The Ravens have been searching for a playmaking tight end opposite All-Pro Mark Andrews for a few years and they may have found one in rookie tight end Isaiah Likely. A fourth round pick in this past draft, Likely has been the talk of camp so far and his first preseason game seemed to confirm the hype. Likely showed off his shiftiness following a quick dump off a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Despite being surrounded by multiple defenders, Likely juked and wiggled his way to a first down without a finger touching him. He did have two holding penalties on him showing he still has ways to go as a blocker. Still, it’s hard not to get excited for Likely to take the field.
Shemar Bridges, WR
There is a race among several undrafted free agent receivers to be the fifth wideout in Baltimore and Shemar Bridges may have just lapped his competition. The 6’4, 210 pound receiver made a handful of tough catches look routine. Bridges opened a lot of eyes after scaling up for a beautiful lob from quarterback Tyler Huntley for a touchdown right before halftime. Bridges finished with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. If he keeps making impressive grabs, the fifth wideout spot is his to lose.
Steven Means, EDGE
Means was signed by the Ravens back in June to give the team some needed depth at outside linebacker. However, no one thought he offered much beyond veteran camp fodder. His play against the Titans might have earned him more than that. Means was locked in throughout the first half, recording three tackles, one for a loss, and a sack. More than that was the relentless pressure Means was applying. The eighth-year veteran looked like a defender fighting for a roster spot. With how thin the Ravens are at outside linebacker, Means could carve out a nice role for himself.
Geno Stone, DB
Stone was a heatseeking missile for the Ravens late in the game. The former seventh-round pick out of Iowa was all over the field. Stone recorded two tackles, defending two passes and hauling in an interception. He also nearly got to the Titans quarterback on a fourth and goal at the end of the game to force an incompletion. Ravens fans have been clamoring for Stone to receive more playing time over the last few years as he has lit up the preseason time and again.
Finally. Finally, football fans can wake up with the realization that it is gameday. The long offseason has come to a close, and NFL fans can watch some live football again. The Hall of Fame Game is notoriously uneventful, but it still brings excitement as the first NFL game in nearly seven months. Here are some things to watch for tonight.
Hall of Fame Game Info:
Teams: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Time: 8PM E.T.
Venue: Tom Henson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio
Neither of these two teams were afraid to spend money this offseason, so there will be a ton of new faces wearing new colors for the first time on Thursday night. None of these starting-caliber players will see the field much, if at all, but it will be exciting to watch them on their new teams for the first time.
On the Raiders side of the ball, the most notable new guy is obviously Devante Adams. The Raiders traded for Adams this offseason, in exchange for their first and second round picks. Adams is arguably the best receiver in the league, and it will be interesting to watch him take the field with his old college teammate, Derek Carr. Chandler Jones will also be making his Raider debut on Thursday, and we’ll get to see him attack the passer opposite Maxx Crosby for the first time as well.
Jacksonville was far from shy on the free agent market themselves. The Jaguars made a ton of signings early in free agency, and were one of the most active teams in the league. Their receiving core was completely revamped, and Jaguars’ fans will get to watch Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram take the field for the first time. Their new star guard Brandon Sherff will be on display as well.
New Draft Picks
This is exactly what preseason games are meant for. The starters don’t get much action, if at all, yet the rookies are thrown straight into the fire. Jacksonville obviously had the better draft class, but both teams have some exciting rookies ready to take an NFL field for the first time.
Starting with Jacksonville, they’ve got a handful of new draft picks to be excited about. First, we have the first overall draft pick, Travon Walker. The edge rusher out of Georgia has a boatload of potential, and he should get some extended time Thursday night. Next is Devin Lloyd. The Jaguars traded up to the 20th overall pick to nab Lloyd, who is one of the most intelligent players in the entire class. Luke Fortner and Chad Muma are two more exciting young players to watch for.
As for Las Vegas, their draft class wasn’t as impressive, yet there’s still some guys to watch for. Their top pick, Dylan Parham should get a good amount of reps on the offensive line. Vegas also picked up a new running back, Zamir White out of Georgia. White was one of the better running backs in college last year, and it should be interesting to see how Josh McDaniels utilizes him.
Ultimately, it’s just good to have football back. NFL fans can finally kick back, relax and watch two exciting young teams play. With this just being a preseason game, there shouldn’t be much stock taken with how good these players do, especially the young guys. Here’s to a fun game, and most importantly, welcome back football!
