The Miami Dolphins put on quite a show in their preseason home opener against the Atlanta Falcons, dominating from pretty much start to finish in a 37-17 victory at Hard Rock Stadium.
Here's what we should take away from the game:
-- It's really hard to ask much more from the offense than it delivered on this night. The Dolphins ended up punting only once, that on Reid Sinnett's first drive in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins were particularly impressive throwing the ball, with their three quarterbacks combining for a 133.5 passer rating.
-- Tua Tagovailoa had another really good outing, though he didn't have to make as many tight-window throws as he did against Chicago. What Tua did best on this night is slide up in the pocket on a couple of occasions, including on his 8-yard touchdown pass to Myles Gaskin.
-- It was another positive sign for Tua ahead of his second regular season. While preseason success doesn't guarantee anything for the months ahead, it's still encouraging to see more positive signs from him.
-- The Dolphins also got good work from all three of their top running back: Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown.
-- This is the place where, at the risk of being labeled a buzzkill, that we point out that the Falcons didn't place nearly as much value on this game as the Dolphins. Atlanta used only five of the 22 players listed as first-teamers on their depth chart, and practically every single one of their significant starters sat out this game. So as great as the Dolphins looked — and they did look great — understand the context.
-- And, yes, we'll point out here that the Dolphins also were missing some players, particularly at the wide receiver position, where no less than six guys were missing in action because of injuries. But those absences provided additional opportunities for some young receivers, and Kirk Merritt continued his strong summer showing with three catches for 34 yards, including a 27-yard gain and a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
-- This game showed the different ways the Dolphins will wind up using Jaylen Waddle on offense, as he caught passes on a bubble screen, off a jet sweep and quick toss by Tua and then off a short route in the flat. And, yes, it was a scare when he was injured because he was holding his leg, though the television replay clearly showed he was kicked by an Atlanta defender and those injuries rarely are serious, though still painful at first.
-- If we're talking about the offense, we have to give some big kudos to the offensive line, which rebounded after an uneven performance at Chicago. The Dolphins allowed one sack on 33 pass attempts and there was no consistent pressure by the Falcons — though, again, they rested most of their defensive starters. Still, this was encouraging.
-- We could notice a couple of clear occasions when Robert Hunt create a lot of space in the running game, and we'll continue to say he looks like he's headed for a nice run at right guard.
-- As good as Tua looked in the first half, Jacoby Brissett's stats were even more impressive as he went 8-for-8 with a 157.8 passer rating. The truth, though, is that Dolphins receivers were pretty open the entire night and the protection was good, which made the life of the quarterbacks a lot easier in this game.
-- On defense, the story obviously was Sam Eguavoen and his four sacks and we should point out he was having himself a pretty good night even before he started dropping Feleipe Franks. The only blip on his resume on this night was a DPI, but four sacks and a safety is obviously quite an evening's work.
-- Of course, it should be noted that the scheme and his teammates set up Eguavoen for his sacks. He came in free on the quarterback on some of his sacks and then there was another where Adam Butler had a free run up the middle and flushed Franks out of the pocket and right to Eguavoen.
-- The Dolphins' talent in the secondary was pretty obvious in the first half when Byron Jones, Nik Needham and Eric Rowe took turns breaking up passes or forcing incompletions with tight coverage. Again, it should be mentioned that the Falcons didn't use either Matt Ryan or his top receivers.
-- The only blemish on defense, really, was the final drive when Atlanta got back-to-back 30-yard runs, something that never should happen regardless of who's on the field.
-- Overall, it's tough to find much room to complain after the Atlanta game, though how much it will mean in the grand scheme of things remains to be seen. Besides, the Dolphins couldn't control who the Falcons chose to play and they handled their business just about as well as they could have. So call this night a major success.