The first preseason game is in the books and there was a lot to take away from it. Some of it was good, and some of it was not so good. Luckily, they usually came with different units on the field.
This was the first opportunity that Dolphins fans had to see their new look team in action, and the initial signs were that the Dolphins were ready to show just what they were made of.
But once the starters left the field, everything started going the Bears' way. The Dolphins defense managed to make several goal line stands, but allowing four field goals makes points start to pile up, and it was capped off by a 54-yard run by Senorise Perry that virtually sealed the game at a score of 27-10.
Josh Freeman showed very minor signs of being a decent quarterback, it certainly seems he throws a pretty deep ball...as for everything else, not so much. I find it ironic that Freeman is actually a polar opposite of Tannehill, in the sense that everything Tannehill excels at, Freeman does not.
So with all that said, let's recap and take a look at what I felt were the three main takeaways based on what I saw during Thursday night's game.
Ryan Tannehill's offense running smoothly
This is perhaps the only really good thing that can be taken from this game. When Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the starting offense came onto the field (yes, even Dallas Thomas who I will readily admit played better than I expected), things started happening for the Dolphins offense quick, fast and in a hurry.
There was no deep ball thrown, and there didn't need to be. Tannehill and his offense marched down the field like it was no big deal against the Chicago Bears defense, and despite two holding penalties on tackle Jason Fox and guard Billy Turner, the Dolphins managed to score a touchdown as Tannehill hit Jarvis Landry in the front corner of the endzone, which brought his night to and end.
After that, the Dolphins managed to score only a field goal with backup Matt Moore at the helm, and the QBs under him (McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Josh Freeman) put up absolutely miserable performances, while the Bears primary QB Jimmy Clausen played the rest of the game for the Bears after starter Jay Cutler left the game, and the Bears went on a 24-0 run after the Dolphins scored their field goal.
Tannehill went 6 for 7 for 56 yards and a touchdown, and (while I don't care about this stat) he put up a QB rating of 139.6. His offensive line did very well in run blocking with the exception of the two penalties, and his pass protection was much better than it was in the scrimmage. But even that was to be expected, as the Bears didn't have anyone on their defense to match the caliber of Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.
The Tannehill offense moved forward like a well-oiled machine, and it will be interesting to see how he does against a stronger defense such as the Carolina Panthers. But just from this small sample, the offense has a lot to be excited about.
LaMichael James disappeared when the lights came on
It's still early, but it appears that the accusation that running back LaMichael James is nothing but a practice star is turning out to be an accurate one. James had several opportunities to show off the same skill he showed in practice, but instead he showed that he's still firmly behind Damien Williams who did step up when given the chance.
As a kick and punt returner, James made poor decisions and bad mistakes when given the chance to make a play. He slipped and became an easy target for the Bears punt defense unit, and he returned a kickoff that he should have simply allowed to be a touchback so the offense could start at the 20 yard line.
As an actual running back, James looked even worse in comparison to his practice self. He ran the ball 5 times and only managed to accumulate 13 yards, which amounts to a miserable 2.6 yards a carry. As a receiver, he made only one catch that resulted in 2 yards, while dropping several others.
James has been incredible during training camp, but this first preseason game showed that he may not have what it takes to perform when the lights come on. Forget Michael Preston, it's possible that this year's "Legedu Naanee" is actually not even a wide receiver. It might be LaMichael James.
Zach Vigil has set himself apart from his fellow linebackers
There are four undrafted free agent linebackers on the Dolphins roster as of right now. Those would be Neville Hewitt, Jeff Luc, Mike Hull, and Zach Vigil. Of those four, only Vigil has shown enough in training camp that he deserved to get a chance to show more. Thursday night, he did just that.
After the injuries to linebackers Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain, Vigil got an early opportunity to show that what he was doing in camp was not a fluke. He did just that. Vigil found a way to always be around the ball, and his vision and instincts were extremely impressive considering his undrafted rookie status.
5 tackles and a sack is a very impressive stat line for a player who before the offseason started, wasn't even projected to make the roster, and as time goes on, it's quite possible Vigil will get to move up the depth chart further if he continues this level of play.
With starter Koa Misi out with an injury and Kelvin Sheppard acting as the first-team middle linebacker, Vigil has gotten the chance to lead the second team defense and has begun drawing parallels to Dolphins legend Zach Thomas according to several individuals in the fanbase.
As of right now though, the only thing Vigil shares with Zach Thomas is his first name. While Vigil is impressing, he's still got a long way to go before he can even be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas. But if he does continue to develop, then perhaps the Dolphins will be able to move on from some veteran players next season and save some cash. It's unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Next Up: Scrimmages Against the Carolina Panthers
There's no rest for the weary, only the injured or rehabbing. Now the Dolphins will come back home to Miami and begin preparing for next week's game against the Carolina Panthers, and before that they will fly up there early so they can hold two dual practices with the Panthers in an attempt to give both teams a different look.
Against opponents other than Suh, Billy Turner looked much better and much more capable of locking down the right guard position, and against the Panthers, who have had a top ten defense the past two years, Turner will get a greater test while still not having to face off against the best of the best, allowing for a clearer evaluation.
Depth might be an issue for Miami, as the second and third teams struggled to do anything good on either side of the ball, but I wouldn't start panicking just yet, as we must keep in mind that the reserves will not all be out at once like they were Thursday night once the regular season rolls around.
The Panthers will be a challenge no doubt, and the starters might get more work in with a more potent defense coming after them to test them. The signs for the starters are good, it's the depth that's iffy. We shall see where it goes from here.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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