Miami Dolphins

Kenny Stills lone bright spot as Cowboys overwhelm Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon, left, is unable to stop Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) from making a catch for a touchdown in the end zone in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Fri., Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas Cowboys defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon, left, is unable to stop Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) from making a catch for a touchdown in the end zone in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Fri., Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. AP

Now this is the Kenny Stills the Dolphins traded for.

And he showed up just in time for a Dolphins offense that finally found its footing.

Stills, the fourth-year wideout, basically was the entire Dolphins’ offense in Friday night’s chippy 41-14 exhibition loss against the Cowboys.

Two of his three catches were for touchdowns. The other? A 55-yard bomb that gave Miami its initial first down of the preseason.

Friday marked the most dynamic half of football for Stills since the Dolphins shipped a third-rounder to the Saints for his services in 2014.

“We’re dangerous, pretty much at all times,” Stills said. “As long as we can protect Ryan [Tannehill], it’s going to be fun.”

The Dolphins did Friday. But more on that later.

Stills’ emergence was great news for Tannehill, who desperately needs someone other than Jarvis Landry to produce this year.

And great news for coach Adam Gase, who might need to outscore teams to win this year.

Because on Friday night, Miami’s high-powered defensive front was a no-show.

The Dolphins’ starting defense surrendered 188 yards and two touchdowns in three possessions Friday.

Vance Joseph, call your office.

Your unit better learn to tackle. Stat.

The offense, meanwhile, finally looked like it was ready for actual games after showing nothing against the Giants the week before.

Tannehill competed 12 of 20 passes for 162 yards and the two scores. He was sacked just once.

“It was pretty good — everything as advertised as far as how tough he is and just battling,” Gase said at halftime. “I liked the mentality that he had going into that first half. I liked the fact that the ones wanted to stay in and do another series. That’s what I wanted to see.”

The good news keeps coming.

Miami completed five of seven third downs. And the Dolphins scored touchdowns on two of three red-zone trips.

Each time, Tannehill found Stills when it mattered the most — not his favorite target Landry, not the rangy DeVante Parker, and not tight end Jordan Cameron, who has become a liability in his second Dolphins season.

The Dolphins’ touchdown drives were each 75 yards. Both went at least nine plays.

None took four minutes off the clock.

Gase wants his offense to play with pace.

On Friday, they played with a little swagger. At least Tannehill did.

And the Dolphins found the most success when they put their athletic quarterback on the move.

Tannehill’s deep connection with Stills came after rolling to his right. Had his receiver stayed in bounds, it would have been a touchdown. (The Dolphins ultimately came away empty after four shots at the end zone failed.)

“I think we had a shot there in that first series to score, and we didn’t make the plays that we needed to make,” Gase said. “There were a couple of bad calls that I had there against what they ran on defense.”

Plus Tannehill ran twice for 16 yards — coming on consecutive plays. Gase even broke out the read option, which Tannehill did so well in 2014.

Gase is reluctant to subject his quarterbacks to additional hits; backup Matt Moore left the game after taking an illegal blow to the head on a scramble.

But Tannehill seems to be at his best when he’s on the move.

And of course, when Stills moves the offense all by himself.

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