ReFo: Dolphins @ Falcons, Preseason Week 1
The latest preseason game to get the PFF Re-Focused treatment is the visit of the Miami Dolphins to Atlanta, a down-to-the-wire game that ended up with the Falcons prevailing 16-10.
Sadly, though, perhaps the biggest thing of note from this game was the sheer volume and frequency of penalty flags as yellow laundry seemed to decorate the field on almost every snap.
The officials have been told to re-emphasize various forms of illegal contact in coverage and if this is an example of what that means for the game, we could have some very rocky regular-season days to come in terms of penalties.
But let’s take a look at who stood out, for better or worse.
Miami — Three Performances of Note
Checking In With the Rookies
Let’s face it, for many people preseason is the first real chance to see their rookies in action and may be the only reason to tune in to a game before the real action starts. Right tackle Ja’Wuan James played 31 snaps (compared to the rest of the starters who began to fade out of the lineup after 10) and had a mixed day. He was actually perfect in pass protection, keeping a clean sheet from 16 pass-blocking snaps, though a cynic might point to the opposition as a big factor in that. His run blocking grade of -1.8 wasn’t great and left him with an overall mark of -0.7.
Second-rounder Jarvis Landry was only targeted twice, catching one pass – a quick screen – and getting dropped immediately for a loss, but did look dangerous as a return man.
Second Team D Upstages the 1’s
It wasn’t a great day for the Miami starters on defense with only really Randy Starks (typically) showing well and even he could only flash rather than dominate in his limited snaps. By contrast, the second team had several very positive performances with Jason Trusnik (+2.4), Jordan Tripp (+2.4), Will Davis (+3.1) and Terrence Fede (+4.1), in particular, impressing. Fede, a seventh-round rookie, graded well against both the run and the pass and though he couldn’t get the quarterback to the ground, he notched four hurries, more than anybody else on the team. The performance of these guys with the second unit was a large reason the Falcons could only manage 2.6 yards per carry on offense and suffered several plays that were blown up for big losses.
With Ryan Tannehill sitting after 10 snaps we got to see an extended performance from Seth Lobato as Matt Moore and Pat Devlin sat out the game. It wasn’t a great performance from the undrafted rookie who threw for 124 yards on his 14 completions. There were some bright spots, and he did have the team driving in the shadow of the Falcons’ goal line before dropping a shotgun snap and compounding the error by failing to fall on the ball and recover it. That turnover gave Atlanta the ball back with time winding down and effectively sealed the game. Lobato completed just one pass over 10 yards in the air from eight attempts. The long shot to make the roster may have just seen his odds become even longer.
Atlanta — Three Performances of Note
It’s Coming Back
That seemed to be the theme of the evening for Antone Smith who had his three biggest plays of the night nullified because of penalties. That cut both ways for Smith who was run over for a sack that didn’t count as well as his plays with the ball in his hands. Smith ended the game with a +1.4 grade thanks to two huge plays that robbed him of around 100 combined yards when they were nullified by flags. First, he caught a simple dump-off pass over the middle before turning on the jets and beating a pair of Miami defenders to the sideline, needing Brent Grimes to work just to save a touchdown. Then, later in the game, he cut right away from the intended hole, made a defender miss at the second level and then torched the deep safety on his way to a 75-yard score that was wiped off the board by a Jake Matthews hold. He ended the game officially with 5 yards on three carries and 5 more on a single catch, but he put much more than that on tape.
The Latest Matthews
Jake Matthews becomes the latest of the Matthews family bloodline to enter the NFL and the first action he saw will be classified as a rough day at the office. He only surrendered a solitary pressure – a knockdown – from his 13 pass blocking snaps, but he was also flagged twice for penalties including that costly hold that erased the long touchdown run. The only good news for Matthews is that the next man up at right tackle, Ryan Schraeder, graded even worse with a -4.4 mark after surrendering three hurries and struggling badly in his run blocking. Everybody wants rookie offensive tackles to hit the ground running and occasionally they do, but more often than not they are far more average (if not worse) in their first season.
Catching My Eye
There are players on the Falcons’ roster that graded better, and players that had better performances overall, but since I’m the guy writing this I thought I would single out a player that caught my eye with his play, defensive back Kimario McFadden. The first time I noticed him was on a kickoff when he managed to limit the return man to just 9 yards despite a perfectly reasonable length of kick and plenty of space in front of him in which to work. McFadden sprinted down field, was a good 5 yards out in front of any other cover man and took the returner down with a diving tackle. He then got his shot on defense and made a couple of nice plays sticking his head in to make stops that needed to be made. He only saw 13 snaps on defense, but he put together the kind of highlight reel tape that will have coaches singing his praises in meeting rooms in the days after the game.
– Despite needing to cut away from a collapsing hole at the line of scrimmage and make two people miss on the way to the end zone, Antone Smith was actually untouched on his 75-yard run.
– Tyler Starr, Osi Umenyiora and Standly Maponga each recorded two total pressures, but the Falcons as a whole totaled only nine from 148 combined pass-rushing attempts. That needs to improve.
– Brandon Fields had a gross punting average of 47.5 yards, but the highest hang time he achieved in the game was just 4.4 seconds. That’s not giving the coverage team much of a chance to get down the field.
PFF Game Ball
The most disruptive player on either side of the ball for Miami was seventh-round rookie Terrence Fede, well deserving of the game ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam