Dolphins Top Jaguars, 27-3, For First Preseason Win

Posted Aug 9, 2013

Gray scores two touchdowns and Sturgis boots two field goals to lead Miami.

The Dolphins didn’t get the fast start they wanted Friday night, but they still put together a solid all-around performance in dominating the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.

Dustin Keller caught a 22-yard touchdown pass, Jonas Gray had two short TD runs, rookie Caleb Sturgis hit field goals of 58 and 36 yards, and the Dolphins were plus-3 in the turnover ratio as they beat the Jaguars 27-3 at EverBank Field.

“I thought our defense played very well,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said after the victory. “It was a good win.

“We were obviously sluggish early on offensively, no question about it. And then we were able to put a drive together. But we’ve got to do a better job starting on offense. I thought our defense started fast. Our defense came out of the gate pretty good; we didn’t do that on offense.”

It was the first-ever preseason victory for Philbin as head coach of the Dolphins after the team went 0-4 in 2012 and lost against Dallas in the 2013 Hall of Fame Game last Sunday night.

After failing to come up with a takeaway against Dallas, the Dolphins had four against Jacksonville, including fumble recoveries by rookie Michael Clay and John Denney on special teams after muffed punts.

“Last week things didn’t go the way we wanted it to, especially on the defensive side of the ball, getting our hands on the ball, something we’ve been working on a lot, stopping the run, a lot of things,” defensive end Cam Wake said. “To go out there and make the corrections that we put in from last week was good.”

On defense, cornerback Nolan Carroll and rookie Will Davis came up with interceptions. Davis, who has recorded a half-dozen picks over the last two weeks of practice, had a good night all around as he also knocked down a third-down pass while blitzing.

“It feels good,” Davis said. “We’re going up to the next level. Every transition to the next level, there’s always that, what’s going to happen, how will I do? When you can make some plays, it helps out a lot. It reassures you that, yeah, you belong here.”

The Dolphins’ first-team defense didn’t come up with a takeaway but had a good showing nonetheless, holding Jacksonville to only one first down and 14 total yards in three possessions. The biggest plays by the first-team defense came courtesy of Cameron Wake, who met Jaguars all-purpose back Denard Robinson in the backfield and dropped him for a 2-yard loss, and Reshad Jones and Dannell Ellerbe, who combined to drop Jordan Todman for a 3-yard loss on a screen pass.

The Dolphins’ first-team offense played four possessions against Jacksonville and Ryan Tannehill completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

After recording only one first down on its first three possessions, the Dolphins offense got things rolling.

“I feel we finally settled in, got a good drive, put a good drive together, got a first down and finished it off with a touchdown,” Tannehill said. “It’s just a building block. It is the preseason. So don’t read too much into the negative things or the positive things.”

Starting at their own 20 for the fourth consecutive drive, the Dolphins got into Jacksonville territory when Tannehill hit Keller with a beautiful touch pass down the middle of the field for 24 yards. Two good runs by Daniel Thomas gained an additional 17 yards and after a pass interference penalty gave the Dolphins a first down, Tannehill hit Keller for the touchdown.

Keller caught the low pass while falling backward in the end zone after Tannehill rolled to his right.

“That’s what we know we’re capable of,” Keller said. “We’ve always known we have the ability to drive the ball 80 yards and score like that. What we need to work on is getting more consistent.”

The Dolphins didn’t have to go nearly as far on their next drive, starting at the Jaguars 47-yard line after Carroll’s interception.

A 27-yard completion from Matt Moore to Brian Tyms was the key play in the drive, and that was followed by a 12-yard run by Marvin McNutt on an end-around before Gray punched it in from the 1-yard line to make it 14-0.

Gray’s second touchdown came from 2 yards out in the fourth quarter after Denney’s fumble recovery gave the Dolphins a first-and-goal at the Jacksonville 4-yard line. Gray’s touchdown closed out the scoring in the Dolphins’ most lopsided preseason victory since they beat Kansas City 24-0 in Miami in 2008.

“It feels good,” said Gray, who sat out all of his rookie season in 2012 while recovering from a torn ACL he had sustained as a senior at Notre Dame. “It’s not always pretty, but it’s pretty much you’ve got to fill it, fill it out and try to score. I was in position to score, 1-yard line. Most guys on this team would be able to score in that position.”

Jacksonville got on the scoreboard in the second quarter after a long drive, but rookie defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu came up big on a third-and-2 from the Miami 4-yard line when he stuffed fullback Lonnie Pryor for a 1-yard loss.

Sturgis restored the Dolphins’ 14-point lead with his 58-yard field goal, which happened to come on his 24th birthday.

It also came on his first field goal attempt as an NFL player.

“It was neat,” Sturgis said. “Anytime you want to go out there no matter what the distance is, they’re expecting you to put points on the board and we did that as a unit, so we were excited about that.”

The Jaguars reached the Miami 19-yard line on their first drive of the second half, but the scoring threat ended when rookie kicker Adam Yates badly missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt. Jacksonville didn’t reach its own 40-yard line on offense again until after the two-minute warning.

That last Jaguars drive was helped by a couple of roughing-the-passer penalties on the Dolphins. Those were among the few negatives on a night that overall produced a solid effort, one clearly better than the one against Dallas.

“We wanted to play a clean game,” Philbin said. “Certainly we didn’t a perfect game. We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to work on, but when you’re plus-3 in the turnover margin and in the first 59 minutes we have one penalty, moving forward you’ve got a chance to win games.”


TE DUSTIN KELLER: “We’d definitely like to get off to a faster start, be a little more consistent, but that was a big drive for us, 80 yards. There’s still a lot of things we can work on.”

RB JONAS GRAY on getting the ball in goal-line situations: “When I get in there, I’m salivating. I know I’m close to the end zone, I know I can score and the guys out there blocking for me they want to see me score because they know I’m going to do everything I can to get in the end zone.”

CB WILL DAVIS on his interception: “One thing when you’re practicing is they always want you to transition into the field of play. To finally get one (was big); you don’t want to be the whole fluke thing.”

K CALEB STURGIS: “Anything under 60 (yards), if there’s not much of a wind factor I don’t want to change my form too much. I know the snap and hold is going to be the exact same any distance on the field, it’s always perfect, and the protection is great. Really, it’s just line it up down the middle and hit the exact same ball.”

QB RYAN TANNEHILL: “That’s what the preseason is for, it’s to kind of feel things out. Everything is not going to be perfect, and there’s no reason to stress about it.”

RB MIKE GILLISLEE: “It was a great opportunity for me. You never know when it’s going to be my last time out there. Every time I’m out there I try to give it everything I’ve got. It was a great opportunity for me.”

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