Hey everyone, so I know this is kinda last minute and out of the blue but we are less than 24 hours away from kick off & there’s some things that need to be discussed. As I sit here & type this waiting on my work laundry to get done on Friday August 27th, 2021, I’m thinking about what the team is getting ready to do tomorrow for their 6pm EST Battle of the Beltway showdown vs the Washington Football Team.
Washington coming off a 17-13 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to put an end to the Ravens’ preseason win streak. Will that happen? I sure as hell hope not. Ryan Fitzpatrick doing pretty decent with the staters in the first half according to the box score stats on ESPN.
Taylor Heinicke looking sharp too. 11/13 attempts for 80 yards, not bad young buck, not bad. Their defense also looking fairly good. 55 total tackles, 36 solo, 1 sack, & 3 TFL. They put a deal on the Cincy offense.
Now this may seem like I’m giving the WFT too much credit but you know, gotta give it when it’s due. On the other hand, it’s a different story when Baltimore comes to town.
You all know when Baltimore comes to town it’s to make a statement.
Whether it’s in the Pre, Reg, or Post Season, the Ravens are here to get the job done. Save the lecture about the playoffs, they got the job done vs Tennessee but for the rest just have to be patient. This week we’ll have some first string fun again. LJ8 & Co looking to get on a rhythm in Q1, hopefully we’ll get a taste of Hollywood Brown & Ronnie Stanley being back on offense. On defense, look for the entire starting defense to completely dominate Washington’s air & ground games.
Now I’m gonna be honest here, I’ll probably miss half or most of the game when it’s live due to working 9:30a-6:30p then going out to eat with my wife and in-laws right after. That will take a lot of time away from any live tweet reactions. Plus I have to make another free trial, so maybe can catch it on GamePass replay. So this preview & rambles will have to do till later Laugh Out Loud.
Depth is both a blessing & a curse.
As most of us have seen & heard about the Shaun Wade trade to the patriots for a 2022 7th rounder & 2023 5th round pick has the fan base torn. All in all, he was probably going to be cut after this preseason/camp even with the phenomenal stats he was putting up. Soooo…. why not get something in return instead of letting that value go to waste.
With that being said I imagine that Tavon Young, Nigel Warrior(pictured to left or below), & Chris Westry will continue to step up and make plays within the secondary. These guys will stay on their assignments and make WRs miss. Now I’m not gonna dig into their full breakdowns cause the CB/DB’s aren’t exactly my strong suit.
But since we’re still in the secondary chat room, let’s talk about Brandon Stephens & Ar’Darius Washington for a second. Granted these are the only 2 Free Safeties behind DeShon Elliot, they’ve really been stepping up and making that back-up position battle tough. I feel like these two are gonna make it hard for the coaches to make a decision once they show out their skills one last time against Washington.
My prediction is that one or two of these guys will have an interception or forced fumble in the game.
The trenches are getting intense.
Ben Cleveland finally returns to practice, does that mean we finally get to see him suited up and play?! I sure as hell hope so. I’m not a Georgia Bulldog fan unlike a good friend of mine on twitter but man after seeing the Ravens take the chance at Big Country the tank of a man, I got excited to see the iOL competition heat up.
Prediction on him individually, the team is probably still easing him so we’ll either see him very early on in the game in basic packages or towards the end when they’re trying to wrap things up.
But for the rest of the OL, be prepared for a game of shuffle, as the versatility game continues and don’t be shocked if you see something along the lines of:
LT: Trye Phillips
LG: Ben Bredeson
C: T.C.C (Because he stay clutch at the Center position.)
RG: Foster Sarell
LT: Adrian Ealy
Now you can quote this, tell me I’m right or wrong, but this is something we can see happening tomorrow evening. But a major name that we’ll probably see perform well and make the 53 man roster will most likely include Patrick Mekari. The guy is a versatile machine that can execute well in the Center, Guard, or Tackle spot. Be on the look out for a good amount of pancakes coming out of him too.
When one man falls, another rises.
To dig into last week’s article about LJ Fort going down & the next man up mentality that the Ravens have. Malik Harrison has been promoted to the official starting WLB. Harrison has proven himself worthy of the spot with progression made from all his hard work last season to this TC/Preseason. On either the ATB Week 1 preview or review, managed to sit & listen to the Ravens’ Lounge pod featuring this guy and man let me tell you, it’s hard not to like this guy.
