But the result isn’t nearly as important as the individual performances in the preseason. Here are some observations on Miami:
Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a better night than he did in his preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys. Tannehill started slow and had some shaky moments, but he finished strong. Tannehill’s final stats were 5-for-9 passing for 75 yards and a touchdown. Tannehill looked hurried but caught his stride in his fourth series when he led Miami to a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Tannehill made two big-time throws to Dustin Keller for 24 and 22 yards, the latter for a touchdown. Tannehill’s two passes are why a lot of people like his potential.
Both Miami starting receivers Mike Wallace (groin) and Brian Hartline (calf) dressed for their first preseason games. But neither receiver got many opportunities. Hartline had one reception for 9 yards and Wallace didn’t get a reception.
Dolphins starting running back Lamar Miller played in the game despite suffering an ankle injury in practice this week. Miller rushed for 6 yards on two carries and also had a reception for 6 yards. Miller has run well in limited opportunities this season, but he’s had a history of injuries. Miami’s coaching staff needs to be careful about his preseason workload.
Miami’s defense was improved this week. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe made his Dolphins debut and flashed with some good plays. The tackling also was improved. So that won’t be a big topic of discussion next week. The starters and backups all did a good job to keep Jacksonville out of the end zone the entire night.
A player who helped himself significantly Friday was backup cornerback Nolan Carroll. He got a nice interception off Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert and returned it 22 yards to set up Miami’s second touchdown. Carroll is on the roster bubble and trying to claim one of those final roster spots at corner.
Miami rookie cornerback Will Davis may be the team’s most improved player in recent weeks. Davis was getting torched in the first half of training camp. But in the past week or so, the light has really come on and Davis is making plays. Davis got an impressive third-quarter interception where he outjumped the Jacksonville receiver. Davis also picked off Tannehill twice in practice on Tuesday, so this was a fitting cap to a good week.
Finally, it also was a good night for Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday. He nailed field goals of 58 and 36 yards, made three extra points and produced four touchbacks on kickoffs. This was the first NFL game for Sturgis. He is competing with veteran incumbent Dan Carpenter for Miami’s kicking job. But Sturgis is the favorite because his salary is significantly less in 2013. Sturgis widened the lead after this debut performance.
Overall, it was a much better night for Miami compared to the Hall of Fame Game last Sunday. Miami will have its third preseason game Aug. 17 against the Houston Texans.