Let’s just say the new and improved Dolphins didn’t do a lot in their preseason opener to convince anyone they are either new or improved. Let’s just say the lines won’t be ringing off the hook in the season ticket sales office on Monday.
The truth is the Dolphins came to this Hall of Fame Game after two weeks of practice, but they mostly played as if they’d been working only two minutes.
They were sloppy.
They made technique and mental mistakes.
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And they got beat physically, too, in a 24-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Only Pat Devlin’s third-team touchdown pass against the players at the bottom of the Dallas defensive roster kept the score respectable.
Before painting the full picture of this inglorious portrait, allow me to say rookie first round pick Dion Jordan looked good in a limited role as a backup defensive end.
He didn’t collect a sack but had a pressure. He didn’t deliver any crushing tackles, but did have one on third down that ended a second-quarter Dallas drive.
No, Jordan didn’t start when Olivier Vernon was held out while nursing a minor groin injury. The start went to second-year player Derrick Shelby, who had a fine game with two sacks.
But keeping Jordan out of the starting role is more a hint of the Dolphins plan for Jordan this year than commentary on his depth chart status.
He’s not likely to immediately be an early down player where his run defense and inexperience and light frame might be exposed. He’s going to be a pass rusher, a third-down threat for a Miami defense that wants more pressure from the defensive side across from Cameron Wake.
So even if Jordan’s preseason debut wasn’t super it was a success. And it was definitely more successful than his team’s 2013 debut.
Wearing their new uniforms and sporting upgrades throughout their new roster, coach Joe Philbin’s team looked like the old Dolphins — the same ones that are coming off a four-year skid of losing seasons.
The first- and second-team offense was bad.
The first-team defense was unimpressive and the second unit was only slightly better.
Miami’s first offensive play of the night?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller bumbled a handoff and the ball went bounding down the field until a Dallas player recovered. It looked as if Miller was responsible for the fumble but the official statistician blamed Tannehill.
That gave the Cowboys the football at the Dolphins 9-yard line and suddenly all the emphasis Miami coaches have put on avoiding turnovers in training camp rang hollow.
(It later clanged like a broken bell when a Matt Moore pass deflected off receiver Chad Bumphis and was intercepted by Dallas linebacker DeVonte Holloman. The third-string linebacker then outran the entire Miami offense 75 yards for a touchdown.)
The Miami starting offense didn’t have the benefit of having starters Brian Hartline nor Mike Wallace for this game. So that offers hope. But the Dallas defense didn’t use DeMarcus Ware and four other starters, either.
And in a battle of backups, the Cowboys trounced the Dolphins.
Dallas Thomas, a third-round pick who has been used at left tackle lately, struggled mightily. He allowed a sack and had another play in which he was basically chasing the defensive player to his quarterback.
That’s not typically a good look or good moment for a left tackle.
Marvin McNutt dropped a pass. Brian Tyms dropped a pass, and Michael Egnew dropped a pass. Yes, those players had good plays, too.
But the bad generally overshadowed the good.
The troubling thing was that the Dolphins looked sloppy all around. They picked up two defensive pass interference penalties, including one in the end zone against rookie Will Davis.
That came on third down when Miami was hoping to make a stand inside their five-yard line. On the next play, the Dolphins wasted a time out because veteran Richard Marshall came in the game late and the defense wasn’t properly aligned.
Dimitri Patterson, who is vying for a starting cornerback job with Marshall, later was flagged for a pass interference.
But the mistakes weren’t limited to just tangible statistics.
The Miami defense missed three tackles on a 17-yard, second-quarter carry by Phillip Tanner, the third-string running back for the Cowboys.
There was also this:
The Dolphins, who worked tirelessly this week on two-minute and goal-line situations, had a first-and-goal situation at the Dallas’ 3-yard line with two minutes to play.
After a run lost 2 yards, Moore committed an unpardonable sin for a quarterback by taking a 14-yard sack in the red zone. A third-down pass didn’t get the offense in the end zone and so the Dolphins settled for a 27-yard field goal.
The only good news there?
Philbin didn’t celebrate with a fist pump.