Which also means Otaro Alaka, Chris Board & Kristian Welch, hell even Daelin Hayes have to step up for the traditional Will OLB position. All of these guys are in a do or die situation coming up tomorrow evening.
Before we run to the other big men, let’s stop and talk about my guy for a second. If anyone remembers my article before it got deleted on Hayes knows that this kid can play just about an OLB spot you can think of from Traditional to EDGE. I would imagine he’ll show out and make his case to stay on the roster.
Who is gonna make their case to stay in the trenches.
We’ll see Williams, Wolfe, Campbell, McPhee, & Bowser make note for them to have their starting spots but what about the rest of them? Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, & Justin Madubuike are for sure roster spots secured but what about Crawford, Ellis, Washington, Smith & Sack Daddy Ferguson?
These guys have been putting up numbers but there’s not enough room for everyone but while they have the chance expect them to put Washington OL & backfield on their asses. Ellis & Washington, I can see making their cases but some of the other depth is what gets me alittle worried because well OL/DL is my thing.
Just look for all these guys to have fun out there.
Last minute notes and wrapping up
There’s a bunch of close contests in this last preseason game that make all of us question and/or praise coach & front office decisions. The WR & RB room wars are crazy right now, Tyler Huntley is solidifying his QB2 Spot with this game, and is this team gonna keep an official TE3? We don’t know for sure yet. I would take a wild guess that it’s gonna be 6 WRs, 3 TEs, 3 RBs and probably still 1 dedicated FB on the official roster.
The 2021 Ravens are going to break history and win 20 preseason games, but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be mad.
With everything being said now and it being late where I’m at typing, don’t forget to follow the Around The Block network on the website and all forms of social media. Also don’t forget to like & comment any feedback you have on the article wherever you may be. Have a great night & day everyone!
Before we delve into the game preview, I would just like to thank and credit Kyle Phelps of Bengals ATB, for his contributions and insights in putting together this preseason matchup article.
Q. Last week the Dolphins had their dress rehearsal game. Was it the same for the Bengals? Which bubble players should we look out for?
KP: ” I wouldn’t exactly call week 2 a “dress rehearsal” for the Bengals. We definitely saw an emphasis on the first team trying to put more of a game plan together than they did Week 1. However. the majority of the snaps still went to the second and third team players.
I would expect the same against the Dolphins this week, as the Bengals seem to be mostly focused on developing their depth right now. The positive side of that is we’re sure to get a solid idea of who deserves to survive the roster bubble. Two players, in particular, you’re going to want to watch are WR Trenton Irwin and Edge Darius Hodge.
Irwin had a fantastic camp and first week of preseason that made it look like he had the inside track for the final WR spot on the team. Unfortunately, a poor performance in Week 2 hurt his case. But, it’s not like Trent Taylor, likely his biggest competition for the spot, has done much in the first two weeks at all. So, Irwin probably has a chance to redeem himself this week and make his case for that No. 6 spot.
Like Irwin, Darius Hodge went undrafted and has performed like a hidden gem so far. He absolutely terrorized the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the preseason along with another solid performance against the WFT in Week 2. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Bengals’ defensive edge right now, Hodge could very easily find his way onto the final roster with another big performance against the Dolphins.”
Following Tuesday’s roster moves, the wide receiver competition looks like it is nearing an end. Having cut Ford, waived/injured Foster and placing Bowden on IR, the receiving room is taking shape. A big opportunity now presents itself for Kirk Merritt, a player who has been productive throughout camp, to make one last push for the final 53.
Early this week Brian Flores stated that going into the final preseason game around 3/4 positions are left unfilled on the final roster. Keep your eyes peeled at who makes the final depth spots on the offensive line. Jackson, Kindley, Deiter, Hunt, Eichenberg and Davis are all locks, Skura likely makes the team as a backup. Therefore, the battle ultimately falls on Rob Jones, Durval Queiroz Neto, Larnel Coleman and Greg Little. The Dolphins invested heavily in Jones as an UDFA, while recently trading for Little for backup at tackle. However, it is Coleman that has impressed throughout camp and in preseason even getting some reps with the starting offense.
Another interesting battle to look out for is how the corner backs lower down the depth chart can fare in their pursuit for the final roster spots. I believe McCourty makes the roster as safety, meaning the battle ultimately falls on CreVon LeBlanc, Jamal Perry, Javaris Davis and Trill Williams. As it stands Perry/Williams are the favorites to battle it out for a spot on the final 53. However with Trill Williams a hot property, its unlikely that if cut he clears waivers. It will all depend on what Miami sees in Williams long term. Throughout this week of practice Williams has continued to impress as the boundary corner in the second team.
