Preseason Week 3 Breakdown: Dolphins vs Cowboys


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Preseason Week 3 Breakdown: Dolphins vs Cowboys

The Dolphins’ Week 3 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys ended in a shootout between backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Dustin Vaughan, but since it is the preseason, the 25-20 victory was of little importance. The third week of the preseason is th...

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The Dolphins’ Week 3 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys ended in a shootout between backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Dustin Vaughan, but since it is the preseason, the 25-20 victory was of little importance. The third week of the preseason is the best chance to see how personnel will be used within new schemes and how often sub-packages will happen. Since the starters played the first two and a half quarters, we’ve had the chance to see who will be on the field often. To take a look at what I was specifically watching for, you can read the Week 3 preview I wrote before the game here.

Below are some things I noticed when I re-watched the game. For play by play analysis, check out my Twitter feed. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts below in the comments section.

·      The Offensive Flow

The Dolphins’ first team offense only mustered a field goal, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t effective. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor utilized pre-snap motion nearly half of the snaps, and the motion wasn’t limited to one player or position. We saw the offense dictate the strong side by moving two tight ends at a time; having the running back switch from the left to the right of the quarterback; and putting receivers in motion. The offense didn’t find a lot of major holes in the defense, which is likely do to the Cowboys rushing only four or five defenders and relying on a soft, safe coverage scheme, but they stayed unpredictable and forced the defense to react to them. As the playbook opens up and becomes more aggressive, this should continue.

·      A Running Game

As Dolphins fans saw Knowshon Moreno in action for the first time, they also should’ve noticed an offensive line that created clear running lanes for the veteran tailback. Moreno looked sharp, and was cerebral with his cuts through the Cowboys’ defense. His patience and vision has always been a positive, and that’s why he fits with a zone-blocking scheme so well. His first performance included textbook pass protection and a good showing of emotion.

His legs kept churning through contact, which helped add to his yardage total. Overall Moreno looked deserving of at least a 60/40 carries split with starter Lamar Miller. Miller is rightfully questioned due to his vision, but together they should form a duo that can be respectable.

·      Answers on the Offensive Line

The first two preseason games showed that the Dallas Thomas hype over the offseason was for naught, as even backup-level lineman beat him consistently. Week 3 was another rough week for Thomas, who has been relegated to second-string. Shelley Smith came in at right guard and played very well. His pass protection was solid, neutralizing most of what the Cowboys’ defensive line could muster. As expected, Smith was a huge improvement over Thomas in the run game. His ability to get to the second level and seal blocks was very encouraging. He made the most of his snaps. Veteran Daryn Colledge also had a good week. He’ll never offer much as a run blocker, but he’s a very good pass protector. His anchor ability and hand use is solid, and fits the coaches’ preference to have a pass-blocking line. Let’s hope this continues.

·      A Receiver Separates Himself

Seems that the final wide receiver spot should go to Damian Williams, who produced a beautiful 54-yard gain. His ability to replicate Mike Wallace’s skillset should put him on the final 53-man roster.

·      Tannehill’s Questions

Ryan Tannehill’s talent is incredible, but he still manages to make a head-scratching decision or two a game. Don’t get me wrong, fans shouldn’t look at his performances in a vacuum. It’s important to watch the quarterbacks of other teams, and you’ll see them making dumb plays too. It’s a hard game. That being said, Tannehill cannot continue to overlook open receivers to force it to Brian Hartline. This is now a trend, and will cost Miami because Hartline isn’t an elite receiver. He’s not bad, but he's also not an alpha male receiver (see Dez Bryant for that). Tannehill is closer to being in the upper tier of QBs than the bottom 10, but he has to continue reading the defense and not rely on just pre-snap reads. I’m optimistic, but also realize he may never develop the killer instinct we’d like to see. If that happens, it doesn’t mean he is a bad quarterback either.

·      Strong Defensive Line

Once again, the starting defensive line had a great performance. Cam Wake looks like he’s at his peak of his abilities. Earl Mitchell has been a matchup nightmare inside at tackle. Dion Jordan and Derrick Shelby, although backup lineman, had strong performances again this week.

·      Role Reversal for Linebackers

It was a flip of script for the linebackers this week. The first two weeks saw solid performances out of rookies Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain, and poor play out of starters Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. Wheeler wasn’t great this week, but he was in position more than he usually is and forced a sack and incomplete pass with his pass rush. Ellerbe played decently, showing good run diagnosis as a strong side linebacker. Koa Misi was out with injury, but Trusnik didn’t look too good in relief.

Overall, the Dolphins showed a good amount of improvement. Some will focus on the negatives, like Tannehill’s (bad) interception, or the fumble that ended another drive early, but it’s more important how the team recovers from those mistakes. The defense played very well against one of the best offenses in the league, which is encouraging as we near the regular season. The offense was good, but failed to convert to points. The running game was solid and the receivers continue to make plays that impress.

There are issues that need to be improved before Week 1 on the practice field. Week 4 of the preseason likely won’t feature many starters, so the coaches must instill the confidence into this roster. 

What were your thoughts about the Week 3 game against the Cowboys? Leave your thoughts below or tweet me @NFLFilmStudy

Read 159508 times Last modified on Monday, 25 August 2014 14:54
Ian Wharton

Ian is an editor and part-time contributor for FinDepth, focusing on scouting for the Miami Dolphins needs and scheme fits. He also contributes regular content on the Dolphins and NFL draft for and He often questions traditional ways of thinking and isn't afraid of the unpopular opinion. You can follow Ian on Twitter @NFLFilmStudy. 



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