For a moment, all of the hard work and improvement put in by Cordrea Tankersley the past two weeks was forgotten.
Early in Thursday night’s preseason bookend, Tankersley let Falcons receiver Devin Gray get behind him down the right sideline, and with an in-stride throw, Atlanta would be in the end zone.
Then Tankersley, the Dolphins’ second-year cornerback, caught a break. Kurt Benkert’s pass hung in the air, forcing Gray to halt his momentum and come back for the ball.
That delay was enough for Tankersley to catch up and use his size to get enough of the football to jar it loose.
And while that play — and Thursday night in general — was probably not enough for Tankersley to reclaim his starting job, it should have secured his place on the 53-man roster, assuming that spot was ever in doubt.
And it was a huge turnaround from his night in Charlotte, North Carolina, in preseason week No. 2, when he was torched by the Panthers and played, in his own words, like “straight trash.”
“Oh definitely,” Tankersley said, when asked late Thursday if he feels as though he has turned a corner. “One hundred percent. I played way better than I did in that game. I even felt like against the Ravens I had a pretty decent game. Definitely a quick turnaround.”
The visiting locker room was a happy place after the Dolphins’ backups smashed the Falcons’ reserves 34-7 Thursday. And Tankersley was in as good a mood as anyone.
It was hard to blame him. He has had a rough summer, losing the starting job to Bobby McCain with an uneven training camp and preseason.
But he seemed to believe the worst was behind him.
“I feel like I left a lot of meat on the bone a couple of weeks ago,” Tankersley said. “I’m just finishing, getting the ball out. I’m in good position. Just have to finish.”
He did Thursday. So did Torry McTyer, who was also in the running to be Miami’s No. 2 corner before experiencing struggles of his own. Like Tankersley, McTyer seems to have righted the ship enough to make Miami’s 53-man roster, even if he wanted nothing to do with that conversation Thursday.
“Since the beginning of training camp, I just wanted to show improvement each and every day,” McTyer said. “I wanted to come out with the mind-set of finding little things to get better at, whether it’s picking up [from] older guys. Just find something to get better at. That’s my focus. I want to make plays in the game when opportunities present itself.”
He did just that against the Falcons, breaking up two passes in the first half, including one that resulted in an interception by Stephone Anthony.
Even though neither wanted to go there, both young corners must have realized the significance of a strong closing act to their preseason. The Dolphins must pare their roster down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday, and simple arithmetic suggests that of McTyer, Tankersley and Tony Lippett, one will not make the cut.
Lippett has not been the same player since tearing his Achilles tendon in 2017. He also was hurt by a foot injury that cost him valuable practice time this camp.
It’s possible Lippett, who gave up a couple of completions Thursday night, read the wall’s writing even before the Falcons game.
On Tuesday afternoon, he posted a cryptic, wordless tweet that caught the attention of many:
A peace sign.
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