Q. How did you fare in the first two games of preseason? What went well? Stand out performances? What/who concerns you?
KP: “The Bengals split their first two preseason games, beating the Buccaneers and falling to Washington. But, most aren’t worried about those results. What’s more important is the first-team defense has looked remarkable so far. One of the Bengals’ biggest problems in 2020 was the lack of a pass rush, but the first team defense has generated a sack and multiple pressures in both contests. They also haven’t allowed a score yet.
On the offense, one of the biggest standout performers has been Jacques Patrick. A former XFL running back, he is battling for the third and final RB spot (most likely) behind Chris Evans. Incumbent Samaje Perine has been either invisible or disappointing this preseason. In contrast, Patrick has arguably been the single best performer on the team both weeks. So, it’s just a matter of proving the Bengals should take a chance on the lesser known, younger talent in lieu of the more established player you know.”
Technically like the Bengals the Dolphins split their first two games. However, when the starters and even second teamers were on the field they were 2-0. Tua showed promise in the first game despite the late pick and then continued to build on his strong start to the season against the Falcons.
During the Falcons game Tua showed his poise in keeping his eyes down the field, climbing the pocket with pressure in his face to allow his receivers to get open. The 3rd & 10 completion at the end of the half to Gesicki was a prime example of this. Tua’s footwork and pocket presence was a weakness in his game last year, now the improvements are clear. Throughout camp we have heard reports of Tua holding the ball for too long from the likes of Omar Kelly. While that may be the case from , it could be that in practice, in a non contact situation, Tua has not been able to experience the pressure in his face to that extent to allow him to extend the play.
If we are to nitpick at the faults of Tua during the game, there were a couple of instances where his accuracy was a little off, with the juggled catch by Hollins and then the overturned catch by Waddle. Nevertheless, these were very much an anomalies in an otherwise excellent game. He got the ball out quick, made the right reads and threw with anticipation demonstrating his comfortability within this offensive system. The offense was able to consistently move the ball down field with relative ease.
Q. Which players who are likely locks for the final 53 man roster are you focusing on for development?
KP: “We already have a pretty good idea of who’s in and who’s out at this point. But, some guys still need that extra push to prove what they can do. In particular, second round pick Jackson Carman has been having a pretty good preseason after a rough camp. The Bengals drafted Carman to fill the desperate need at right guard. Famously, they picked Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick under the assumption that they could find a perfectly talented lineman in the second round.
They passed on more notable names when their pick came around like Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, and Walker Little because they were convinced Carman was the best player available. Unfortunately, he struggled to impress in camp and failed to ingratiate himself as a starting-caliber player. He’s performed admirably in his preseason action so far. The hope is he’s still on track to work his way into the starting lineup, but I don’t think that’s even a remote possibility unless he has another great game.
Other players to watch out for include OL D’Ante Smith and RB Chris Evans. Smith is another lineman the Bengals took later in the Draft who has unexpectedly been running with the first team. Evans, the running back they selected in the sixth round, has absolutely earned his spot on the roster. Now, the question is whether he’s consistent enough to solidify the No. 2 spot vacated by Giovani Bernard.”
On Thursday Brian Flores stated how Tua would not feature nor would many of the starters. However I do foresee one exception, the offensive line. After a concerning couple of weeks, the offensive line played well opening up running lanes that had been near none existent against the Bears. However, they still have a long way to go and should feature during the game to build the much needed chemistry and cohesion.
The biggest factor going forward is what to do with Liam Eichenberg. After starting camp as starting RT, to then starting LG, he is now back at RT in the second team behind Jesse Davis. However, with a strong performance against the Falcons he is knocking on the door once again for a starting position. The right side of Hunt and Eichenberg was a key factor in establishing the run and the performance of the line as a whole against the Falcons.
UPDATE: Liam Eichenberg left practice on Thursday having sustained injury. The injury does not appear to be serious. Larnel Coleman replaced him at RT.
Another player I would like to see more of is Jaelan Phillips. Phillips made his preseason debut against the Falcons and looked explosive off the line setting the edge well opposite Van Ginkel. Having missed a considerable chunk of camp sidelined with injury expect him to receive some reps giving him valuable experience heading into the season.
