Position by position postscripts on tonight’s Dolphins’ 31-30 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, plus some Marlins news and lots of UM scrimmage reaction:
### Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill’s preseason couldn’t have gone any better so far. He was 12 for 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown pass (11 yards to Damien Williams) in three series, finishing with a rating of 117.2. In two preseason games, he’s 18 for 22 for 158 yards, two TDs and no picks, and a 126.9 rating.
Though he overthrew a deep ball to a well-covered Kenny Stills, his deep pass to Jordan Cameron was plenty good enough; Cameron let it slip through his fingers. He also ran for 11 yards on a read option; that play should continue to be effective in doses this season….
Matt Moore posted a 2.1 (2.1!) passer rating in the first half but orchestrated a scoring drive in the second half, throwing four yards to Matt Hazel for a touchdown and closing 6 for 11 for 55 yards and a 60.8 rating… McLeod Bethel Thompson (5-6-46 yards) was better than a week ago… Josh Freeman threw a horrible interception deep in Dolphins territory late in the game, leading to Carolina’s go-ahead touchdown, rallied to complete a 56-yard scoring play to Gerell Robinson (it was a 10-yard pass and 46-yard run), but couldn’t make a play on the two-point conversion. Freeman finished 1 for 5, with a 73.8 passer rating.
### Running back: LaMike James made a strong case for a roster spot, rushing 6 times for 45 yards (7.5 per carry), returning two punts for 28 yards and one kickoff for 31 yards…
Damien Williams’ otherwise good night (two touchdowns) was seriously tarnished by a fumble near the Carolina goal line, resulting in a turnover after a foolish Joe Philbin challenge. Williams began the night as the No. 2 back, but James is pushing him. Williams once again averaged less than four yards per carry (4 for 14, 3.5 average)…
Lamar Miller, the unquestioned starter, mustered just five yards on three carries but had a terrific 36-yard catch and run (mostly run)… Jay Ajayi, who hasn’t shown much, missed another game with a hamstring injury…. Mike Gillislee again didn’t make much of an impression (7 carries, 16 yards).
### Receiver: Rishard Matthews continues to capitalize on every opportunity he’s given. He had receptions of six and 17 yards from Tannehill on two 3rd and six situations…. The Dolphins gave Greg Jennings the night off… Kenny Stills made his preseason debut with one catch for five yards… Hazel had a good night (4 for 47), but the only chance he makes this team is if Miami keeps six receivers to start the season, which seems excessive unless DeVante Parker isn’t healthy…
DeMarr Aultman, a long shot, had a 31-yard reception from Bethel Thompson…. Christion Jones had a 46-yard return on a kickoff late in the game and warrants a longer look as a returner. Remember, he returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns at Alabama.
### Offensive line: The pass protection was shaky, due largely to breakdowns by tackles Jason Fox (who left with concussion symptoms), Jeff Linkenbach, Aundrey Walker and Donald Hawkins… Kony Easley beat tight end Dion Sims early in the game, forcing a Tannehill fumble…
Billy Turner whiffed on a couple of blocks but wasn’t awful. Jamil Douglas, in competition with Turner, played right guard in the second half… Left guard Dallas Thomas was solid for a second consecutive week… According to Fox, Evan Mathis had a good visit to Seattle today but did not sign….
Interesting that the Dolphins used Jacques McClendon as their backup center and Sam Brenner as a backup guard. Walker, Linkenbach and Douglas also played with the second team o-line.
### Tight end: Sims had the breakdown in pass protection and Cameron dropped a potential touchdown. Cameron had one catch for no yards, Sims no catches. But Robinson got a clear leg up on the battle for the No. 3 tight end job, scoring on a 56-yard catch and run late in the game.
