Today's Top 5: 8.25.17

Posted Aug 25, 2017

1. DeVante dazzles: A national television audience got to see Thursday night what the Dolphins and their fans saw all summer when it comes to the playmaking ability of third-year wide receiver DeVante Parker. He teamed with Jay Cutler for a 72-yard reception despite tight coverage by Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby by simply making use of his physical attributes, in this case his height and leaping ability. Head Coach Adam Gase said after one of the practices in Philadelphia this week that he used to tell Cutler sometimes to “just throw the ball to Alshon” — in reference to Alshon Jeffery — when both of them were in Chicago. Well, Parker just might be Cutler’s new Alshon Jeffery, although he’s actually faster. So don’t be surprised to see Cutler just chuck the ball deep downfield toward Parker several times this season even if Parker appears to be covered. Because sometimes even if he’s covered, he’s not covered.

2. Grant’s grand moment: Parker isn’t the only receiver on the Dolphins roster who appears to have made big strides since last season. Put Jakeem Grant in that category as well. His 69-yard touchdown against the Eagles indeed was impressive because he absorbed a hit at the Dolphins 40-yard line and just kept running past two Eagles defenders. Grant almost came up with another long gain in the third quarter, but he couldn’t make what would have been a great catch on a slightly overthrown pass. Regardless, Grant just looks like a different player this season and he just brings more playmaking ability to a wide receiver corps that’s already got plenty of that. As an aside, great job by the television cameras to provide a split screen on his touchdown showing both Grant and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson’s reaction on the sideline. That was good stuff.

3. More special: After what only could be described as a difficult night against Baltimore, the Dolphins special teams rebounded in a nice way against the Eagles. While the Dolphins didn’t have any long returns, kicker Andrew Franks showed he’s ready for the start of the regular season with a 56-yard field goal at the end of the first half. That was easy to see. What may have gone unnoticed was the fine work by both punters and the coverage units. Rookie Matt Haack (49.5) and Matt Darr (46.5) combined for an impressive 48.5-yard net average and the coverage teams didn’t allow a punt return longer than 3 yards or a kickoff return longer than 21 yards. Special teams was an area of strength for the Dolphins in 2016, and should be strong again this season.

4. Timmons time: It was not a great night for the Dolphins defense against the Eagles, but one player who stood out in a positive way was linebacker Lawrence Timmons. In addition to his second-quarter interception where he just read quarterback Matt McGloin the whole way, Timmons had five initial tackles and a quarterback hit. This is the kind of playmaking the Dolphins were looking for when they signed Timmons as an unrestricted free agent. Timmons had been relatively quiet all summer until the Philadelphia game, so this was a very encouraging sign for the defense.

5. Looking ahead: There’s still two weeks left until the start of the regular season, and that time will be used to fine-tune things on offense and defense in practice. One player to watch over the next two weeks is linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was signed last Saturday but didn’t practice in Philadelphia or play in the game Thursday night. Maualuga needs to get in football shape to be able to contribute from the start of the regular season. The Dolphins play their last preseason game at Minnesota next Thursday night, but it would be a major surprise to see any starter play in that game. The preseason finale will be different this year in that teams no longer have to cut their roster down to 75 players by next Tuesday. Instead, the roster limit stays at 90 until next Saturday at 4 p.m. when every team has to cut to 53 players. That new rule gives all coaches more flexibility when it comes to which players to use in that final preseason game.
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