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Gameday: Dolphins must get going vs. Tennessee

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Photo by Allen Eyestone/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

After a bad performance in Cincinnati 10 days ago and a few days of uncertainty because of Hurricane Matthew, the Dolphins get ready to host the Titans.

Here’s three important story lines, etc to know:

Miami must get their offense in gear. As our Chris Fischer, who’s on the sideline for the CBS-TV call today, laid out this week, you can’t just blame Ryan Tannehill. The collective struggle is a new coach/system, injuries on the offensive line and also, to RB Arian Foster (who is doubtful and likely won’t suit up) which has ground things to a halt. Dolphins must get some yardage, time of possession, etc on the ground. They again look for Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Isiah Pead by committee to give them something. If they do not, it’s likely big trouble for Tannehill and the pass game.

The Titans have been competitive in all four games, but have done the wrong things at the wrong time for three losses in those four. Last week for example, it was the special teams giving up a huge punt return TD to William Fuller of the Texans that cost them dearly at the end.

More importantly, Tennessee has to get more outta their top weapon, Marcus Mariota. Even though free agent RB DeMarco Murray has run it well through four games. Mariota, particularly in the last two isn’t producing much of anything. He’s averaged 208 yards passing on below 50% completion and three picks with no TD’s. Combine this with coach Mike Mularkey’s refusal to turn Mariota loose on read option runs, etc. (the QB’s high rush yardage in a game is 22 yards) and the Titans lack any real threat/punch. If Tennessee has a chance Sunday, it will be because Mariota gets his swagger back and starts making a few plays.

Finally, the Dolphins need some atmosphere/home field advantage. The area/students showed up Saturday night in full throat and a bonkers atmosphere for the Canes game with FSU. It’s not likely that Hard Rock Stadium will even be 3/4 full but 45-50,000 with the new enclosures around the stands can still be very loud. Let’s see if it can be an advantage for a Dolphin team that is only playing it’s second game in first five.

Will the Fins give them much to cheer about? We’ll find out.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins DE Quinn was one of few bright spots Friday night

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It was largely a lackluster and at times, poor performance in preseason game #2 for the Dolphins Friday night 27-20 loss in Charlotte.

However, one of the bright spots is a guy that they are counting on for veteran presence and quarterback pressure in Pro Bowl veteran DE Robert Quinn.

Quinn made a couple of impact plays right away and introduced himself to the Panthers Cam Newton here:

It’s no secret in Matt Burke’s defense that they need Quinn and fellow Pro Bowl vet Cam Wake to get pressure of the ends. And while it was only a preseason game, it still had to be good feeling for all involved to see it.

Quinn spoke to the media post game about his potential impact and Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post was there:

“Just trying to do my job,” Quinn said. “That’s always been my motto. Just trying to do my job. Add my piece to the puzzle. Today was just a stepping stone. Trying to get back and make sure I can be a productive player to help this team win.”

Quinn said he feels a responsibility to stay healthy and perform at a high level for the Dolphins, particularly because they traded for him.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “Getting older. But, I feel pretty good. Been working out. A little more stretching. Especially coming off the injury years. I’m not trying to set myself back. And also the commitment this team made to me I’m not trying to shoot them in the foot, also. Trying to do whatever I can to stay on the field.”

The Fins acquired Quinn in March from the Rams, and it’s no secret that the 28 year old felt betrayed.

He had 8.5 sacks a year ago under new first defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, as the Rams won the NFC West in 2017. However, the Rams made a series of acquisitions trading for DBs Marcus Peters from the Chiefs for draft picks and the same with Aqib Talib from Denver. They also signed former Dolphin Ndamukong Suh to a large one year contract.

Yet, Quinn did not fit into their plans or under the L.A. salary cap.

He does in both cases for Miami and they hope they see a lot more of what they saw Friday night.

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Miami Dolphins

Three things to watch as Dolphins battle Panthers Friday night

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins have traveled north to Charlotte to take on the Panthers in their second preseason game of 2018.

