Miami Dolphins

An illuminating preseason finale should help calm nerves about Dolphins’ depth

Miami Dolphins running back Buddy Howell (38) makes a touchdown catch against Atlanta Falcons defensive back Ron Parker (48) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Atlanta.
Miami Dolphins running back Buddy Howell (38) makes a touchdown catch against Atlanta Falcons defensive back Ron Parker (48) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Atlanta. AP

What we learned from the Dolphins, 34-7, exhibition obligation win over the Falcons that will soon be forgotten:

Brock Osweiler, when given time, can actually sling it pretty well.

David Fales might have an anxious weekend as the Dolphins mull their backup quarterback situation.

Kalen Ballage is a star in the making. But probably not this year.

Dowell Loggains is pretty good at calling a game.

The Dolphins might have more depth at corner than previously feared.

At least one, and probably two, pretty decent defensive lineman will get cut by the Dolphins in the coming days.

And most encouraging for the Dolphins: Perhaps their backups are not as bad as they have looked this preseason.

With all but one starter — rookie linebacker Jerome Baker — getting the night off Thursday night, it was a chance for the Dolphins reserves to redeem themselves after getting outscored 48-25 in the second half of their first three preseason games.

And redeem they did, racing to a 24-0 lead in the game’s first 19 minutes.

So, yes, maybe Miami’s depth is better than believed.

Their No. 2 quarterback situation certainly looks better now than it did at lunchtime Thursday.

The Dolphins entered the game with the league’s No. 96 (Osweiler) and No. 103 (Fales) quarterbacks, based on preseason passer rating.

But Osweiler has excellent, finally looking like the player that convinced the Texans to give him a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016.

He completed 16 of 25 passes for 147 yards and a two touchdowns, the second of which came on a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Francis Owusu from 14 yards. More importantly, he directed scoring drives on three of the Dolphins’ first four possessions.

And he did it with Loggains, the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, in his ear. Adam Gase ceded play-calling duties for one night, and Loggains found a rhythm with power running, short passes, play action and bootlegs.

“They had a good tempo going,” Gase said. “They took advantage of some of the calls versus the coverages they ran. They got some explosive plays. It was good to see.”

Osweiler’s first touchdown pass went to rookie running back Buddy Howell, from one yard out.

Fales, meanwhile, had another ragged night. He completed 9 of 15 attempts in the first half and threw a hard-luck interception. His second-quarter pass Isaiah Ford was on the money, but Chris Lammons ripped it from Ford’s grasp.

Meanwhile, Ballage made a strong closing argument to get snaps from scrimmage this fall, even with Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake ahead of him. Ballage, who scored on a nine-yard run, had 62 yards from scrimmage Thursday on just seven touches.

On defense, McTyer probably secured his spot on the roster with two pass deflections, including one that resulted in an interception by Stephone Anthony.

He has been decisively better than Tony Lippett and Cordrea Tankersley, who like Fales, cannot feel great about their job security.

Another bubble dweller: Safety Jordan Lucas, who had a pick and a sack Thursday. But it’s unclear if the Dolphins have the room to keep him on their 53.

He might be one of several solid defenders looking for work late Saturday.

Defensive end Jonathan Woodard is another. His sack was part of a pass-rush onslaught that clearly affected Falcons quarterback Kurt Benkert, who got the start and played into the second half. Benkert completed just 40 percent of his passes and threw two picks for a ghastly rating of 19.2.

“The front is doing a good job,” Gase said at halftime. “They’re applying pressure on four-man rushes. [Defensive coordinator] Matt [Burke] isn’t really calling any blitzes. That’s really been the strong point for us is that four-man rush.”

What does this all mean?

Who knows.

But in the aggregate, and the Dolphins have to be encouraged by what they saw Thursday, particularly after Gase called out his backups earlier in the week.

Now, thankfully, it’s on to Tennessee and the regular season.

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