December 16, 2017

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What to take away from the Hall of Fame game

Cowboys Dolphins

Last weekend saw the start of the preseason with the annual Hall of Fame game being played in Canton, Ohio.  This years participants: Miami Dolphins vs Dallas Cowboys.  The final result was a close 24-20 to the Cowboys, but this was no where near a close game in the first 3 quarters.

We all know that the preseason games don’t really count towards anything, but they do give us a great opportunity to look at new players, new plays, formations, rookies, offensive schemes, defensive schemes, position battles, backups, everything.  So what can be take away from this game?  Let’s start with the winners…

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys entered this game stating before kickoff that they wouldn’t be using a number of their starters, including Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Demarco Murray.  This was well and truly a game to check out the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Phillip Tanner looking strong

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Tanner is entering his third year in the NFL and before this season many expected him to be fighting for a roster spot.  After rushing for 59 yards and getting a touchdown on just 10 carries, he looking poised to compete with DeMarco Murray for playing time.  It was expect that rookie Joseph Randle would  ultimately become the No. 2 back behind DeMarco Murray, but Tanner looks like he has something to say about that.

What was so impressive about Phillip Tanner during the game was how physical he was running the ball.  He broke a number of tackles nearly every time he touched the ball.  I expect we’ll see Tanners name on the field quite a bit this season, even if only a 3rd down, change-of-pace guy.  If DeMarco Murray ends up missing any of the season due to injury (that’s never happened before, right?) then Tanner should slot into that starting spot quite easily.

Rookie center played very well

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When the Cowboys selected Travis Frederick in the first round, many criticised the them claiming this was a reach for the thick-bearded center out of Wisconsin to be taken so high in the draft.

In the game though, Travis proved his worth. He opened up many holes for the Cowboys’ running backs and consistently got to the second level to block defenders.  As long as Frederick continues to build on a solid performance against the Miami Dolphins, drafting him in the first round won’t seem like a reach at all for Dallas.

The changed defense looked very strong

With the Cowboys switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense this year, no one really knows what to expect.

Put it this way, if Week 1 of the preseason is anything to go by, we could see a rather dominant defense this season in Dallas.   The Cowboys made play after play on defense by getting pressure on the quarterback, creating turnovers and playing rather stout defense overall.

Both defensive end George Selvie and linebacker DeVonte Holloman were standout performers.  Selvie recorded two sacks on the quarterbacks, while Holloman returned an interception for a 75-yard touchdown.

All in all, the Cowboys must be thrilled with how their new-look defense performed in the first preseason game.

Miami Dolphins

Even though the scoreline was close, this was in no way close for the majority of the game.  The Dolphins were behind 17-3 at halftime.  If it wasn’t for them scoring 17 points in the last quarter they may as well not have turned up at all.  What can we take away from how they did perform.

Lamar Miller looks set to be the starter

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Even though Miller only playing a few offensive plays for the Miami Dolphins, Lamar Miller looked good in the limited time he was on the field.

Despite putting the ball on the ground during a shaky handoff with quarterback Ryan Tannehill on their very first possession of the game, he did recover quite nicely with his next two runs getting 21 yards in total allowing him to show off what makes him so intriguing entering his second season.

Miller made fantastic back-to-back runs, showing off his vision, quickness and agility in the open field. He only finished the game with 21 rushing yards on two carries, but it was enough to prove that he deserves many more touches once the regular season starts.

Still questions at Left Tackle

With the departure of Jack Long during the offseason, there’s a huge hole in the offensive line that urgently needs filling.

The Dolphins hope that second-year tackle Jonathan Martin is capable of replacing Long but unfortunately, that’s not how it looks through the first preseason game.  Martin struggled to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, giving up a good amount of pressure.

After Martin, the Dolphins tested rookie lineman Dallas Thomas out at left tackle. He too struggled, giving up a number of sacks and getting beaten on a rather consistent basis.

The main problem is that neither Martin nor Thomas looked like a franchise left tackle, but then again you’re always going to struggle when you’ve been used to the left side being covered by Jake Long.

Dion Jordan looked ready

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Coming out of college,  Dion Jordan has been described as ‘raw’.    There’s no doubt that he has all the potential in the world, but no one knew how quickly that would be able to translate onto the field.

After watching Jordon go up against the Dallas Cowboys, it’s safe to say that his potential will translate pretty quickly as he made plays all over the field during just the short amount of time he played. He had no problem getting pressure on the quarterback or making stops in the run game, whilst lining up at linebacker.

Jordan’s versatility makes him an extremely dangerous rookie.  Look for him to have an outstanding debut season, maybe even winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Conclusion

It’s fair to say that the Dolphins need work.   Through the first three quarters of the game, the Dolphins only managed to put three points on the board while turning the ball over twice.   Things were only a little better on defense. Overall, the Dolphins looked like a team that has all the potential to be competitive this year… but still may need some time to get there.

The Cowboys on the other hand put in a good performance all round, and to say they didn’t use the likes of Romo, Bryant, Witten or Murray surely should show they have the tools to push for a better run in the league this year.

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