Here are three things we will be watching on Friday night:

Progress of Ryan Tannehill/the offense with him

We only saw a small dose of Tannehill (one possession) last week and there were some positives in his first game action in 18 months. Tannehill ran the Fins no huddle early completing 4-6 passes for 32 yards. He mixed some throws to Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola and Miami moved into field goal range before rookie Jason Sanders misfired from 53 yards out.

Now, it’s expected that Tannehill will play at least the whole first quarter, as he works his way back from his ACL surgery.

Kenyan Drake got the start in the backfield last week, and veteran Frank Gore was inactive for the game. The 35 year old Gore is expected to see his first action against what is a stout Carolina front seven on defense. The Dolphins attempting to establish some kind of ground attack will be key not just Friday night, but moving forward.

It’s a good test of the progress that Tanehill, the offense as a whole and new coordinator Dowell Loggains have made.

Handling Christian McCaffery

The Panthers have made no secret that they want to get second year RB and former first round pick, Christian McCaffery, many more touches this season. And McCaffery may be a better receiver out of the backfield than runner, especially between the tackles. McCaffery debuted (above) with four carries for 11 yards and two catches for 29 yards in Buffalo last week.

We suspect that he will play much, if not all of, the first half against the likes Cam Wake, Kiko Alonso, Davon Godchaux and Raewkon McMillian.

It will be a great test for Miami, which had trouble stopping the Bucs’ Peyton Barber in the first half last week, to try to handle the small but explosive McCaffery.

Dolphins focus and attention to detail

Dating back to their “dress rehearsal” practice at Hard Rock Stadium before preseason game one, the Fins had trouble keeping their poise, not committing silly unforced penalties.

How sharp will they look tonight? Are there false starts? Will there be dropped balls, missed assignments, blown coverages, etc.?

It is, after all the second preseason game and there should be some improvement in these areas.

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Miami Dolphins

“Ludicrous Speed?”

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

You need to have some levity to get through rigors of training camp, and Tuesday coach Adam Gase provided some in the form of 1980’s “B Comedies” and his team’s no-huddle offense.

The Dolphins showed part of that up tempo offense on the first series of their preseason opening game with the Bucs last Thursday night. And, QB Ryan Tannehill was effective running it on that opening drive.

However, we haven’t seen the fastest version of the Fins hurry up….it’s known in their lingo as “Ludicrous Speed.”

Now, unless you are a huge fan of the Sci-fi “spoof” movie from 1987, “Spaceballs,” that reference is likely lost on you. The movie stars Mel Brooks, Rick Moranis, John Candy, Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga, and is primarily mocking the the ultra popular “Star Wars” series of the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The reference to “Ludicrous Speed” comes from this scene, where Moranis, as the faux Darth Vader, is ordering his ship to chase after the “good guys.” Whether you’ve seen it or haven’t here goes:

It’s one of several memorable silly slapstick humorous scenes in the flick.

And that brings us to more humor with head coach Adam Gase being asked about “Ludicrous Speed” at his Tuesday post practice press conference.

Gase, laughed and knew that QB Ryan Tannehill had described that version to the media of the no huddle, where the team races to the line to run the same play, and try to catch the defense off guard or substituting, etc.

He was then, asked if it actually came from the movie?

“You know it? (Gase to a reporter)…. Yeah. There’s a lot of 80’s terms. You gotta remember, when we started this thing, who the quarterback was. The only problem was no one else knew what we were talking about. So it was good between me and him, but nobody else.”

The “who the quarterback was” is reference to soon to be Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and the terms from when they were together in Denver a few years ago.

Manning, a child of the mid-late 80’s, obviously would use some of these terms or references as code words in the terminology for teams.

Our colleague, Chris Fischer of NBC-TV in Miami, put together his little feature involving Tannehill’s comments, the movie clips and Dolphins “speed, and posted it.

We say, Bravo to that.

And, Bravo to keeping guys and gals like Moranis, Pullman, Zuniga, and of course the late John Candy relevant a little longer.

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