Our quick-thought, quick-read observations from Thursday night’s second Miami Dolphins preseason game, vs. the visiting Baltimore Ravens:
Stay loose, Matt Moore. Keep an open mind, Adam Gase. Not so fast to etch that quarterback depth chart in stone, OK?
We are expected to see a larger, longer dose of starting QB-designate Jay Cutler in Fake Game 3 next week at Philadelphia. Meanwhile, what we saw from Cutler in his preseason debut Thursday night at The Rock should neither have cemented his claim to the job left open by Ryan Tannehill’s injury nor cast it into immediate doubt. What it did was make you think, “Hmm, why isn’t this an open competition between the recently signed Cutler and the veteran-backup Moore?”
Cutler completed 3-of-6 passes for 24 yards, a 60.4 passer rating, in two scoreless series vs. the Ravens. In fairness, a 31-yard strike to DeVante Parker was erased by a penalty. Moore came in and was 3-for-5 for 11 yards, also hardly lighting it up. The point is, with two exhibitions left, one of these two men should have to earn the job, not be handed it as seems to be the case with Cutler, as when Gase said of Cutler, "He didn't come out of retirement to stand on a sideline."
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Yes, the Dolphins got clobbered 31-7, which would be embarrassing if you believed it mattered for anything. But keep telling yourself, “Preseason results don’t matter!” (And then adding, as an aside, “Right...?”)
Lost in the Cutler debut was the first preseason appearance for rising-star running back Jay Ajayi, newly out of concussion protocol and cleared to play. Nuthin’ special in the expected minimal action. Two carries for one yard and minus-three yards, one catch, zero concussions. Don’t worry about Jay. Assuming the bell stays un-rung, he’ll be just fine.
Maybe the best news for Miami? No significant player was seriously hurt. Count that as a victory unto itself. After a training camp that saw Tannehill, starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and counted-on cornerback Tony Lippett all lost to season-ending injuries, the absence of TV face time Thursday night for Dolphins doctors and trainers was something to cheer.
Aspiring third-string QB David Fales got a long look with modest results but did lead the Fins scoring drive that made it 7-0, finished by Senorise Perry’s touchdown. Trying to make the final roster by getting coaches’ attention in August? Score on an 11-yard run after earliest breaking a 33-yard kickoff return. (Oops, but that lost fumble may be what’s remembered more...).
Cornerback Xavien Howard, limited to seven games with zero interceptions by injury his rookie season, introduced himself better late than never with a pick Thursday night. The corner play of Byron Maxwell (who jarred two balls loose Thursday) and Howard, especially in light of Lippett’s injury, will be so crucial this season. Rookie CB Cordrea Tankersley also had a pick, reminding Ravens fans everywhere that Ryan Mallett is not Joe Flacco.
Fins trailed for first time, 13-7, after a play that should give excellent special-teams coach Darren Rizzi indigestion. Miami had a punt blocked and recovered by Ravens at MIA 9 after Dolphins scrambled to get an 11th man on the field and had another penalty on the play.
Linebacker Mike Hull had a really active night and sort of raised his hand and said “Me!” in the jockeying to replace the injured McMillan at MLB.
Nice moment: Rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux wore a live microphone for TV, and we saw and heard Ndamukong Suh favoring the rook with tips and advice on the sideline. Suh fears no man. Not the one trying to block him. And not the one trying to take his job.
Did the game overall verify to doubters why preseason NFL football is hardly worth watching except to roster-evaluating coaches? And why so few fans actually do watch? Rhetorical questions. Y’all know the answer!