RECAP: Dolphins defense falters as offense gathers steam in 27-20 loss to Panthers

The Miami Dolphins took another step yesterday in getting their starters more reps and a look-see at the other reserves who are either destined for stardom or ready for walking papers.

On Friday night in front of a crowd of mostly Panthers faithful, the Dolphins demonstrated that they are ready for the Titans at times and showed some flickers of hope.

First the good.

Ryan Tannehill captivated the rest of the NFL and Dolphins personnel with a nearly flawless performance. Even though Tannehill couldn’t finish his drives with a touchdown pass in the red zone, he showed poise in the pocket, completed his throws, and took a few hits-including one inside the five where a DT for the Panthers reached for that left knee and Tannehill collapsed after handing the ball off.

Tannehill in addition ran a nice version of the no-huddle offense every coach in Miami has tried to run since Joe Philbin.

So, baby steps from last week have morphed into bigger field goal scoring drives this week versus a stingy Panthers defense-finding cushions everywhere on the sideline and dissecting the defense with near precision.

Tannehill finished 14 of 17 with 100 yards passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Tannehill found his receivers frequently despite being without Parker (injury) and Kenny Stills.

Tannehill connected with Jakeem Grant, Danny Amendola, and A.J. Derby (called back on a holding call).

In addition, Kenyan Drake was a beast running to the outside-rushing for 54 yards on 8 carries -nearly 7 yards per carry. By far, Drake appears ready to roll as the starter and Frank Gore should push for time as well-who didn’t play.

Bright spots on defense and there were few.

First-Jerome Baker played with the ones and amassed 4 total tackles while Robert Quinn-playing with Cam Wake on the opposite side of the line collected two big sacks.

Quinn will be needed to set the tone on the right side of the line and put pressure on the quarterback.

Xavien Howard demonstrated his vision-jumping into a passing lane and intercepting Cam Newton and nearly taking it for a touchdown being tripped up inside the 10.

As much as I want to continue to praise the Dolphins defense-I just can’t. I won’t.

The Dolphins defense allowed a 71 yard rush-right up the middle by Christian McCaffrey. It wasn’t even close and McCaffrey run was a thing of beauty, but only for ball-watchers, Panthers fans, and fantasy gurus.

On the run, the middle was sealed off and Raekwon McMillan showed his rust as he couldn’t shed the block and get to McCaffrey.

The run demonstrated how much DT is a weakness for Miami as well as the LB position.

Not to mention, Bobby McCain-who I love on this defense, couldn’t cover and was schooled by veteran Torrey Smith who was supposedly too old for the 49ers. Smith got McCain to bite on a few comeback routes.

McCain in everyone’s opinion is a much better corner in the slot and yet the Dolphins continue to test his closing speed-not as good.

For the Dolphins defense-everything has to work in unison. If they can’t rush the passer, their corners will get tested. If they can’t stop the run, the entire defense will give up a big-game changing rush like they did at Buffalo last season to LeSean McCoy.

There is a lot to be thankful for, however.

A healthy Ryan Tannehill is showing his ability to command this offense and there are some signs of life defensively despite the issues.

Let’s hope the Dolphins play like a contender next week versus Baltimore and the steps become an upward climb to the top.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

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