Just one final tune-up game stands between the Miami Dolphins and the regular season, so it's time to stop speculating and start assessing truthfully what the team has before the live bullets begin to fire. This preseason has been overwhelming positive for a franchise and fan base not exactly accustomed to universally agreeing that things look promising.
So now that faux football is mercifully coming to an end, what did it teach us about the team?
Rishard Matthews looks like a legit receiver.
It's been pretty damn apparent this preseason that Rishard Matthews is in it to win it, not to just make the Miami Dolphins roster as a fringe player. Mathews has impressed all throughout camp, capped off with a touchdown against the Falcons this past Saturday. People are taking notice of his play, including the man who matters most — his quarterback.
"He has had a heck of a camp. We came in together, so I've spent a lot of time with him and seen him grow over the past four years," Ryan Tannehill told the Miami Herald. "I would say that over the last six months, I have seen the most growth from him. He is growing as a man, growing as a player, and developing his game in all aspects. His consistency is at an all-time high."
Just last week, some observers speculated whether the team should trade Matthews to a wideout-needy team for a late-round pick, and now it looks like he might be an important cog in what should be a dominant passing offense.
Joe Philbin seems, um, different.
It appears Joe Philbin has done some minor tinkering in the player-relations department this offseason. OK, maybe some major tinkering. When he isn't taking part in talent shows this preseason, he's been taking the players to see Straight Outta Compton, where he apparently learned of Dr. Dre for the first time.
"I actually liked it," Philbin said. "I had never heard of Dr. Dre until I went to the movie. I liked the history of it. I didn't know any of that stuff. I thought it was good."
New wideout Greg Jennings has said Philbin was more laid-back when he was at Green Bay, and now we're starting to see some of that come out as he gets more comfortable in Miami.
We all overestimated how soon Jay Ajayi would have an impact.
This preseason has not exactly gone according to plan for those that believed Jay Ajayi would help the Dolphins backfield right away. Ajayi finally got some momentum going in the Falcons game Saturday, but has fallen behind other backs on the roster due to various injuries that have kept him from flashing the skills that lead some to call him the steal of the NFL Draft.
The fifth-round pick from Boise State University managed 25 yards last week — not exactly groundbreaking stuff — but enough to consider him back in the mix for playing time. Ajayi seems healthy and ready to compete now that he's on even footing with the other backs like LaMichael James and Damien Williams;
“As long as I’m on the field I think that’s an opportunity itself to showcase what I can do,” he said.
The Dolphins secondary will be their biggest concern.
The Dolphins secondary wasn't exactly a strength before safety Louis Delmas suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp, but now it's certainly a weakness. Jamar Taylor continues to get hyped up by teammates and given every opportunity to succeed by the coaching staff; but he also continues to get injured.
Taylor is expected to start opposite Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes this year, but has provided fans with little reason to feel confident he can make it through a season at all, much less play well for an entire campaign. If the Dolphins are to be the terrific defense everyone seems to be touting them as they will need a little more than a dominant defensive line; they will need at a minimum of three-unexperienced players in the secondary to prove themselves capable for the first time this year — and that's asking a lot.
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Ryan Tannehill came to fornicate with the 2015-16 season.
Ryan Tannehill continues to build the house that is his career one brick at a time; and if this preseason is any indication — he's just about ready to throw a welcome party. RT17 finally has all the pieces in place to move from a solid NFL QB into an elite one; and so far, so good when it comes to showing he knows what to do with them.
Tannehill has always had everything it takes to be an elite QB in the NFL. Now, it seems he's finally ready to put it all together on a team that has been built to perfectly suit his strengths. Unquestionably the leader of the team, Tannehill has hit a home run this preseason in terms of making people a believer — he couldn't have been much better. It seems as if the Phins signal caller is ready to take the team places it has not been in a very, very, long time.