Q. How is Joe Burrow coming along in his journey back? Do you expect him to feature in the game? If so, how much?
KP: “If it was up to me, I would sit Burrow this week. If I had to bet, the coaching staff probably feels the same way. But, we know Burrow does not feel that way. If the staff gives in, he might play a series or two at the beginning of the game mostly filled with simple, safe plays. But, my guess is that you won’t see him take a snap until Week 1 against the Vikings.
(UPDATE: It was announced Wednesday that Joe Burrow WILL be making his preseason debut against the Dolphins.)
Reports of his struggles have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, when camp first started, he was looking unsure on his knee and he was struggling to connect with his receivers. The defense absolutely dominated the offense early on. But, I don’t know what everyone expected. Perhaps he has shown so many good tendencies since arriving in the national spotlight that everyone forgot he is, in fact, human. Far be it from him to act a bit skittish the first few times he steps on a football field after a catastrophic, traumatizing knee injury.
But, since then, he has returned to the confident and poised Joe Burrow we all know and love. Reports from practice since that first week have been nothing but positive. He’s been scrambling, planting, and fearlessly engineering drives with virtually no issues to speak of. On top of that, you keep hearing about all these deep passes he’s completing, which is an improvement over the one major hole in his game last year.”
Q. Do you have any injury concerns entering the game?
KP: “As I mentioned earlier, the injuries on the defensive edge have become rather concerning. Third round pick Joseph Ossai, who was looking like an absolute stud in camp and the first preseason game, appears to have torn his meniscus and could miss the entire season. Fourth round pick Cam Sample is dealing with a shoulder injury that isn’t expected to be serious, but will keep him out against the Dolphins. Seventh round pick Wyatt Hubert tore a pectoral muscle in training camp and is already ruled out for the year. So, it’s no surprise the Bengals went out and signed Noah Spence.
Spence is a former second round pick who has struggled with injury, whom the Bengals picked up earlier this week after the Saints released him. The hope is new DL coach Marion Hobby can re-unlock his potential after injuries derailed his career. At the moment, Khalid Kareem is the only backup edge defender expected to make the roster who isn’t currently injured. So, Spence likely only needs to be able to hold his own on some level to make the final roster. That said, if Spence can return to the level of play we saw in the first six games of his rookie season, he could make the kind of serious impact the Bengals were hoping to get from their Draft class.”
At last, Dolphins fans can rejoice as once again we have been treated with glimpses of Will Fuller and DeVante Parker (non-contact jersey) at practice.
As of Thursday, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Vince Biegel, Cethan Carter and Jevon Holland all didn’t practice due to injury. Adam Shaheen also did not practice, although the reason for his absence remains unknown, it is thought not to be injury related.
Fans can rest easy as all receivers have stated that they feel great in their fitness, but the coaching staff are intent on bringing them back slowly to avoid further complications heading into the season. In addition, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Holland has been walking around fine without any visible discomfort. The condition of Eichenberg is at present unknown.
Q. What is going on with Ja’Marr Chase? Do you stand by the pick giving the obvious need to protect Burrow?
KP: “Ja’Marr Chase is going to be fine. He was having issues with drops in training camp, and those issues popped up again against Washington. Luckily, he has that same blue collar, nose-to-the-grindstone mentality that Burrow has. He’s been working through his issues and the reports have been he’s turned the corner in practices this week.”
“Don’t forget, this is the same guy who wanted to work on his hands in college and made the decision to catch 10,000 passes in one offseason with his fellow wide receivers. That was the offseason that preceded LSU’s undefeated run through the National Championship in 2019, the same season that put Chase on the map.
As far as the selection in the 2021 NFL Draft goes, I personally wanted Kyle Pitts, who wasn’t even available when we picked. But, I had the same mentality the Bengals seemed to have at the time. Everyone acted like Penei Sewell was this can’t-miss prospect, but the Bengals have had plenty of success finding offensive linemen in later rounds and plenty of failures in the first round.
They also replaced RT Bobby Hart with Riley Reiff in free agency, which was a HUGE upgrade. They ended up picking Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith in the first four rounds of the Draft. Carman hasn’t exactly had the fastest start, but he’s looked fine in the preseason, and Smith has been a bit of a hidden gem so far. Not to mention, Sewell hasn’t looked great in the preseason with Detroit. So, I think the strategy was justified.”
