Uneven in so many ways. Brandon Doughty needed a good outing after a quiet start to training camp. One forced throw resulted in an interception and he was fortunate to get away with another throw into traffic. Those were mental mistakes. Physically, he shined, showing poise that hadn’t been evident in camp and hitting Leonte Carroo with a 33-yard TD pass. Call it one step backward but two steps forward. David Fales tossed a 99-yard TD pass, then came back and forced a ball that was intercepted.
Holding out Jay Ajayi afforded others a chance to show something. Kenyan Drake looked polished in brief duty. Damien Williams looked like Damien Williams. Storm Johnson has wheels, as he showed on special teams.
What a night. We knew the Dolphins are among the best in the league with their Big Three WRs. After Thursday night, you have to pity coaches who will have to make roster cuts amid the playmakers lower on the depth chart. Jakeem Grant took a huge step toward not making everybody hold their breath whenever the ball is in his hands. We’ve been told he worked diligently on ball security this summer and it showed. Not only that, but for a guy generously listed at 5-foot-7, Grant did well leaping for a 12-yard contested catch — the type of play we never saw last season. That brings us to Leonte Carroo, the Rutgers man drafted as the Dolphins hoped for the second coming of Anquan Boldin. Carroo was a disappointment last year but showed maturity with his 33-yard touchdown. A well-covered Carroo fended off the defensive back, slipped inside to adjust to the ball, to score. If he can continue to use his strength and size against what surely will be single coverage this season, watch out. Not to be lost was a terrific night for No. 3 tight end MarQueis Gray, who had three catches. Rookie Francis Owusu made a beautiful 17-yard touchdown catch, triggering a mad scramble by fans for their rosters to figure out who’s No. 82 (Stanford guy. Big. 6-3, 210). Did we forget anything? Oh, yes. If you turned this one off early, all you missed was rookie Damore’ea Stringfellow going the legal limit — 99 yards — with a touchdown reception from David Fales that will make everybody’s highlight reel. Call it his tribute to the newest Dolphins Hall of Famer, Jason Taylor.
Grade: What else? A
G Jermon Bushrod was one of the few recognizable faces out there, so we must be careful not to overanalyze a group that will have little impact when games really count. Still, one play caught the eye: On third-and-1 from midfield, the Dolphins chose to run, which is refreshing. Even better was seeing Damien Williams dash 10 yards to convert. And Doughty enjoyed good pass protection.
This was a good (but extremely brief) test against the potent Falcons offense. The key trio of DLs Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, plus LB Kiko Alonso, helped make a nice third-down stop, but when Atlanta went for it, the result was a 15-yard touchdown pass. DT Jordan Phillips, the man on the hot seat, was nailed for holding. That left the stage for three newcomers, who appear to be as advertised: DEs William Hayes and Charles Harris and DT Davon Godchaux. Harris’ first step gave the Falcons trouble all night. Hayes’ quickness should be a major asset.
This grade should be a cross between incomplete and who cares. Face it, the guy everybody wanted to see was rookie Raekwon McMillan. And we did see him — for about 60 seconds. McMillan went down while covering a punt after the first series of the game and though he was listed as questionable, the Dolphins did the prudent thing by holding him out. It appeared a mixup in communication between LBs Kiko Alonso and Mike Hull allowed a Falcons TD. Hull was blocked out of the play on Terron Ward’s 26-yard run to set up a touchdown.
In a mental lapse that can’t happen, Xavien Howard and Kiko Alonso failed to touch a receiver after a catch, allowing him to get up and complete a 19-yard gain. New CB Alterraun Verner had a nice pass break-up against Marvin Hall, but Verner and T.J. McDonald appeared to have communication issues on a 16-yard completion. He also could not contain Ward when Ward broke outside for a 3-yard TD just before halftime.
The most important play may have been Jakeem Grant’s first punt return, which went for 1 yard on the stat sheet. Grant made a diving catch on the play, which showed real guts for a player who had ball security issues as a rookie. Jordan Lucas made a heads-up play to recover a muff. But you can bet that special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is way hot over punt coverage failures.
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