### Defensive line: Terrence Fede started in place of Olivier Vernon and the Ndamukong Suh-led defensive line was stout early on, with Carolina gaining just eight yards on its first seven plays (covering three series), before a long Panthers drive ended with a terrific goal-line stand, with Carolina failing to score despite having a first-and-goal from the Miami 2. On the Panthers’ fourth attempt on that series (from the Dolphins’ 1-yard line), Suh forced Cam Newton out of the pocket and Derrick Shelby made the tackle….
Jordan Phillips had an up-and-down night, getting penetration on one play but also missing a tackle on a touchdown run… Defensive tackle AJ Francis had a sack and a tackle for loss, keeping alive his hopes in his uphill climb against CJ Mosley and Anthony Johnson for a roster spot…. Francis and Emmanuel Dieke had Miami’s only sacks.
### Linebacker: Zach Vigil again made an impression; it’s difficult to see him not making this team…. Chris McCain was beaten by Greg Olsen for a 10-yard gain in coverage but also was credited with a PD (pass defensed). His run defense needs to become more consistent. But McCain and Kelvin Sheppard each had a hand in two stops on that great goal-line stand when Carolina couldn’t score on a 1st and goal at the 2….
Vigil, Neville Hewitt and McCain started the second half at linebacker. Hewitt is intriguing, but can the Dolphins possibly keep both Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger (who was one of the Giants’ best special teams players the past four years)?
### Cornerback: The night was marred by two injuries: Jamar Taylor left with a quad issue, not long after he stepped in front of Olsen and returned a pick 22 yards to the Carolina 3, where he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. Taylor told reporters afterward (including our Adam Beasley) that he will know more about the injury after having the quad checked medically on Sunday but that he feels "all right."...
Bobby McCain sustained an ankle injury early in the second half but doesn't believe it's serious. Neither he nor Taylor returned to the game…
Tough night for Will Davis, who allowed completions on consecutive throws and then committed a pass interference penalty… Brent Grimes had the night off… Zack Bowman, who’s on the bubble, made a couple of nice plays in coverage…. Tony Lippett knocked away a pass but also was beaten in coverage and remains a work in progress.
### Safety: Reshad Jones had two terrific plays early and seems poised for a big year. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas, trying to win a starting job after Louis Delmas’ season-ending injury, both had a few good moments.
Each had a role in stops on that great first-half defensive stand on the Miami goal-line. Each was involved in separate pass-breakups. Both were solid overall, but neither distanced himself from the other tonight, and Aikens was out of a position a couple of times.
Another tough night for fifth-rounder Cedric Thompson. Damiere Byrd beat him for an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and Joe Webb eluded his tackle for the game-tying two-point conversion.
### Specialists: The Brandon Fields/Matt Darr battle remains competitive. Each averaged 53 yards per punt; each had a long of 56. Fields had three punts, Darr two… Caleb Sturgis kicked a 49-yard field goal and remains the front-runner over Andrew Franks, who made two first-half extra points.
UM SCRIMMAGE REACTION
UM held its second scrimmage tonight (closed to the media) and one of the highlights was a long touchdown catch from Stacy Coley. Also, Chad Thomas said Anthony Moten had two sacks and UM said Ufomba Kamalu also had two sacks. Gus Edwards and Mark Walton scored on short runs, and UM said Darrell Langham and David Njoku scored on receptions. Quarterback Malik Rosier scored on a short run.
Also notable: Danny Isidora moved from first-team right guard to first team right tackle, and Joe Brown played with the first team at guard.
Courtesy of UM, here’s some of what Al Golden, offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterback Brad Kaaya had to say:
Head Coach Al Golden
On how happy he was to be able to get the scrimmage in with inclement weather looming…
“It was good. We got a full third quarter in, and we got the number of reps we wanted to get - not quite a full game. I’m really happy where we are. We didn’t get anybody banged up.”
On if the team was able to accomplish everything it planned to in the scrimmage…
“We did. We didn’t miss anything. We got it all in.”
