a Dolphin in this game that was less impressive than Dion Jordan (Seth Lobato doesn’t count). Jordan was on the field for three quarters playing with both the starters and backups, and was virtually invisible. With Olivier Vernon sidelined, Jordan had an extended opportunity to prove why he was worth a third overall pick and was unable to do so. He finished with only a single tackle on the night. Jordan didn’t show anything to make fans anxiously await the end of his four game suspension.
Ryan Tannehill, QB
Tannehill’s preseason debut couldn’t have gone any better. The third year quarterback looked sharp and poised in his first game action under new offensive co-ordinator Bill Lazor. Tannehill carved the Falcons defense going 6-for-6 passing for 62 yards and a touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson, in his only drive of the game. In a small sample size, Tannehill excelled in the up-tempo offense which takes advantage of his athleticism. He delivered exactly what the fans and coaching staff were looking for, and gained confidence moving forward in the process.