Ten non-quarterback notes and takeaways from the Dolphins’ 16-14 preseason loss at Tampa Bay:
▪ Charles Harris has produced only three sacks in 27 NFL regular-season games, but he had half as many as that on Friday, combining with Jerome Baker on one sack of Jameis Winston and bringing down Blaine Gabbert late in the second quarter for another.
After a quiet opener, this was Harris’ most encouraging moment in perhaps a year. In 30 snaps, he had four tackles and four quarterback hits.
“Christian [Wilkins] created a lot of pressure, making the quarterback step back pushing them, linebackers blitzing, DBs covering, and I was able to capitalize,” Harris said. “A lot of things they did to cause me to [have success]. The whole front seven, we’re all getting into a routine, learning peoples’ tendencies.”
Harris opened at defensive end opposite Tank Carradine on Friday, but Jonathan Ledbetter replaced Carradine after one play.
Pro Football Focus gave Harris Miami’s second-best grade on defense Friday, with an 86.7. That ranked behind only defensive tackle Adolphus Washington’s 89.6.
▪ This was encouraging: Pro Football Focus gave starting guard Michael Deiter the highest grade of any Dolphins offensive player - a 91.0, which is elite. He allowed just one pressure in 30 pass blocking snaps (which was a sack) and earned a run-blocking grade of 89.9.
Here’s how PFF ranked many of the other linemen after Deiter, from best to worst: Boston College rookie Aaron Montiero (76.9), Laremy Tunsil (76.9), Chris Reed (74.4), Isaiah Prince (60.5), starting guard Shaq Calhoun (58.9) and Jaryd Jones-Smith (58.8).
Jones-Smith allowed two sacks, Calhoun and Deiter one apiece.
The offensive line play was better-than-decent at times but poor at others (especially in the second and third quarters).
Overall, coach Brian Flores said he “thought it was better. We kept the pocket clean a good amount of the night. There were some instances at the quarterback position we could have helped those guys out, stepped up in the pocket. There were holding penalties we didn’t like that stalled some drives.
“Pass protection early on was good. Second quarter, there were some issues protection wise, guys coming off the edge and us not stepping up at the quarterback position.”
▪ Too bad the Dolphins cannot clone Jerome Baker. He might be their best linebacker in coverage, but he’s going to be needed a lot as a pass-rusher. He had half a sack on Winston on Friday but also missed another one when Winston escaped Baker’s flailing arms.
As a pass-rusher, Baker has “got a good feel it, good speed, good athleticism, good timing as well,” Flores said. “He does a good job studying the cadence and times it up pretty well.”
Baker loves how the Dolphins “have different ways for me to get to the quarterback. It’s definitely fun.”
▪ As a runner, Patrick Laird continues to impress the most among the four backs competing for one or two jobs behind Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake.
Laird had seven carries for 51 yards (7.3 average), a week after running six times for 24 yards. Kenneth Farrow, the former Charger, had a 34-yard run late and closed with three carries for 41 yards.
Mark Walton, who started at running back, might be the best receiver of the four backs competing for jobs (Laird, Myles Gaskin, Farrow, Walton) but has just 20 yards rushing on 11 carries this preseason, after rushing 14 times for 34 yards for the Bengals last season.
Chandler Cox (14 snaps) figures to make the 53-man roster as a fullback unless Miami finds a better option on the waiver wire. Cox had an excellent block on a nice run by Laird.
▪ A poor opener from Nik Needham and an uneven first game from Jomal Wiltz ultimately had no impact on their playing time Friday, suggesting they entered the game as preferred internal options among about 10 defensive backs competing for perhaps one or two open roster spots.
With Xavien Howard out and Minkah Fitzpatrick needed at safety Friday, Needham and Wiltz started - along with Eric Rowe - at cornerback and again had mixed results.
Needham allowed only two of seven targets against him to be caught, but those two receptions went for 53 yards, per PFF. Wiltz was beaten for a 14-yard completion.
Needham logged 46 snaps on defense (second-most behind linebacker Sam Eguavoen) and Wiltz played 23.
Among other defensive backs trying to make the team, Miami gave extended work to undrafted Northwestern rookie Montre Hartage (38 snaps; has been used at cornerback and safety); safety Chris Lammons (34; one tackle for loss and one pass defended); cornerback Torry McTyer (31) and safety Mo Smith (30 snaps; allowed three catches in four targets and a TD).
Those bubble players getting less of an opportunity: Cornell Armstrong (20), David Rivers (19), Tyler Patmon (6) and Jalen Davis (five).
Davis was involved in coverage of Tampa’s late touchdown and was beaten for a long completion to Tanner Hudson that set up the Buccaneers’ winning field goal. Davis allowed 45 yards on two completions.
▪ Tight end Dwayne Allen, who missed most of the offseason program and part of training camp with a knee injury, made his preseason debut, starting alongside Nick O’Leary but logging just eight snaps, fewest of any Dolphins offensive player. O’Leary played only 11 snaps.
Clive Walford’s 24 snaps led all tight ends. Durham Smythe (17 snaps) had one catch for 22 yards, Mike Gesicki (20 snaps) caught 2 for 14.
▪ If there’s a connection between players-on-the-bubble and preseason playing time, then Friday wasn’t a good sign not only for Davis and Patmon, but also for Allen Hurns (12 snaps, least of the available receivers, and no receptions) and defensive tackles Joey Mbu (seven) and Jamiyus Pittman (five).
Former Chiefs linebacker Terrance Smith played two snaps, less than a week after signing with Miami.
▪ It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Miami will get anything out of the eight Alliance of American Football players who signed here.
Two were cut before camp (Jamal Summers and Jayrone Elliott), and Mbu, Tyrone Holmes (11 snaps) and Reece Horn (one catch, 12 yards) have made limited impact. Left tackle Jones-Smith struggled badly Friday and guard Michael Dunn hasn’t moved the needle. Farrow was the best of the AAF alums on Friday.
▪ Among rookies earning low grades from PFF: Hartage and Georgia rookie defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. Per PFF, “Neither rookie had enough positive marks to mask their respective mistakes. Hartage came up short in coverage on several occasions, and Ledbetter missed some opportunities in the run game.”
▪ Quick stuff: Because he was needed at safety with T.J. McDonald and Reshad Jones sidelined, Fitzpatrick ended up playing just two snaps at his best position - slot cornerback, per PFF…. With Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan out, former Jaguars player Nick DeLuca got the start at linebacker and was burned in pass coverage (three completions in three targets for 54 yards).. ..
Nate Orchard (three QB hits and a sack) helped himself… Having impactful pass rushers at defensive tackle is a great commodity, and Christian Wilkins has a chance to be that. He had a sack Friday after producing 16 in four years at Clemson…. Isaiah Ford’s 35 snaps were the most among receivers… Deiter, Calhoun and Reed played the most snaps overall on offense (50).