The Dolphins and the Buccaneers were both in the bottom five for team run blocking grades last year and it showed on Saturday night. The two combined for 137 yards on 54 carries in the Dolphins 20-14 victory.
Both teams know their offensive lines aren’t going to be their strong suits though and each will be relying on their respective quarterbacks to have career years to have any playoff hope. Unfortunately, none of the three possible starting quarterbacks graded positively for the day or really did anything noteworthy. Here are the players that did stand out:
Miami — Three Performances of Note
The Dolphins are counting on all of their 2013 draft picks to make significant strides from Year 1 to 2, but two second-year players really jumped of the screen Saturday. Unfortunately, the one they’re relying on the most at the moment stuck out for all the wrong reasons. Dallas Thomas is slated to be the starting right guard for the Dolphins, but so far he’s done everything in his power this preseason to lose that title. Thomas got eaten alive by Gerald McCoy to the tune of three pressures, two penalties, and a -9.4(!) overall grade in 49 snaps. This comes one week after a -2.2 overall grade against the Falcons and a year after he finished with a -9.6 overall grade in his first preseason. Thomas flat out doesn’t look like an NFL player at the moment.
Will Davis, on the other hand, looks like an NFL starter this preseason. After injuries limited the third-round pick to just 65 snaps as a rookie, the cornerback has been the bright spot of the Dolphins’ defense so far. Davis allowed 4 yards on three targets and had a pass defensed along with another nice play that was questionably flagged for pass interference. He finished with a +3.5 overall grade and is currently the highest-graded cornerback in the league.
James Clean Again
A year after Tyson Clabo let defenders put Ryan Tannehill on his back 21 times (11 sacks and 10 hits), Ja’Wuan James appears to be just what the doctor ordered at right tackle. The 19th overall pick has yet to give up a single pressure in 49 pass blocking snaps this preseason. James shut out Adrian Clayborn Saturday en route to a +2.0 pass-blocking grade. The only concern is that, like the rest of the line, James has struggled in the running game. The most obvious example came with 5:09 left in the second quarter when James let backup end Ronald Talley knife inside him on a sweep for a tackle for loss. To make matters worse the rookie was also flagged for holding on the play.
UDFA Making His Case
After the preseason there are always a handful of undrafted free agents that make everyone wonder how no one could have picked them. Last year it was Khiry Robinson and Tony Jefferson. This year it could very well be Chris McCain. The former California outside linebacker was kicked off the team midway through his Junior season and had little draft buzz prior to his dismissal. As such, McCain wasn’t a highly sought after free agent and ended up signing with the Dolphins nine days after the draft.
The rookie has been going to work ever since. He weighed in at 224 at his pro day in March, but is now listed at 250 on the Dolphins’ roster. Against Tampa Bay he took 11 snaps at end and 14 at outside linebacker in a role similar to Dion Jordan’s. It’s been McCain, though, that’s played like he was drafted third overall. He generated two quick hurries late in the game Saturday with a speed rush and made two stops in the running game for an overall grade of +4.1.
Tampa Bay — Three Performances of Note
There are only few people in the NFL today that are capable of doing what Gerald McCoy did to the Dolphins interior line on Saturday. McCoy accounted for two pressures within two seconds of the snap(about the time it takes to make a 7 step drop) and added a tackle five yards deep in the backfield. When his 19 snaps were through, McCoy had earned a grade of +8.2. He now has the highest overall grade of any defensive tackle this preseason (+11.1) by a wide margin.
First Rounder’s First Catch
Mike Evans finally gave Buc’s fans a glimpse of his prodigious potential. Early in the first quarter he beat Brent Grimes on a hitch route that moved the chains for his first career catch. His next target came midway through the second quarter on a 3rd-and-15. Evans caught the ball on a dig route a yard short of the first down markers. The big bodied receiver shrugged off Jimmy Wilson with ease and scampered up the left sideline for a 41-yard almost touchdown. Evans would end up fumbling the ball through the end zone after Grimes punched it out at the 1-yard line. A lone preseason fumble isn’t concerning and it’s probably better that Evans got his ‘rookie’ moment out of the way in the preseason before a mistake like that costs them a game.
Free Agent Check-In
The huge influx of free agent talent was the No. 1 reason I thought the Buc’s will improve on their performance from last year, but their collective impact this preseason has been negligible. Against the Dolphins Evan Dietrich-Smith (-0.4 in 22 snaps), and Michael Johnson(-0.8 in 22 snaps) graded slightly negatively while Anthony Collins (+0.5 in 22 snaps) and Clinton McDonald (+0.7 in 21 snaps) were slightly positive. The only goal for each, though, should be staying healthy and in most of their cases just performing around average would be a step up from last year.
– Tampa gave rookie fifth-round pick Kevin Pamphile and extended look at right tackle and the results were disastrous. The Purdue product finished with a -4.4 overall grade in 48 snaps.
– 15 different players achieved a pressure for a Dolphins team that logged four sacks, eight hits, and 12 hurries.
– Through two games, the Bucs have the highest team run defense grade in the NFL at +20.1, while the Dolphins have the second lowest run blocking grade at -23.9.
PFF Game Ball
While his team lost, it was pretty clear that Gerald McCoy was the best player in the game Saturday. The defensive tackle earned a positive grade in almost half of his 19 snaps.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner