ReFo: TB @ MIA, Preseason WK 3
Week 3 is traditionally the most exciting of all the preseason games. Starters go a full half of play and even sometimes play a series in the third. That was no different in this one as Ryan Tannehill and Josh Freeman duked it the whole first half with Tannehill getting the edge with a late touchdown pass that gave the Dolphins a 13-10 halftime advantage.
It’s also one of the best games because, for a lot of players, this was their last chance to prove they are worthy of a roster spot. All NFL teams have to cut down their rosters to 75 by Tuesday at 4pm ET. Here’s who made their mark Saturday night:
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Strong on the Back End
Mark Barron (+2.6) came to Tampa Bay with very lofty expectations as the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft. Eric Berry, LaRon Landry and Sean Taylor are the only safeties to have gone higher in the draft since 2000. Even though he played all but four defensive snaps all season, Barron wasn’t an immediate success. He was exposed at times in coverage and gave up the seventh most passing yards of any safety in the NFL.
The Bucs are hoping that with a year under his belt in Bill Sheridan’s defense Barron will shore up his coverage lapses. On Saturday night that looked to be the case. Barron was targeted twice in coverage and only allowed five yards. His best play came towards the end of the first half. Barron was trailing tight end Charles Clay on a deep post route. Tannehill layed it in perfectly, but Barron dove and was able to get a hand between Clay’s and knock the ball free. It was a great sign to see Barron be able to stick with an athletic tight end like Clay in man coverage.
Fighting for Carries
Most NFL coaches agree that there are two things that no matter how talented you are you have to be able to do as a running back or you won’t see the field. The first is protect the ball and the second is protect the passer. So far rookie Mike James (-4.2) has one of the two. Against the Dolphins James stayed in to block on just 11 plays and he still managed to give up two sacks and a hurry. James was, at times, slow to recognize the blitz and at other times was just overmatced physically. This is nothing new for James as he’s given up multiple pressures in every game and his 70.5 Pass Blocking Efficiency is the worst of all running backs this preseason.
Unlike James there were Bucs’ draft picks that made some positive contributions Saturday. Jonathan Banks (+0.4) did nothing spectacular but always seemed to be in close coverage. He allowed four catches for 40 yards on five targets, but only six total yards after the catch.
William Gholston (+2.1) played his best game of the preseason so far. He showed great power from the defensive end position where he picked up a hit and a hurry. It was Gholston who came down the line from left end, beating right tackle Dallas Thomas, and forced the fumble from Jonas Gray that set up the game winning touchdown.
Akeem Spence (+1.3) has been one of the most impressive rookies in the entire league this preseason. The defensive tackle finished the day with four stops and a run defense grade of +3.2. His quickness off the line is something special and he looks like the perfect compliment to Gerald McCoy.
Miami – Three Performances of Note
Protecting the Blind Sides
The highest and the lowest graded players on for the Dolphins in this one started the game on opposite sides of the offensive line. Left tackle Jonathan Martin (-2.5) was much maligned in his rookie season where he split time between right and left tackle. He finished the season grading positively in only two games all year and had the third worst pass blocking efficiency among starting tackles. Thats why his first three games this preseason were a revelation. Martin didn’t give up a single pressure until Saturday. Against a mixture of Adrian Clayborn and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim Martin gave up a hit and two hurries. It was a definitive step back for a player who looked as though he was making the second year jump.
In one of the most underrated moves of free agency the Dolphins signed arguably the most consistent right tackle of the past five seasons for a mere $3.5m. Tyson Clabo (+3.0) showed against Tampa Bay why he’s only graded outside the top ten right tackles once in the PFF era. Clabo didn’t allow a single pressure and had no downgrades for the game. Barring a precipitous decline in his play, Clabo will be a huge upgrade for the Dolphins this season.
Spending a mid-round pick on a fullback is akin to a first round pick at any other position. The expectations for that fullback would be high. So when the Chicago Bears drafted Evan Rodriguez (+2.1) in the fourth round in 2012, many believed he would be leading the way for Matt Forte for much of the foreseeable future. It didn’t end up working out that way after multiple off the field incidents led to Rodriguez’ release this offseason. The Dolphins’ signed him a day later and he’s been in competition with incumbent fullback Jorvorskie Lane ever since.
Against the Bucs Rodriguez demonstrated why he was drafted so highly. He caught two balls for 16 yards and had multiple positively graded blocks as a lead blocker. Rodriguez is an amazing athlete for a fullback. At the combine he ran a 4.58s 40 yard dash and had a 36″ vertical leap at 242 pounds. On both his catches he flashed that running back level athleticism. On his first catch with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter, Rodriguez came out of the backfield to the flats and had a good five yards of sepearation on the trailing linebacker and picked up a first down. He ran a similar flats route just a few plays later and made two defenders miss with a smooth cutback and picked up nine yards. It was just one game, but it will be interesting to see if Rodriguez has showed enough for a roster spot this sesaon.
QB on the Chopping Block
While Ryan Tannehill (+1.8) put up 13 points in the first half and was efficient in moving the football down the field, Pat Devlin (-2.1) was anything but that. The third-year quarterback has had a rough preseason prior to Saturday’s game and was given an extended look over backup Matt Moore by head coach Joe Philbin to see if he was worth keeping around. The results weren’t inspiring. Devlin went 12-of-18 for 114 yards with and an interception. The former Delaware quarterback struggled when throwing down the field, going 3-for-6 on passes over 10 yards with an interception and he didn’t target a pass over 20 yards. For the day Devlin would have only three positively graded throws in what may have been his last game as a Dolphin.
– The Dolphins’ defense whiffed on 10 tackles while the Buccaneers’ only missed three.
– Trevor Scott recorded three sacks, equalling his combined total from the past two seasons.
– Mike James’ pass blocking grade of -7.0 is the worst of any running back this preseason. The next closest is Keiland Williams with a grade of -2.3.
PFF Game Ball
Second-year safety Mark Barron had himself a great game against both the run and pass, making three defensive stops on the day. His +2.6 grade is superb for a safety and he is definitely deserving of this game ball.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner