By Zach Walker
Brought to you by: Big Shucks
Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys
Friday – August 19 – 7:00 p.m.
AT&T Stadium – Arlington – Texas
The Cowboys lost against the Rams on Saturday, in front of a record crowd. I must admit, I really prefer that kind of stadium. Just rows and rows of fans. But the loss doesn’t mean much, but it’s all in the context. The Cowboys’ quarterback situation has gotten both more complex and simpler. The simple part is they have a clearly capable backup on roster. The complex issue is actually going forward with a potential rookie, in a worst case scenario. I say if it were to happen again, I’d rather lose young, I believe I’ve been saying that for a while.
Five points to watch for:
#1: Dak Prescott: Double Down: I know, I just anointed Dak as the full-time back-up, and I really liked him coming out of Mississippi State, but let’s all take a second and stand on the brake pedal. He looked good against the Rams, maybe damn good. Okay, he looked damn good, that throw to Terrence Williams was the best throw in this preseason, and it will stand as that. All I’m saying, let’s chill with the praise. Let the man go out and do it again, let it ride. If he goes out and plays like he did in the Coliseum, it’s good progress, if he regresses, not the end of the world.
#2: Redemption for Chaz Green: I really saw only one negative, consistently, on offense and it was Chaz Green playing left tackle. He really didn’t do anything to take any pressure off of himself and really didn’t do anything to lead anyone to believe that he’s got the swing tackle position ratcheted down. There is time, and snaps ahead of him for the rest of this preseason to turn the tide for himself, and calm the minds of coaches and fans.
#3: More disruption from the D-Line: The defensive line didn’t get too much pressure in the face of Rams’ quarterbacks and allowed ample running lanes for Rams’ backs to run through. It’s the first game, and a few players had played an incredible amount of snaps due to injury. David Irving, Jack Crawford, and Charles Tapper got extra reps and got alright pressure. I feel that Zach Line is being underutilized playing nose tackle at 255 pounds, where he’s at a 60-70 pound weight disadvantage, but still managed solid pursuit and a batted pass on a third down. It’d be nice to see this group get a couple of sacks against a young offensive line like Miami’s.
#4: Continued progress from the Linebackers: A group that I thought looked really good against the Rams were the linebackers. I thought they were solid in coverage, and really executed their blitz assignments with great effect, causing an interception with a great blitz by Derek Akunne. Mark Nzeocha really was a plug, and just filled every possible gap with authority. Hitchens looked extremely solid in his short stint in game, as did Kyle Wilber. The Dolphins have a mobile quarterback and a pair of running backs that should put a premium on tackling, which wasn’t great in the second half in LA.
#5: The Punt team: Stupid penalties and, let’s all be honest, short punts were at the forefront for the Cowboys. The punts have just not been inspiring as they could be, or what I can remember. I’m sure we can all think and actually remember that sound a football made when it make the mistake of being dropped onto the foot of Mat McBriar. We likely won’t be getting a new punter any time soon, but if the old adage of “always could be better” is to be believed, they should entertain a new boomer. The penalties can be fixed, but can’t happen in the regular season, can’t give a team a free first down because a player can’t get off the field quick enough.
Looking at the Dolphins:
#1: Jay Ajayi: A lot of questions surround how Ryan Tannehill is going to respond to Adam Gase’s offense, because it seems like he’s overdue for a breakout. They brought in the vegan flavor of Arian Foster to help in the run game, but it’s the Dolphin draft pick, Jay Ajayi, that’s the future. I was a huge fan of Ajayi coming out of Boise State, even with his injured knee. The Dolphins’ got a steal in the fifth round, and this is supposed to be a break out year in this, his sophomore season. He’s got a 25 carry per game skill set, but with Foster there now, they’ll likely be much more judicious with the splitting up of the carries.
#2: The Dolphins Defense: Should be much better than they are: The Dolphins’ defense should be better than what they likely will end up being. Last year, they underachieved, especially Ndamukong Suh. But they have the tools. Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Suh, and Earl Mitchell are an imposing front four. Behind them aren’t lacking with talent. The linebackers, led by Kiko Alonso, have good skill, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi play with good strength. Byron Maxwell is going to try and replace the super solid Brent Grimes, who is going to stabilize Tampa’s secondary. If the Dolphins can get out of their own head’s and keep the game in their mind, they can really give a strong four way race in the AFC East.