AC In The AM: Both QBs Step Up In Second Half

What did we learn? What stood out most? Who helped themselves? Let’s take a close look at the performance of the Dolphins in a 22-7 victory Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars, generally considered the most important of the four preseason games.

  • Overall the first team offense struggled in the first half against a pretty good Jaguars’ defense and then got going in the second half behind solid drives from both quarterbacks, while the first team defense generally played well throughout. Encouraging signs to be sure.
  • As was expected, Ryan Fitzpatrick started at quarterback and played into the third quarter. Bottom line: He did not fare well in the first half, hitting on 5 of 11 passes for 33 yards, but he came out sharp in the third quarter, leading an 11-play, 86-yard touchdown drive and scoring on an 8-yard toss to running back Mark Walton.
  • The belief here is that Fitzpatrick will start the season opener on Sept. 8th against Baltimore and he has outplayed Josh Rosen much of the summer to justify that decision. But nothing will be official until the announcement comes from Brian Flores. “The staff will get together and make the best decision for this team,” said Flores after the game.
  • Rosen came in following Fitzpatrick’s touchdown throw and put together his most impressive drive of the summer, the undisputed highlight a rolling right 39-yard completion to Isaiah Ford. This was as good a throw as I’ve seen Rosen make. He also moved extremely well on that drive, his 14-yard run the longest of the night for the Dolphins offense. Overall, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 59 yards, certainly a nice step in his development.
  • The running game, meanwhile, could do little against a talented and deep Jaguars’ defense, Kalen Ballage gaining just 17 yards on 12 carries with the starters in the first half.
  • Interestingly, Walton was the first back in the game after Ballage came out. But the most effective back was once again undrafted rookie Patrick Laird, who scored on a short run and averaged over four yards a carry. He’s got a real shot to make this team.
  • With the exception of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who sat this one out, the two starting rookies guards, Shaq Calhoun and Michael Deiter, center Daniel Kilgore and right tackle Jesse Davis played together through early in the third quarter and then Calhoun and Deiter remained for the rest of the quarter. Considering the quality of the opponent’s defense, Calhoun and Deiter held up well.
  • So how do you get noticed if you’re an unheralded first year defensive back trying to beat the odds? You make a forceful textbook tackle on the opening punt of the game as Chris Lammons did. Actually, he almost had an even bigger play early in the second quarter, apparently forcing a fumble after leveling punt returner D.J. Clark Jr. but it was ruled that Clark’s knee was down prior to the fumble, negating the play. Special teams will always be a ticket into this league. It could very well be for Lammons.
  • Cornerback Eric Rowe certainly helped his cause in trying to earn the starting spot opposite Xavien Howard with a nice diving interception on the first play of the second quarter. This coaching staff is familiar with Rowe from his days with the Patriots. It would seem as if he’s the leading candidate to win that job.
  • Hardest hit of the night: Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick absolutely hammered Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook running a crossing pattern. The pass from Nick Foles was well thrown, but Fitzpatrick’s timing couldn’t have been much better.
  • You can make the argument that Nick O’Leary has been the most impressive of the tight ends this summer when you analyze both receiving and blocking. His 30-yard catch and run in the third quarter was very impressive.
  • The run defense in general has looked pretty solid this preseason. Nothing conclusive, but it’s a promising sign.
  • Linebacker Jerome Baker seems so comfortable out there in his second season, flying around, making tackles and generally looking like he’s about to have a breakout season.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, Jason Sanders is now 8-for-8 on field goals this preseason after going 18 of 20 during the 2108 regular season. He did, however, miss an extra point in the third quarter, giving him at least something to work on. Nonetheless, he sure seems like a long term solution.
  • How unfortunate that 11 players, most of them prominent, did not dress for Thursday night’s game due to an assortment of injuries. Many of them are the same players who missed the first two preseason games, clearly a concern from a continuity standpoint heading into the regular season. Wonder if we’ll see any of them in the final preseason game, usually a rest night for starters. The big question: How do you properly judge a team with so many key players on the sideline?
  • Finally, my take on the Dolphins signing Jakeem Grant to a four-year extension: This was a smart move, locking up one of the team’s most potent offensive and special teams weapons for four more seasons. Grant has earned this extension and the decision-makers deserve credit for making it happen. Build with youth and keep the good ones long-term. That’s the mindset of this team. We saw it when cornerback Xavien Howard received a hefty extension during the offseason and the signing of Grant is just another step — an important step — in that process. He’s also a lot of fun to cover – as a writer, not as a defensive back.

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