The Dolphins’ 15-13 loss to the Raiders on Saturday night marked the preseason debut for several starters who were held out of the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both the first-team offense and defense played two series before ceding the rest of the night to backups and reserves who continue to make their case to be on the 53-man roster. With the deadline to trim the roster to 80 players at 4 p.m. Tuesday and the final cutdown deadline a little over a week away, it won’t be long until the Dolphins have the team they’ll take into Week 1.
Here is who is rising and falling after the team’s second preseason game.
▪ Erik Ezukanma: The fourth-round pick out of Texas Tech had a game-high six catches for 114 yards and was Thompson’s go-to receiver on the offense’s final drive. Thompson found Ezukanma five times for 54 yards as he drove the offense down the field late, which ended with kicker Jason Sanders’ miss on a 46-yard, go-ahead attempt. Regardless, it was another encouraging performance for Ezukanma, who had a strong start to training camp and has impressed with his physicality, body control and ability to get open. Ezukanma’s spot on the roster is secured and he keeps giving Dolphins coaches more reason to integrate him into the offense during the regular season.
▪ Chase Edmonds: The veteran running back played the first 10 snaps of the game and while the first two series with the starting unit were a mixed bag, Edmonds showed a glimpse of his potential in this new offense, especially as a pass-catcher. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found Edmonds running a route out the backfield for a 17-yard gain on the first third down of the night. On the next drive, Edmonds converted another third down, catching a short pass from Tagovailoa and putting a spin move on a defender to break free for the first down. Edmonds only gained 3 yards on the ground in what was another disappointing night for the rushing offense. But he showed his elusiveness when he got the ball in his hands and continues to look like a player who will lead the running back room in the regular season.
▪ Defensive line depth: While the Dolphins may be searching for capable cornerbacks to fill out the bottom of their depth chart, the same can’t be said for the defensive line. In fact, the team probably has more linemen than it will be able to carry on the 53-man roster. Zach Sieler, who continues to be one of the league’s most underrated players at his position, recorded a sack in the first quarter, beating Raiders guard Lester Cotton with a nicely-executed swim move. Later, Porter Gustin recorded a sack for the second straight game and added four quarterback pressures. The Dolphins had nine players register at least two quarterback pressures, a testament to the talent not only on the starting unit but among backups and reserves. It’ll be a hard decision on who sticks on the team; a few deserving candidates likely won’t make the cut.
▪ Noah Igbinoghene: After he was the closest defender on a touchdown pass against the Buccaneers, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel publicly urged the third-year cornerback to play more freely. For the second straight week, though, Igbinoghene struggled in coverage. He was the targeted defender on a pair of third-down conversions on the Raiders’ opening touchdown drive. Igbinoghene, who has had an up and down training camp, played 18 defensive snaps and then sat for the rest of the night with the other first-team players but it was another performance that didn’t inspire confidence in the team’s depth at cornerback. It’s fair to wonder whether Igbinoghene’s play this summer has warranted a spot on the 53-man roster but his draft status and the injuries to the position likely keep him on the team for another season.
▪ Mike Gesicki: It was a frustrating night for Gesicki, who was only able to bring in three of his six targets and was involved in the lowlight of the night, an intentional grounding penalty on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that resulted in a safety. It wasn’t all Gesicki’s fault, however. McDaniel took credit for a “horrendous play call” on the safety, a play in which Gesicki’s missed block resulted in the initial pressure on Bridgewater. But Gesicki’s extended playing time — 25 snaps that seeped into the first play of the third quarter and were well past when the offensive starters came out — once again prompted questions about his fit in McDaniel’s offense. Gesicki acknowledged how difficult the transition has been for him, saying, “I’m learning a new position basically.” Both sides have $10.9 million reasons to make it work but the more time passes, the more it looks like the Dolphins are forcing a square peg into a round hole.