Kenyan Drake got the nod at running back for the Miami Dolphins in their first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 8. For their second preseason tuneup Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dolphins held out their potential starting running back, which opened up an opportunity for Mark Walton to make a start in Tampa.
Walton, a former Miami Hurricane from Booker T. Washington High School, got his first start in a Dolphins uniform at Raymond James Stadium. Kalen Ballage, listed as the co-starter with Drake at running back, also did not play in a 16-14 loss.
The Dolphins used Walton as their primary running back for the first two drives, but his best play came when he shifted out wide. The Dolphins ran a designed slant for the tailback and quarterback Josh Rosen hit Walton for a 12-yard gain into the red zone.
Walton finished the first half with 8 yards on five carries. Fellow running back Myles Gaskin, who split first-half action with Walton, had four carries for 13 yards. Both ran behind a struggling offensive line, which let Rosen get sacked three times. Gaskin had the longest run of the half, slipping through a few defenders near the line of scrimmage for a 9-yard gain.
Drake was far from the only starter the Dolphins played without Friday. Wide receivers DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant all sat out, as did tackles Zach Sterup and Jordan Mills, who started at left tackle against the Falcons. Kenny Stills and Preston Williams started as the wide receivers, and Nick O’Leary and Dwayne Allen both started at tight end. The starting offensive line, from left to right, was Laremy Tunsil, Michael Deiter, Daniel Kilgore, Shaq Calhoun and Jesse Davis. Rosen also made his first start at quarterback as a Dolphin and Ryan Fitzpatrick still got some second-half action under center after Rosen exited.
The Dolphins also played without starting linebackers Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan, starting cornerback Xavien Howard, starting safety Reshad Jones, and a handful of key defensive backups. Rookie linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was held out after missing practices all week, as was backup safety T.J. McDonald.
Jerome Baker was joined by Nick DeLuca as the starting linebackers. The defensive line started as expected with Charles Harris and Tank Carradine as the defensive ends, and Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins at defensive tackle. Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick started as the two safeties, with Eric Rowe, Jomal Wiltz and Nik Needham as the cornerbacks. McCain and Rowe were the only two from the secondary atop the depth chart, although Fitzpatrick typically starts, too.
The rest of the did-not-dress list: linebackers Quentin Poling and Chase Allen, and safety Walt Aikens.
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Jason Sanders shows off leg
The only consistent offense for either the Dolphins or Buccaneers in the second game of the preseason came courtesy of Jason Sanders. The kicker scored all six of the Dolphins’ first-half points and both came via difficult kicks in unideal conditions.
Rain pounded the Tampa Bay area throughout Friday and it continued all the way through kickoff. It wasn’t enough to hammper Sanders, who knocked in a pair of field goals from 45 and 49 yards.
Sanders’ first kick came early in the second quarter after a penalty by Calhoun caused a Dolphins drive to stall out near the 30-yard line. Sanders knocked home a field goal to give the Dolphins an early 3-0 lead.
The specialist came through again in the final seconds of half. A sack by the Bucs pushed the Dolphins back to the 31-yard line and forced Sanders into a 49-yard attempt, which he hit home to send Miami into the break with a 6-3 lead.