The Miami Dolphins left Tampa Bay with a 20-14 win over the Buccaneers last night, the team’s first victory of the preseason. The second exhibition game highlighted some strengths for the Dolphins, notably an improved passing game and depth at wide receiver. However, some major causes for concern were evident such as a poor interior offensive line unit as well as the inability to run the ball and stop the run on a consistent basis.
Here’s a look at which players saw their stock rise and which saw it fall in the victory:
Rishard Matthews, WR
Before training camp started, it was widely speculated that Rishard Matthews was not a favourite of head coach Joe Philbin and was on the roster bubble as a result. That speculation should be officially put to rest now. The former seventh round pick established himself as a viable option in the passing game last season when the Dolphins receiving unit was riddled with injuries, and he has continued his impressive play. Matthews had three catches for 43 yards and a toe-tapping 9 yard touchdown reception that gave the Dolphins the lead for good. There’s not much more that Matthews can do to solidify his spot on the 53-man roster.
Dallas Thomas, RG
Lining up against All-Pro Gerald McCoy, Dallas Thomas unsurprisingly had a rough night. In his one half of football, Thomas was the Dolphins worst pass blocker and run blocker, good for an overall grade of -9.9 from Pro Football Focus. The second year guard was completely over matched by McCoy, however the fact that Thomas was beat so easily is alarming. He shoulders the majority of the responsibility for allowing McCoy to strip-sack Ryan Tannehill, in addition to centre Samson Satele. With a difficult Week 1 matchup against Vince Wilfork and the Patriots looming, the Dolphins can’t afford to let Thomas experience growing pains throughout the season. As a result, Miami will have to look at alternative options at right guard, starting with rookie Billy Turner.
Damien Williams, RB
With injuries to Knowshon Moreno, Mike Gillislee and Daniel Thomas, un-drafted rookie running back Damien Williams is climbing up the depth chart. As the second string back against the Bucs, Williams rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and added 3 catches for 46 yards. Williams powered his touchdown in from one yard out and at 5’11, 221 pounds, he could be a valuable asset in goal line situations. Williams’ good hands and ability to contribute in the passing game should give him an advantage over Thomas and put him in the driver’s seat for the third string running back role, behind Lamar Miller and Moreno.
Caleb Sturgis, K
Although Sturgis didn’t play in the preseason contest, his replacement has emerged as serious competition. Newly signed kicker John Potter had an impressive debut, going 2-for-2 on field goal attempts from 48 and 51 yards out. With Sturgis battling a nagging groin injury and in the midst of a poor preseason while Potter is making long range field goals with relative ease, Sturgis’ spot on the roster is in jeopardy. Despite being a fifth round pick of the Dolphins only a year ago, his struggles in the middle of last season and the inability to stay healthy leave him on the brink of being released.
Matt Moore, QB
While $5.5 million annually is an absurd salary for a backup quarterback, Matt Moore is arguably the best backup in the league and he proved that once again last night. Moore guided the Dolphins to three of their four scoring drives, completing 13 of 19 passes for 158 yards, including a touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews and no interceptions. One of Moore’s two touchdown drives was a perfectly executed two minute drill to end the first half. With the exception of Tannehill, no quarterback knows the Dolphins offense as well as Moore and for that reason alone, he has the backup role all but locked up barring injury. If Tannehill is forced to miss a few games during the season, Moore is capable of keeping the team afloat.