The Dolphin Defense Flounders as Jay Cutler Shines

The sense coming into the third preseason game was the Miami defense would need to carry the team until the offense found its swagger. Jay Cutler needed time to shake off the rust and find a rhythm with his receivers. The opposite proved true, Adam Gase’s offense quickly adjusted to Cutler’s quick release and carved up the Eagles secondary, while the Miami defense struggled mightily.

Jay Ajayi slashed and bruised his way through the Philadelphia defense for nearly 6-yards a carry and even Mike Pouncey walked away smiling. The Cutler signing looked almost prophetic as Matt Moore threw two ugly interceptions, one resulting in a pick six. With the Dolphins threatening to score, Moore tossed a rookie INT into two defenders with no Miami player close enough to contest.

If anything, the 38-31 loss to the Eagles seemed to vindicate Adam Gase’s decision to pull Jay Cutler out of retirement for one last shot at something special. The offensive line mostly held its own with Mike Pouncey out of bubble wrap for the first time this preseason. An ugly missed block by left tackle Laremy Tunsil caused Cutler’s only bad play, a strip sack-fumble leading to an Eagle TD. Both Tunsil and right tackle
Ja’Wuan James looked slow and unprepared for live game action.

21 dynamic points with Jay Cutler at the helm, showed the Miami offense did not miss a beat without Ryan Tannehill. In fact, Cutler was noticeably more at ease in Gase’s offense after only 18 days in Miami, than Tannehill had been in a full season. With the playbook relegated to only a few pages, it should be quite interesting to see the transformation with a full arsenal on display. Cutler seemed particularly eager to find DeVante Parker in one on one situations and their 72 yard hook-up was a teaser of things to come.

The Miami defense on the other hand did not look much different than where it left off ranked 30th in the NFL last season. There were a couple of bursts in the first quarter, including a tipped ball interception that saw 340 pound Jordan Phillips rumble to the 2 yard line, but overall, the defense was not good. Byron Maxwell lost interest in coverage resulting in a 50 yard TD completion to Alshon Jeffery. Bobby McCain was caught flat footed on multiple occasions and hopefully Reshad Jones was simply rusty because his tackling was pathetic.

ey defensive free agent acquisition Lawrence Timmons looked incredibly slow reacting at the point of attack. The step Timmons was rumored to have lost, did not come from his feet, but rather in his inability to recognize the play before being blocked out of it. It was not a good sign for Miami, when Timmons looked lost for much of the evening. For whatever reason, Kiko Alonso and Ndamukong Suh did not appear to be interested in the game as their names were rarely called.

Playing T. J. McDonald at safety seemed counter-productive when the player will be lost to suspension for the first 8 games of the season. Obviously, Nate Allen was nursing some vague injury, but aside from Xavien Howard, the Miami secondary had trouble in staying with Eagle receivers the entire night. With blown coverages all over the field and missed tackles, Matt Burke’s defense looked a long way from being ready to open the season in two weeks.

Before reading too deeply into negative reactions, this was a preseason game and for the defense, it certainly looked the part. There is work to be done all over the defense, from the line play, to linebacker positionings and in the secondary. The positive is the plethora of opportunities Miami coaches will have to teach from the many mistakes.

In all, the Miami Dolphins can safely place the loss of Ryan Tannehill behind them in the mental preparation for the season. Jay Cutler is going to be just fine and may even be the NFL’s biggest surprise. The concentration should now be centered on getting the offensive line playing together, healthy and in sync.

On the defensive side, there simply must be more intensity. In this game, there were a few moments of true dominance, but far too often poor execution led to costly chucks of yardage and touch downs.

Suh’s name was not called, Alonso’s name was not called, Jones’ and Maxwell’s names were called for all the wrong reasons. If these guys are joining Cameron Wake as the money players on this defense, then they’re going to have to strap it up and bring some conviction. After spending two days practicing against the Eagles, Lawrence Timmons' lack of anticipation should be a huge concern.

It’s a preseason game, and drawing too many conclusions from these games is a mistake…

The Dolphins now have a very good read on what they need to sure up over the next two weeks.

They can do that with a comforting sigh knowing the loss of Ryan Tannehill will have little or no impact on the season’s outcome.

Welcome to Miami Jay Cutler!