- Jay Cutler was impressive. Cutler was so good (5-for-8, 105 yards and one touchdown) that coach Adam Gase pulled him shortly after the start of the second quarter, having seen enough. Cutler showed off his strong arm, sailing a pass 72 yards for emerging top target DeVante Parker, who is poised for a true breakout season. Cutler then put up another deep ball, this one for Kenny Stills, who was mugged in the end zone for a pass interference. Cutler continued to build on the rhythm and chemistry that began to emerge with Stills and tight end Julius Thomas (who caught the touchdown) in joint practices on Monday and Tuesday. Cutler also showed some veteran savvy when he turned an apparent sack into an incomplete pass by throwing at a receivers’ feet. Cutler is able to move around and outside the pocket and seems to be able to deliver passes from unorthodox arm angles. Cutler is fearless. Win or lose, it should be fascinating to watch.
- Some concern about the starting offensive tackles. It was assumed that Laremy Tunsil would have a very smooth transition from left guard to his natural position of left tackle. But every now and then in OTA’s and training camp, Tunsil shows a lack of concentration or proper footwork and actually get beat around the edge by a speed rusher such as Charles Harris. It happened on Thursday night, as Tunsil was beaten around the outside by Vinny Curry, allowing Jay Cutler to be sacked and creating a fumble. Later, James, who is battling a painful upper-body injury, was beaten on the outside on a play that nearly led to a Cutler sack. The Dolphins have major concerns on the inside of the offensive line. Mike Pouncey held up in his preseason debut at center and the rotating guards were not noticeably poor. But for Miami’s offense to reach its potential, the team needs Tunsil to play at a Pro Bowl level and James to be among the top 12 right tackles in the league.
- Jay Ajayi seemed in mid-season form. Ajayi began the night in fine form, breaking off a long gain behind the combination of Pouncey and right guard Jermon Bushrod. Later, Ajayi showed why he was so effective last season, breaking a tackle and bouncing off for additional yardage. The Dolphins entered the night averaging only 2.6 yards per rush in two preseason games. But on Thursday, Ajayi had nine carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns, a performance that led to hearty congratulations from Gase on the sideline. Perhaps Ajayi was asking if he will be able to sit out the preseason finale next week at Minneapolis. Remember, Ajayi lost a fumble and played poorly in the last preseason game last year.
- Byron Maxwell had a really bad week. Byron Maxwell may be all set on Philadelphia. As in, he may not need to come back for a while. Maxwell, the former Eagle, really wanted to play well against his former team. But Maxwell struggled in practice against Philadelphia on Monday and Tuesday. And Maxwell was involved in a long touchdown play from Carson Wentz to Torrey Smith on Thursday. In what was either a busted coverage or a miscommunication or just a flat-out bad decision, Maxwell let Smith go and safety Reshad Jones, who seemed upset at the end of the play, couldn’t catch up to make a play on the ball. Maxwell really finished last season strong. But he’s not Miami’s top cornerback entering 2017. Xavien Howard is. When Maxwell is targeted — and he is going to be targeted this season — he must be better.
- Miami must tackle better. Yeah, still. Everyone sees it. Everyone knows it. The Dolphins need to get ball carriers on the ground faster. Safety Reshad Jones had a bad missed tackle on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and later missed another tackle on running back LeGarrette Blount. Cam Wake missed an opportunity for a sack. Lawrence Timmons and Jordan Phillips made big plays with interceptions and William Hayes had a tipped pass that led to a turnover. But what will be more important for those three players is to help limit by plays by the opposition. Timmons had five tackles in the first half, so this was the most active game of his preseason.
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