AC in the AM: Big Night For Cutler And First-Team Offense

Some observations and insights after a night when Jay Cutler looked sharp, Jay Ajayi looked ready and DeVante Parker looked like the real deal in a wild turnover filled preseason game, won by the Eagles 38-31.

• Got to start with Jay Cutler. He was supposed to play a half, but only made it into the opening minute of the second quarter. Did we really need to see any more? Adam Gase certainly didn’t. Cutler was everything I had hoped he would be, leading the Dolphins to three straight touchdowns. His passes were sharp – 5 of 8 for 105 yards – his footwork in the pocket was excellent – his one fumble was not his fault – and he did a solid job running the offense, mixing up his receivers. With his penchant for throwing deep, he’s going to be fun to watch.

• One of those deep throws found DeVante Parker. All you have to do is throw the ball up and he’ll catch it. We’ve heard that all through training camp about Parker. Well now we’ve seen it in a game. It was a matter of Cutler simply lofting the ball high enough for Parker to outleap cornerback Ronald Darby. Impressive? Parker made this look easy, taking that catch and turning it into a 72-yard play. Got a feeling that’s not the last time we’re going to see that call.

• I know Jay Ajayi scored a couple of touchdowns. But by far his most impressive moment came on a 26-yard run in the first quarter. Impressive for three things he did on that one play. A stiff-arm that got him past the line of scrimmage. A broken tackle once he got into the secondary. And finally, he carried a defender on his back those last five or six yards. On that one play, we saw so much of what Ajayi can do.

• And then there was Kenny Stills drawing an interference penalty in the end zone and Jarvis Landry leaping high and weaving his way through the secondary and tight end Julius Thomas pulling down a 1-yard touchdown catch. Yes, it was an equal opportunity night for the Dolphins’ offense.

• Haven’t even mentioned Jakeem Grant yet. All he did was take in a short pass over the middle, break a tackle and – say goodbye! – turn it into a 69-yard touchdown play. Once Grant gets in the open field, it isn’t even close.

• But not all was positive. Matt Moore threw a couple of picks, the offensive line had a few costly breakdowns, there were mix-ups in the secondary that need to get cleaned up and, generally speaking, the first-team defense wasn’t nearly as sharp as it needs to be. But that’s what the preseason is for. Fix the mistakes. Correct the communication issues. Make sure they don’t carry over to the regular season. Needless to say, there will be plenty to look at in the tape room over the next few days.

• However, the defense did have its moments. Interceptions by Jordan Phillips and Lawrence Timmons. A couple of nice plays by Ndamukong Suh. A sack by Andre Branch. Some Cam Wake moments. You saw the pieces; it just has to come together. That’s got to be the urgency of the next few weeks.

• Speaking of Phillips, what a sight– all 333-pounds of him – pulling down a deflected pass and lumbering inside the 5-yard line to set up the Dolphins’ second score. Granted, Phillips is fighting for playing time. But you could really appreciate what kind of athlete he is on that catch and run.

• So center Mike Pouncey played about 15 plays, got a feel for the game, and then headed to the sideline in good health and spirits. What more could we have asked for?

• Nice to see Andrew Franks nail that 56-yard field goal just before halftime. This team figures to play a lot of close games and Franks figures to have more than few game-winning moments.

Anthony Steen got the start at left guard, somewhat of a surprise since Jesse Davis was lining up with the first team during two practices with the Eagles. Davis, however, got plenty of playing time. What does this mean? It means there is still a decision to be made. I’m sure a lot depends on what the tape shows from Thursday night’s game. Kraig Urbik will be in the mix as well once he returns from a knee injury. For now, though, it’s too close to call.

• Clear evidence that Kenyan Drake is fully back from his concussion came on a 16-yard second quarter run. He shifts gears so quickly.

• And now we turn the page toward next week with a big roster cut looming, a final preseason game to prepare for and some position battles that still must be resolved.