The good news for the Dolphins: Their exhibition season has mercifully come to an end.
But here’s the rub: That might be their bad news, too.
Miami closed out a winless exhibition season with a 30-13 loss to the Cowboys Wednesday. In short, Dallas’ backups were better than Miami’s, since neither team played their starters beyond the first couple of series.
“That's unacceptable,” said a steamed Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. “Poorly coached game. We didn't play well. I'm the head coach of the team and that's a poor job by me getting them ready. That's the facts.”
Here’s one silver lining: Ryan Tannehill played near-flawlessly in the short time he was in. But there’s a catch: Tannehill only faced Dallas’ backup secondary, and his greatest success came against guys on the fourth line of the depth chart.
Tannehill completed 5 of his 7 pass attempts for 35 yards, but both of his incompletions were on the money. The first hit Legedu Naanee in the hands, but was dropped.
On the other, Tannehill targeted Naanee on a fade route in the end zone, but corner Teddy Williams mugged Naanee, preventing him from making a play. Yet the officiating crew — replacements, it should be noted — missed a clear pass interference call.
But even with Tannehill’s solid night, he again couldn’t get the Dolphins into the end zone. Miami has scored just two touchdowns in Tannehill’s 20 drives this preseason. The Dolphins even got a special teams turnover — kicker Dan Carpenter recovered a fumble — but couldn’t advance the ball.
“You can’t stall out on the 3-yard line,” Tannehill said. “When you get that deep, you have to take advantage of it. You need to get a touchdown.”
Tannehill might have been lucky to get out of Dallas on two legs, considering who he had blocking for him.
The only starter on the offensive line to play was Jonathan Martin — a rookie who has struggled throughout much of the preseason.
Ray Feinga started at left tackle for Jake Long, who hurt his right knee during practice Monday. That at least was expected. But the rest of the changes — Chandler Burden for Richie Incognito, Ryan Cook for Mike Pouncey and John Jerry for Artis Hicks — were a surprise.
Tannehill escaped the night without taking a sack, although he did take a pretty nasty late hit, which he shook off.
Tannehill’s replacement, however, wasn’t nearly so lucky. The Cowboys sacked Matt Moore three times, including one by Victor Butler in which the Dallas defensive end completely embarrassed Feinga.
Not long after that, Feinga got the hook, Martin shifted to left tackle and Andrew McDonald played on the right side.
The constant pressure seemed to get to Moore. A play after taking a sack, Moore threw a horrendous interception that Orie Lemon returned for a touchdown. Moore apparently didn’t see Lemon dropping in coverage, and threw it right to the linebacker.
Moore, who lost out in the training camp quarterback competition to Tannehill, finished the preseason completing just 20 of his 51 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 37.5.
Yet with David Garrard’s knee still not healed, Moore will likely enter the season as Miami’s backup quarterback.
Who Tannehill and Moore will be throwing to remain unclear.
Neither Brian Hartline nor Davone Bess played Wednesday. But both are likely on the team.
Meanwhile, the eight other receivers trying to fill out the opening day depth charts did nothing to distinguish themselves. Naanee and Marlon Moore started Wednesday, and had identical stat lines: two catches for 19 yards.
Rishard Matthews again was the team’s most productive receiver, catching a team-high three passes for 47 yards. But Matthews has played mainly in mop-up duty, which doesn’t bode well for Friday’s final cut-downs.
The Dolphins are expected to be very active once hundreds of players released in the coming days hit the waiver wire. General manager Jeff Ireland said on the pregame show that he was “very excited about what’s going to happen the next three days.”
Thanks to last year’s 6-10 season, Miami should be in good position to capitalize on more than a few castoffs. They have the league’s eighth-highest waiver priority.
Whether Pat Devlin makes this team as its third quarterback remains to be seen. Devlin completed 7 of 12 passes for 63 yards Wednesday, and led the Dolphins on their only touchdown drive. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Lamar Miller, who had 60 yards on 17 carries.
“Are we ready now? I wouldn't say that,” Cam Wake said when asked if the team is prepared for the regular season. “We have a lot of work to do.
“You’ve got to cut the fluff and move on with the cream. It’s sad, but that’s the business.”