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August 28, 2014

Postscripts, notes, quotes, thoughts from Dolphins' preseason finale

Postscripts from the Dolphins’ 14-13 win against St. Louis in a typically forgettable preseason finale:

### None of the most prominent “bubble boy” veterans had spectacular nights, though Daniel Thomas and Marcus Thigpen redeemed themselves a bit in the second half after awful starts, and Jelani Jenkins seemed to help himself.

Thigpen fumbled and subsequently kicked a punt, losing 18 yards in the process; made a poor effort on a Seth Lobato pass; and then was scolded by special teams coach Darren Rizzi for not entering the game on a punt return, leaving the Dolphins with – well – nobody to return the punt.

But Thigpen made a case to stay with a 32-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. "That says a lot about him," Joe Philbin said.

Thomas? Typically mediocre work -- 38 yards on 13 carries (2.9 yards per carry against a bunch of backups). His blockers did him no favors but Thomas did nothing remotely special on his own.

After an eight-carry, 17 yard first half, Thomas was somewhat better in the second: 5 for 21, including a five-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

"I thought he ran well and hard; ran physical," Philbin said. "Didn't look like there was a ton of space there at times. We hadn't seen him compete a lot relative to other guys at his position. It was an important evaluation for us."

Elsewhere, David Arkin –-- who started at left guard --- allowed a sack and was mediocre in the run game, then limped off in the final seconds.

Jonathan Freeny, trying to win the final linebacker job, committed an illegal contact penalty that resulted in a first down and had just one tackle.

Jelani Jenkins allowed at least two receptions but had six tackles, a sack on a blitz, a QB hit, and another tackle for loss. He seemingly did enough to win a roster spot – unless (and it’s a big unless) the Dolphins find somebody better on waivers.

Damian Williams, the ex-Titans receiver, didn’t have a catch.

And safety Michael Thomas, who seemed likely to make the team entering the game, had a horrendous night. He had a holding penalty, was out of position on Austin Pettis’ 11-yard TD catch and allowed at least two other catches.

### Bubble players who made a strong case to stay, besides Jenkins: Jordan Kovacs, who had two outstanding plays on special teams; defensive tackle Garrison Smith, who had a sack and tackle for loss; and Chris McCain (who seemed likely to make the roster coming into the game) with two sacks and a quarterback pressure.

If McCain was on the bubble, he shouldn’t be now; it would be shocking if he doesn’t make the team.

### Despite Thomas' low per carry average, nothing was completely clarified with the No. 3 running back job. Damien Williams had 14 yards on three carries and Orleans Darkwa 22 yards on 11 carries. Keeping Williams seems like the sensible move, but if there are better options on waivers, GM Dennis Hickey presumably will consider them.

### Found it odd that the Dolphins gave the second-half kickoff to Darkwa instead of Jarvis Landry (who had no return opportunities), Thigpen, or Damien Williams.  

### Final return numbers: Thigpen had all three punt returners, for 40 yards. Kick returns: Thigpen 1 for 25 and Darkwa 1 for 29.

### As most of you know, the Dolphins rested their starters. That meant a starting lineup, on offense, including Matt Moore, Thomas, Dion Sims, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams and an offensive line --- from left to right --- of Jason Fox, Arkin, Sam Brenner, Dallas Thomas and Nate Garner.

Dallas Thomas continued to struggle, whiffing on a block that resulted in a seven-yard loss for Daniel Thomas on a running play.

The Dolphins opened the second half with Thomas at right tackle and Evan Finkenberg at right guard. Tony Hills also got some time at left tackle.

### Rookie third-rounder Billy Turner sat out with a bone bruise in his left foot. Beyond Turner and Nate Garner, can any backup offensive lineman on this team feel safe?

Hickey assuredly will be scanning the waiver wire for upgrades.

### Hickey also will be looking for a No. 3 tight end who’s better than Harold Hoskins or Kyle Miller. Hoskins had one catch for five yards (you would have liked to have seen him targeted more) but had a good block on Matt Hazel’s 22-yard reception for a touchdown that put the Dolphins ahead with 6:15 left.

He also must decide whether any defensive tackles released are superior to rookies Smith, Anthony Johnson, Kemal Johnson and veteran Isaako Aaitui. With AJ Francis on injured reserve, the Dolphins need a No. 4 d-tackle. All four of the candidates had some good moments.

Anthony Johnson and Kemal Johnson started and shared a sack tonight, but the Rams had a handful of successful plays running the ball against the interior of the Dolphins’ line when they were in the game. Overall, though, the Rams averaged just 3.6 per carry (87 yards on 36 attempts).

### Defensively, every starter rested. Besides the undrafted Johnsons, the Dolphins started Dion Jordan and Tevin Mims on the defensive line; Jenkins, Jason Trusnik and McCain at linebacker; Jamar Taylor and Will Davis at cornerback; and Don Jones and Thomas at safety.

Taylor and Davis both played well. Walt Aikens disrupted two late Rams passes with blitzes.

Greg Robinson got the better of his matchup with Jordan, who was pushed aside on several running plays. Jordan finished with two tackles, including one for loss.

### Caleb Sturgis returned from a groin injury but was short and wide on a 56-yard field goal. "He looked good," Philbin said. "It came off his foot pretty well."

### Among the night’s biggest disappointments: promising rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp leaving early with a chest injury.

### Undrafted Northern Colorado rookie Seth Lobato (12-25-147-1 TD-1 pick) made a half dozen very good throws (including four good ones to Matt Hazel) but several head-scratching ones, too. Lobato, whose TD pass to Hazel accounted for the final margin, figures to land on the practice squad. The Dolphins like his arm.

Hazel (4 catches, 79 yards) also seems headed to the practice squad. So, potentially, are at least one of the three undrafted rookie defensive tackles that do not make the final 53. Hoskins has earned a spot on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53.

### Matt Moore played two series, finishing 5 for 8 for 38 yards.

### Final receiving numbers, besides the aforementioned Hazel and Hoskins: Landry 3 for 28; Kyle Miller 2 for 22; Thigpen 2 for 17; the running back Williams 2-14; Darkwa 1 for 8; Matthews 1 for 8; and Kevin Cone 1 for 4.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz