The game Friday night was supposed to have been the dress rehearsal. On Wednesday, the Dolphins might have to stage another one.
Given the offense’s performance — one rife with dropped passes and devoid of touchdowns — against the Atlanta Falcons, the Dolphins might play the first team this week against the Dallas Cowboys in their preseason finale. At least for a few drives.
Traditionally, the fourth and final exhibition game has been about the reserve players getting one final chance to prove that they deserve to make the 53-man roster. That will still happen, but perhaps only after the starters show that they know how to score a touchdown.
On Saturday, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he expected quarterback Ryan Tannehill and other members of the first team to get playing time that previously the coaches had not planned on giving them.
“I would envision Ryan playing more and getting some snaps [on Wednesday],” Sherman said. “Certainly, we have to be cautious with what we’re doing, but he needs more game reps.”
Earlier in the afternoon, coach Joe Philbin had left the door open on that topic.
“I don’t know,” Philbin said when asked if the first team would be appearing on the field at Cowboys Stadium. “I wouldn’t rule anything out at this stage.”
On other issues, Philbin was more definite.
The offense had been a disappointment, he said. And, yes, he was concerned.
“Obviously, offensively, it really wasn’t much good to look at,” Philbin said. “We had eight or nine drops. Then, there were some balls that weren’t as accurate. … There wasn’t very much rhythm or consistency out of the offense.”
Against the Falcons — a team that had surrendered 31 and 24 points, respectively, to their two previous preseason opponents — the Dolphins managed just two field goals.
Drops are an issue
Part of that was because of dropped balls by Miami.
At no time was that more apparent than when tight end Anthony Fasano dropped a pass at the front of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
Sherman said it was uncharacteristic of Fasano and that he expected the Dolphins to score on that drive.
Besides Davone Bess, none of the Dolphins’ receivers established himself as a consistent target for Tannehill on Friday night.
The Dolphins made 10 cuts Saturday but, perhaps because there is so much uncertainty at the position, none of those cut was a wide receiver. Eleven wideouts remain on the roster.
Sherman said that the fact that so few receivers have impressed him will only make the job of trimming the last ones down that much more difficult.
“They haven’t helped matters,” Sherman said. “I wish they would say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy’ and jump up on the table by having a knockout performance. That hasn’t happened just yet.”
One of the receivers who struggled Friday was Legedu Naanee. The five-year veteran seemed out of sync with Tannehill, dropping passes and over-running his routes.
Naanee, who is almost certainly assured a spot on the 53-man roster, said he had since spoken to Tannehill to correct the mistakes.
“One of the plays, it was me getting too deep on a route, another one [Ryan] wanted to put a ball in a different place,” Naanee said of some of his errors against Atlanta. “We’ve talked about it and are going to put in some work after practice so that we’re on the same page.”
Naanee took a positive attitude about the mistakes, explaining that the errors were all fixable.
“It was encouraging that a lot of the plays were self-inflicted,” he said. “We just have to focus on what we have to do. Luckily, our first game isn’t until Sept. 9.”
Naanee was quick to emphasize that the errors were occurring in preseason. So, too, was Philbin.
Philbin said he has almost no recollection of the preseason records of the NFL teams he has coached. By contrast, he can remember the record of every team for which he has worked the past 29 years.
“I could spout it off like that,” Philbin said, snapping his fingers.
When the Dolphins take the field against Houston on Sept.9, it will have been four months since Sherman started watching film on the Texans.
But the hardest work — turning the Miami offense around — still might lie ahead.
“Obviously, we have to get better in a hurry,” Sherman said.
THIS AND THAT
Ten players were removed from the Miami roster: DT Chas Alecxih; TE Les Brown; CB Marcus Brown; RB Jonas Gray; CB Trenton Hughes; S Tyrell Johnson; LB Josh Linam; RB Jerome Messam; DE Jacquies Smith; and CB Jonathan Wade. Gray was put on the Physically Unable to Perform/Non-Football Injury Reserved List.
There are now 78 players on the roster, meaning Miami must cut three players by Monday and then 22 more by Friday.
LB Karlos Dansby and DT Tony McDaniel rehabbed on the sideline during the practice. QB David Garrard, WR Brian Hartline, S Kelcie McCray and T Lydon Murtha were all absent with injuries.