Q. Which Dolphins’ player scares you the most?
KP: “It’s preseason, so I don’t know if “scares” is the right word. But, I am definitely going to be watching how well the Bengals’ secondary plays against No. 6 overall pick Jaylen Waddle. In addition to looking scary in college, I’ve been hearing nothing but good things from my friends who follow the Dolphins. It sounds like he’s the whole package, and could see a lot of playing time this week.
Naturally, as I’ve been impressed by the Bengals’ pass coverage this preseason, I’m fascinated by this matchup. I’m not currently sure who will be covering him during the game, as I’m not entirely sure when Waddle will be playing in the first place. But, I would love to see him challenge guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple, who have both been fantastic free agency additions for the Bengals this year.”
Once again I would just like to thank Kyle for his help and insights throughout this article. Be sure to go and follow him on Twitter. The preseason finale will look different for many reasons. No Tua, no X, no Byron along with many other starters. Nevertheless, over the past 2 years this organisation has shown its worth in finding the diamonds in the rough. The players that get overlooked and go unrecognized, we will get our biggest look at the potential candidates yet this week. Who they will end up being we will find out come August 31 when the final 53 is finalized. Fins Up!
Before we delve into the game preview, I would just like to thank and credit Hunter Thompson of Falcons ATB, for his contributions and insights in putting together this preseason matchup article.
Q. What do you hope your team will gain from the joint practices held in Miami?
HT: “I hope the team really decides to step up and compete and stays tough and physical with Miami this week. I know going against new players is huge for development, so I hope we see them gain confidence and have good meaningful reps.”
Heading into the joint practices with the Chicago Bears, I stated how the primary focus would be how to deal with the mobility of Justin Fields. The starting defense to a certain extent did manage to contain Fields, however never really exerted a lot of pressure with Fields having all day in the pocket never really needing to scramble. Coming into the second week of preseason, the Dolphins will face its second kryptonite; elite receiving tight ends. Facing the likes of Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst, all eyes will be on Eric Rowe and the rest of the Dolphins’ defense as to how they contain the threat that Pitts poses.
Coming out of the 2021 NFL Draft, Pitts’ NFL comparison was Darren Waller, a player that torched Eric Rowe Week 16, despite him being right on him nearly every play. Rowe v Pitts will be the biggest matchup to watch out for. Also look out for how Miami’s linebackers especially Jerome Baker looks in coverage.
Nevertheless, the receiving threat posed by the Falcons extends far beyond containing Pitts, especially with the likes of Calvin Ridley coming off the back of a 1,374 yd season where he averaged 15.3 YPC. The whole secondary will for sure be tested after a very good first week of preseason.
UPDATE: Following the first day of joint practice, the battle has been as anticipated. Thankfully for Dolphins fans, aside from the play shown above, by most accounts Eric Rowe had a fantastic day.
Q. A lot of Dolphins fans had their hearts set on Kyle Pitts, how has he performed so far?
HT: “We have yet to see Pitts play in the Falcons uniform, but based on the Training camp we’ve been hearing, he is a standout in camp. He is helping fill the hole left by Julio Jones when he got traded to Tennessee. If Pitts plays this game, look for him to take over the game if he is as good as he is being advertised. “
Fan Q. How strong is the receiving unit this season without Julio? How much involvement do you anticipate Russell Gage having this year? Is he the definite WR2?
HT: “The receiving unit without Julio will look very different. Look for the Falcons to implement a lot of two tight end looks to take advantage of having both Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst on the roster. And for Gage, look for him to be a potential flex option or low-end WR2 for you and your fantasy team. I think he will still be the third option, but who knows for certain.”
Q. How did you fare Week 1 of preseason? What went well? Who stood out? What/who concerns you?
HT: “We lost 23-3. And it was a tough game all the way around, we struggled in the trenches on offense and only amassed 139 total yards. Nothing really on offense went well which is concerning, but the defense actually had some standouts in Ogundeji and JTM at the EDGE positions. Marlon Davidson (who is out this week) also managed to stand out in the DL department.”
Despite losing 20-13, the Dolphins started preseason very positively. Box scores in such games are largely irrelevant. The Dolphins starters and second team played very well. By the half, the Bears had barely managed a first down against a defense not featuring, Howard, Jones, Phillips or Ogbah. The offense were successful at moving the ball down field with Tua going 8/11 and 99 yards. However, Miami did struggle in the red zone, being stopped on the goal line and then the eventual pick to end Tua’s evening. Nevertheless, I would not be worried about this, as Tua has excelled in red zone drills all throughout camp.
