Armando Salguero

Dolphins defense has to hold the fort while Jay Cutler, offense gel

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night.
Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night.

This night was memorable only in that the Miami Dolphins, beset by terrible and significant injuries the past two weeks, survived without losing anyone who is going to figure prominently in the team’s future. Indeed, Adam Gase’s team didn’t lose anyone, period, which one hopes turns into something of a trend the remainder of this preseason.

But this game, unproductive on offense and a disaster for the special teams, did serve the wonderful purpose of perhaps giving you a glimpse of how the Dolphins might have to play if they’re going to win games early in the regular season.

That is to say, Miami is going to have to win on defense.

We’ll get to the defense in a minute. Let’s take care of the business you care about. Let’s talk offense.

The unit is not ready for the regular season. And that’s fine, it can be argued, because the regular season isn’t dawning tomorrow. But with the regular season only three weeks away, this offense seems light-years from being, you know, any good.

Jay Cutler, the team’s new starting quarterback, isn’t ready. He may have all this experience in Gase’s offense and a gifted arm, and the drop from Ryan Tannehill to him might be negligible. But he’s rusty. And he’s not very mobile. And it’s painfully obvious he’s playing with guys he doesn’t know and who don’t know him too well.

Cutler completed 3 of 6 passes for 24 yards in two series of work Thursday night. He was rushed. He was hit. He did what new quarterbacks do a lot which is he looked to the check-down throw for help.

When Cutler did unleash his powerful throwing arm, he completed a beautiful throw to DeVante Parker for 31 yards. He showed his pocket sense by stepping up confidently to find a lane and make his throw. It was very good.

But the truth about that play is Cutler threw into double coverage. And his offensive line, which is not anywhere close to being ready for the season, drew a penalty to erase the play anyway.

The Dolphins’ starting offensive line, by the way, has not been seen together this preseason or in training camp yet.

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins quarterback, was nervous with his first game in a Dolphins uniform as they played the Baltimore Ravens but was impressed with receiver DeVonte Parker and glad he got his first hard hit out of the way.

Mike Pouncey rightly didn’t play Thursday, and he’s the starting center. Ja’Wuan James, nursing a sore shoulder, rightly didn’t play, and he’s the starting right tackle. Kraig Urbik, nursing a sore back, rightly didn’t play, and he’s the most likely candidate to start at left guard.

So it was no surprise that starting running back Jay Ajayi rushed once for minus-2 and had a 19-yard gain erased by an offensive lineman’s holding penalty.

The offensive line accounted for three penalties — two holding calls against Sam Young and a false start by Laremy Tunsil.

Look, it’s the preseason, so any hot take I could share here should be understood in the context of a small sample size and concerning players that might not be starting when the real games begin. But the Ravens are going to have a nice defense early in 2017. And that showed when they played the Dolphins’ starting offense Thursday.

The bright side for Miami?

The Miami special teams!

Yeah, I’m kidding. The Miami special teams were a disaster. They had a fumble on a kickoff return, and then the Ravens blocked a Matt Darr punt. So the special teams looked worse than Miami’s uninspired offense in the first half.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, was impressed with his new quarterback Jay Cutler in their preseason game with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins defense was good. It held Baltimore starting quarterback Ryan Mallett to a 25.7 passer rating on 3 of 6 passing.

Xavien Howard, who is showing signs he’s going to be a force in the AFC East when he gains experience, collected an interception.

Rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux was once again easy to spot because even though he plays in the interior of the line, he’s the guy standing up guards and penetrating the backfield.

Byron Maxwell, meanwhile, caused two fumbles.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, talks to the media about the trouble with the special teams in their preseason game with the Baltimore Ravens.

The most significant question that remains on the Miami defense is middle linebacker Mike Hull. He took some bad angles trying to rally to the football. He once filled a hole and the running back simply went elsewhere. So this is a bit of an issue.

But overall, the defense looked … pretty good.

Yes, it was against Ryan Mallett. And yes, it is only the second preseason game.

But it says here that while the offense breaks in the new quarterback and finally puts a cohesive offensive line on the field, it’s going to be up to the defense to hold the proverbial fort.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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