On a largely miserable day for the Dolphins, there was this glimmer of hope:
Against a team that’s fourth in the league in points per game, several of Miami’s young defensive players ranged from solid to very good on Sunday.
At the top of the list: first-round rookie defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had five tackles, an excellent play in coverage on Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and a great run stop on a third and four; and third-round rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, who had two sacks, six tackles and excellent coverage on a third-down pass.
“We liked him because he could cover a lot of ground,” said coach Adam Gase of Baker, who played 33 of 60 defensive snaps. “When he blitzes, he has no regard for his body and tries to annihilate other guys. [Linebacker] Raekwon McMillan did a good job” too.
Baker, who has proven to be an effective blitzer, had 3.5 sacks each of the past two seasons at Ohio State.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins gave significant defensive snaps to six players who have less than a year of NFL game experience.
In the absence of Bobby McCain, second-year cornerback Torry McTyer (who has played limited defensive snaps in his career) played 57 of 60 defensive snaps and Cordrea Tankersley none, while Fitzpatrick returned to his nickel position and played 42 of 60 snaps.
McTyer wasn’t perfect, but wasn’t toasted either.
“The whole secondary did a good job,” Gase said. “We did what we wanted to do with AJ Green. His longest catch was  yards.” Green had six catches for 112 yards.
With Cam Wake and Andre Branch sidelined by knee injuries, the Dolphins relied on three young defensive ends - Charles Harris, who played the most of Miami’s defensive ends – 42 of 60 defensive snaps, Jonathan Woodard (25 snaps) and Cameron Malveaux (19). Veteran Robert Quinn played 41 snaps.
Woodard and Malveaux and held up decently in the run game. But Harris (three tackles) barely missed a sack on a Bengals touchdown throw that cut Miami’s lead to 17-10.
Gase said the offense scored fewer points (10) than it allowed Bengals points created by Dolphins’ offensive turnovers (14).
“The defense played exactly the way we talked about all week,” Gase said. “That’s why it irritates me we screwed it up on offense. I feel awful because the defense played really well and did exactly what we wanted them to do.”
Safety Reshad Jones has a partially torn labrum, according to a league source, but intends to continue playing with the injury. The injury sidelined Jones for the third and fourth games of the season.
Jones had a team-leading eight tackles Sunday and his deflection led to Kiko Alonso’s interception on Cincinnati’s first possession.
“It’s great to get him back out there,” Gase said. “He did a really good job getting hands on balls.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald said there was little he could have done to avoid the unnecessary roughness penalty that extended a Cincinnati drive, after a stop by Miami, with the Bengals scoring on that third-quarter possession to pull to within 17-10.
McDonald hit Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah on that play as the ball was falling incomplete. The game officials ruled the contact was late. McDonald said he might “lower my target” in the future but said his coaches “were with me” in agreeing he wasn’t at fault.
“What do you do?” McDonald said Monday. “We’re human beings. It’s a physical game. You can’t take that out of the game. It’s not fantasy football. These are bang bang plays. You can’t coach someone out of it.”
▪ The Dolphins “have talked to several teams about trading receiver DeVante Parker as they have been frustrated with him,” according to The Athletic’s Mike Lombardi, a former NFL executive. But Parker, who has missed four of the first five games because of injury, isn’t believed to have much trade value.
▪ Tight end Nick O’Leary, promoted from the practice squad on Friday, played 28 snaps, compared with 30 for Mike Gesicki and seven for Durham Smythe.
“He did well,” Gase said of O’Leary. “He did a great job blocking. You throw him the ball, he will catch it. His effort was outstanding. He was throwing blocks downfield. I thought it was a good mix with those three guys.”
▪ Without Jordan Phillips, who was released on Tuesday, the Dolphins split defensive tackle snaps among three players: Akeem Spence, who played 45 of 60 defensive snaps, Davon Godchaux (41 snaps) and Vincent Taylor (28).
▪ Phillips had three tackles and a pass defended in his Buffalo debut against Tennessee and in a reference to the Dolphins, said on social media afterward: “Who is the scapegoat now?” And he tweeted: “Phins fans please leave me alone I’m just trying to enjoy this HUGE W with #Billsmafia”
▪ Without Parker, receiver snaps were distributed this way: Kenny Stills played 60 of 64 offensive snaps, Albert Wilson 58, Danny Amendola 53 and Jakeem Grant 15.
▪ Gase said it was too early to know if Parker (quadriceps) and others who were sidelined Sunday - including Wake and Branch - will be available Sunday against the Bears.