Stand out performers include Tua (despite INT), Justin Coleman (the one man hit sticking machine, who needs to learn to wrap players up), Nik Needham, Mack Hollins, Eric Rowe, Salvon Ahmed, Jakeem Grant and Noah Igbinoghene who made some good plays, despite a rather troublesome camp.
The Bad and the Ugly:
Without sounding like too much of a broken record, the offensive line struggles exhibited during Week 1 of preseason will be the primary focus heading into Saturday’s game. Facing the Bears elite defensive line, the offensive line was decimated throughout the first day of joint practice. Despite some bounce back during the second day of practice, the offensive line remained an issue heading into the preseason debut. While the starting pass protection was fairly good, with Tua Tagovailoa complementing the line for giving him a relatively clean pocket, run blocking was almost none existent.
As Chris Spooner eluded to in his recent article, the left side of the line including Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley was especially problematic in establishing the run. Consequently, PFF gave Kindley a 45.7 run-blocking grade while Austin Jackson graded even worse scoring a dreadful 38.1.
Q. What are your expectations going into the game? What do you hope the team takes away from it?
HT: “I am going into this game with low expectations for a few different reasons. Mainly because it’s the preseason and I don’t think the game itself matters as much as meaningful reps for each player. Last week we saw a few standouts even though we as a team struggled, and that’s the biggest plus of the preseason for me. But I hope we see the offensive line step it up. Last week against the Titans the line struggled the entire game and we can’t afford two weeks of that. When the line struggles it makes the evaluation process for skill positions so much harder.”
Going into the second preseason game, the main thing I hope to see is consistency. If Tua can string together another couple of good series to his depleted options at receiver, it will be a success, even against a shaky Falcons secondary. I would like to see a lot more of Jaylen Waddle in this game as a receiver, as he left week one without a catch. I would also like to see more of our pass rush in getting pressure in at the QB.
However, all eyes will be on how the offensive line performs. As aforementioned, pass blocking was relatively good during the first game. I want to see this continue with consistency while beginning to open up running lanes for the backs. The return of Liam Eichenberg can bring some optimism to fans, although I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
Q. Are there any injury concerns affecting the team heading into the game?
HT: “I don’t really have any major concerns coming in, I’d like to see Marlon Davidson playing in the game, but it is what it is.”
In contrast with that of Atlanta, Miami’s situation is a lot more tenuous, especially at wide receiver. As I stated in a previous article when healthy the Dolphins have an elite receiving threat, however we are yet to see it. Coming into the first day of joint practice, the following receivers were missing:
While availability for a preseason game is not a big issue for the likes of Parker and Fuller, until those players are on the field we will not see the full capability of this offense. With the offensive line woes many people have questioned the decision to pass on Penei Sewell. However, with the options at receiver now, thank god for Jaylen Waddle.
Outside of the receiving room Jaelan Phillips returned to practice this week, but given his value, he will be brought back form injury very slowly, making him an outsider to feature heavily in the second preseason game. Liam Eichenberg, Brandon Jones and Ogbah have all returned to practice this week. Rookie TE Hunter Long has been dressed for practice, but has not participated in team drills due to ongoing pain stifling his return.
Q. Which player on the other team scares you the most?
HT: “Jaylen Waddle. 100%. His explosiveness is concerning for the young defense we are going to be fielding.”
Calvin Ridley no doubt. His route running is truly elite and one of the most technically gifted receivers in the game. Any one who can torch Xavien Howard the way he did in camp, deserves fearing.
Q. What are your expectations going into the season?
HT: “We are at a weird point where we are retooling the roster while still trying to be competitive, which looks strange. But looking at what we did in the draft and how some of those picks are playing we are running a pretty decent first offseason under the new regime. But that also makes this conversation difficult because no one really knows what to expect from this current roster. Some fans are expecting a playoff push, while others are expecting another top 10 draft pick.”
Dolphins fans you will just have to keep your eyes peeled for the Dolphins ATB staff’s expectations and season prediction article in the coming weeks.
Once again I would like to thank Hunter for his help and insights throughout this article. Be sure to go follow him on Twitter. Many have predicted this game to be the “dress rehearsal” for the season with the final game intended for those players on the edge of the roster. As such expect Tua to get more reps and thus hopefully more highlights for us fans to revel over until the season. Fins Up!
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