On what he knows after the scrimmage that he might not have known before…
“In one play, we came up a yard short on a route on 3rd & 5. We didn’t run the requisite depth. Those situations, the kids need to learn from. We had a 3rd & 13 on defense, and we had somebody who was supposed to be backed up but played close to the line of scrimmage. Guys have to make sure they have situational awareness, that’s all.”
On which freshmen stood out in the scrimmage…
“We played a lot of them. We’ll look at the tape, but I’m pleased with that group overall. Good number of them got in – I would say probably 11 or 12 of them played.”
On if setting the depth chart will be tougher or easier than he anticipated given the results of the scrimmage…
“There’s going to be some tough decisions, there’s no question. I think back to last year, Nick Linder and Trevor [Darling] were on the scout team, and six weeks later, they’re both starting. We have a long, long way to go here. Everybody needs to improve – coaches need to improve, players need the improve."
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach James Coley
What do you know now that you didn’t know yesterday?
"We got four quarterbacks… that can go into the game and play. I didn’t see a lot of mental errors. I saw guys who were aggressive with their throws, make good decisions and move really well in the pocket. I’ve very high on the group right now."
What did you think about the offensive line?
"I thought the ones played very well. They’re going against that one defense – that one defense is good. They got really good players up front and we have to scrap and when we scrap with those guys, every now and then, we get some bad ball. Meaning, we have some penalties. Because we have to really grab those guys because their big, they’re strong and they’re fast. So, that hurt us a little bit – some of the penalties. The twos are still learning. You’re talking about a whole unit with the twos, but they’ve gotten better from last scrimmage, so I’m encouraged."
Are you still working with the one unit or do you have your five [starters] at this point?
"I think we’ll release the depth chart after watching this film…I believe so. But, we got an idea of the rotation. You guys are kind of seeing it; Danny [Isidora] at guard… at tackle, Sunny [Odogwu]’s in there, Kc [McDermott]’s in there, Joe Brown’s in there in the mix too. So that’s what we’re looking at."
Coley, by the way, said Isidora looked good at tackle and Brown --- who has really been turning heads, as we noted on Tuesday --- looked good at guard.
"We had a couple of big runs by Mark [Walton] down the field and Njoku had a couple of nice big plays," Coley said. "Herb Waters had three or four phenomenal catches.... Gus showed some tough running. He's a big back."
On how the offense performed overall…
“It went pretty well, pretty good. I feel like we executed pretty well, and we’re just moving the ball fast. I feel like we’re cutting down on a lot of our penalties and turnovers. Just bad football, we’ve cut down a lot.”
On how he feels about the offense with two weeks to go before the season opener…
“I’m as confident as I can be after camp. Everyone’s touching the ball. We’re a hard team to scheme [against] right now. A lot of guys making plays. That’s what I’m confident about – our personnel, and the fact that everyone is on the same page.”
On the performances of wide receivers Stacy Coley and Herb Waters…
“They had really good days. A lot of clutch catches on third down. Stacy caught a touchdown. They looked pretty good today.”
On how the offensive line did as a unit…
“Our offensive line played good. They only gave up one sack today. There are still guys switching around, but as of now, the offensive line looks pretty set. Joe Brown has been making some good plays – he’s on second team right now, but Joe is a guy who has stepped up a lot this past camp. Overall, the offensive line is really coming together well.”
On the touchdown pass to Stacy Coley and who else had touchdowns…
“It was pretty long. I don’t know how long. Darrell Langham did, Mark [Walton] did, Malik [Rosier] ran one. We had a lot. I think a majority of our drives were coming away with points, either field goals or touchdowns. That’s what I like.”
COUPLE MARLINS NOTES
### The Marlins tell us they’re considering bringing in the fences and possibly lowering the walls at Marlins Park next season. David Samson confirmed the team has been discussing the possibility.
### Giancarlo Stanton made clear that he wants to see roster upgrades. “We need a lot of changes,” Stanton said, “and that’s as much as I’ll get into that.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz