Some random observations from Saturday’s Miami Dolphins scrimmage:
I’ve covered close to 30 of these annual Dolphins scrimmages. And Saturday’s was the most disappointing one I’ve witnessed.
Start with the attendance. The Dolphins apparently didn’t do a great job of promoting the scrimmage. The media didn’t do a great job of promoting the scrimmage. And there seems to be little palpable excitement about the Dolphins in South Florida right now.
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So about 4,500 showed up to Hard Rock Stadium to watch the team in person. You have to understand admission was free. There were autographs from players afterward. It’s Saturday morning, for goodness sakes.
And did I mention it was free?
Look, I understand the team was 6-10 last season and some fans are wary because the Dolphins got rid of multiple big-name players in the offseason. But there’s approximately 4.2 million people within 80 miles of this stadium, folks.
And fewer than 5K showed.
Running back Brandon Radcliff got a shout-out from coach Adam Gase at his press conference afterward because of his 27 total yards. Radcliff played locally at Columbus High.
The thing is Radcliffe played in front of bigger crowds for Columbus against rival Belen -- a game that in the past has packed Florida International University’s 20,000-seat stadium in Southwest Miami-Dade -- than he saw Saturday at Hard Rock.
So have Dolphins fans become so jaded that you can’t give the product away to them?
For the record, the Dolphins expect to sell out every home game this season.
Maybe team officials are reading this thinking I’m an alarmist. Maybe the Dolphins don’t think they have to sell the product. And maybe fans recognize that a scrimmage isn’t going to make or break a season.
But what I perceive is that the days when the Miami Dolphins merely opened their doors to an event and 15,000 people enthusiastically showed up are over. Relevance is something this organization needs to actively work for now.
(But, Mando, it’s only the preseason. It’s only a scrimmage).
Other teams get a big response for their camp practices and scrimmage. The Buffalo Bills on Friday night had a reported 20,000 show up for their scrimmage. And the Bills are going to struggle this year.
The Patriots typically get 15,000-plus for their daily camp practices.
The Dolphins have been getting about 1,500.
My concern is if the Dolphins don’t fire out of the gates this season, after failing for most of the past dozen years, fans are not going to abide patience or understanding. Fans, locally anyway, will find something else to be interested in.
And there’s this: Maybe it’s a blessing not a lot of folks came out Saturday because the team gave the crowd that got in free exactly what it paid for.
There were six penalties in a 50-or-so play scrimmage.
Five of the penalties were pre-snap penalties. Like before the ball was snapped.
The Dolphins had six times as many penalties in this scrimmage (6) as touchdowns (1).
This really is troubling for a team that was among the most penalized and lowest scoring teams in the NFL last season.
“The only thing I noticed was the pre-snap penalties, which we got to get that cleaned up,” coach Adam Gase said. “The delay of game I have to figure out what happened there. We were a little slow...
“We have to do a better job on not losing five yards on ... no play.”
Another reason folks who didn’t show up didn’t miss much?
The starting offense played two series. That’s it.
Way to give the people what they want!
It’s almost like the starters got the day off. Ryan Tannehill, competing at Hard Rock Stadium for the first time since December of 2016, completed 3 of 6 passes for 22 yards. He rushed once for 16 yards.
Tannehill has spent much of the first two weeks of training camp building a chemistry with slot receiver Danny Amendola. And that was evident in that two of his three completions went to Amendola.
But on what seemed to be the most promising play of the day -- in which Amendola broke open deep down the seam -- Tannehill threw his pass slightly high. And Amendola couldn’t rescue the throw as it went off his outreached hands.
So no big payoff.
Tannehill didn’t get his unit into the end zone. Neither did backup David Fales.
But there’s more: Tannehill and the first-team offense was playing the second-team defense.
Fales, who completed 3 of 4 passes, at least was playing against Miami’s starting defense. The Miami starting offense has no such excuse playing against reserves.
So am I grumpy?
No. I was excited about watching this scrimmage. I was expecting two weeks of training camp practice come together and result in some good play.
I didn’t expect third-teamer Brock Osweiler to turn in the best performance of the afternoon. He was 7 of 7 for 50 yards and one touchdown.
“I feel like I’ve had a tremendous camp,” Osweiler said. “I’m very confident in the system. I have a ton of respect for this coaching staff, my teammates, and I love playing football here. Playing football in Miami is a lot of fun because of the people coach Gase has put in that building.”
Osweiler led the only touchdown drive of the entire scrimmage. It was a good afternoon for him.
But, it should be pointed out, Osweiler is a former starting NFL quarterback. And he played exclusively on third-team Saturday -- with and against third teamers.
“The group did a tremendous job, we were able to finish our drive in the end zone,” Osweiler said. “Anytime you’re able to put points on the board, that’s all you can do. I’m very proud of the guys I played with today.
“The offensive line gave me a ton of time. The skill guys did great. The back caught a lot of balls out of the backfield. We had a couple of third-and-shorts, we moved the sticks and it was a lot of fun.”
Too bad South Florida missed it.