Miami Dolphins: Matt Moore
MIAMI – If something happens this season to Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins have reason to feel secure in their backup quarterback. Eight-year veteran Matt Moore capped a strong preseason Thursday in a 14-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Moore was 5-of-8 passing (62.5 percent) for 38 yards in just one quarter of play. But most importantly Moore finished the exhibition season 30-of-46 passing (65.2 percent) for 368 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in three games.
Tannehill and many other starters did not play Thursday as they rest for Miami’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 against the New England Patriots. Tannehill is durable and started all 32 games his first two seasons. But Moore also showed this preseason that he’s capable and ready this year if called upon.
Here are some other thoughts on the Dolphins' final preseason game:
- Thursday was a huge game for Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas. The former second-round pick is on the roster bubble after suffering a hamstring injury, and other rookie running backs (Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa) have shown flashes. Thomas rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown against St. Louis' backups. The Dolphins will have an interesting decision to make on whether Thomas did enough to make Miami’s 53-man roster. The Dolphins have to make their final cuts by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
- Dolphins kick returner and receiver Marcus Thigpen was another player who was injured this preseason and needed a good showing while on the roster bubble. He produced a mixed bag. First, Thigpen had an awful bobbled punt in the second quarter; he fumbled it twice and nearly turned over the ball. Then, Thigpen had a nice 32-yard punt return in the second half. Backup receivers Jarvis Landry and Damian Williams are both capable of splitting the return duties, which will make the roster decision with Thigpen interesting.
- Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan started his first preseason game, one that marked his final game action until October following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Jordan recorded two tackles against the Rams. Rookie linebacker Chris McCain registered two sacks and should make the 53-man roster after a strong preseason and training camp.
- Injuries are always a concern in this final preseason game. Miami rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp, who has been a bright spot in training camp, suffered a chest injury in the first quarter. He was taken to the locker room with trainers and did not return to the field. Other than that, the Dolphins exited the game in good health.
Here is a look at whose stock is rising and falling in Miami:
1. Dallas Thomas, guard: Thomas earned his way into the starting lineup with a strong spring and summer in Dolphins camp. But he erased many of those good vibes with an awful outing Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thomas was manhandled by Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in Miami’s 20-14 win. Thomas allowed a sack, a tackle for loss, another hit on the quarterback and had a false start. Thomas has yet to start a regular season game and now has major questions if he’s ready to handle the grind of a 16-game season. Veteran free-agent guard Shelley Smith worked with the first team this week in place of Thomas, who will try to earn his way back with the starters.
3. Secondary’s tackling: Miami’s secondary, in general, is not a concern. However, the poor display of tackling raised some eyebrows and particularly caught the attention of Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Starting safeties Jimmy Wilson and Louis Delmas both displayed poor tackling on Saturday. Some of it was due to poor fundamentals and some due to overaggressiveness. Delmas said after the game that Miami’s defense will have a chip on its shoulder. This group must shake the tackling rust before the regular season.
2. Receiver depth: Something has to give at receiver for Miami. The depth has this position has shown up constantly during training camp, and we also saw it in the Dolphins’ second preseason game. Backup receivers Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams and Armon Binns combined for 11 receptions Saturday night. Not everyone in this group will make the team. The Dolphins might want to consider trading one of these backup receivers in order to gain depth at a weaker position. Wide receiver should not be an issue for Miami this season.
3. Terrence Fede, defensive end: Fede makes this list for the second week in a row. He continues to flash to the point where I believe the rookie seventh-round pick will make Miami’s 53-man roster. Fede recorded two tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss against the Buccaneers. He also is showing his worth on special teams as an athletic big man who can run the field. The motor and athleticism are there. If Fede can get his technique down, he could develop into a contributor.
The Miami Dolphins knew they were in for a tough test offensively Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Miami's first-team offense was nearly perfect in one touchdown drive against the mediocre Atlanta Flacons’ defense last week. But Tampa Bay has defensive talent at a lot of positions, and the Dolphins’ offense would be on the field longer.
The result was a mixed bag for Miami's starting offense during a 20-14 win over Tampa Bay. The first-team offense produced three points in three drives. The other two resulted in a punt and a lost fumble by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The good news is Tannehill threw the football well. He was 9-of-14 passing for 110 yards.
Tampa Bay’s defense was able to expose some things needed to improve in Miami's new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Here are some other thoughts on the Dolphins' second preseason game:
- Dolphins starting right guard Dallas Thomas struggled mightily. Thomas had the tough task of Tampa Bay Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Thomas gave up a sack and fumble to McCoy in the first half, another hit on Tannehill and a tackle for loss. Thomas also had a false start in the second quarter when McCoy was not in the game. Questions will certainly arise whether Thomas can handle the starting job for 16 games. Miami has other options to explore if Thomas continues to struggle. Rookie third-round pick Billy Turner and veteran free-agent signing Shelley Smith could get another look next week in practice.
- Miami’s running game also remains a cause for concern. Starting running back Lamar Miller rushed for just 3 yards on three carries. He had just 11 yards on four carries last week against Atlanta. Miami is getting little push from its offensive line in the running game. In the first half when starters and key backups played, the Dolphins rushed for minus-5 yards on nine carries.
- It is only the preseason, but Dolphins starting cornerback Brent Grimes produced one of the best plays of the exhibition season. Tampa Bay rookie receiver Mike Evans made a strong catch over the middle and broke through a tackle attempt by Miami safety Jimmy Wilson. Evans appeared on his way to a touchdown, but Grimes hustled from the opposite sideline to force a fumble before Evans reached the end zone. After review, the Dolphins were awarded the football via a touchback. For a Pro Bowl cornerback to hustle that much in a preseason game says a lot about Grimes.
- The Dolphins showed off their depth at receiver. Backups Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams all made their presence felt against Tampa Bay. This foursome combined for nine receptions and one touchdown catch. Miami might want to consider trading one of its lower-level receivers in order to gain depth at another position.
- Miami backup quarterback Matt Moore virtually locked up the No. 2 quarterback job Saturday night. Moore was 13-of-19 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown. He threw a nice touchdown pass to the corner of the end zone to Matthews before halftime. The Dolphins signed veteran quarterback Brady Quinn this week to push Moore. Quinn was the third quarterback Saturday and was 4-of-4 passing for 22 yards.
2. Dolphins linebackers: Miami has defensive talent at a lot of positions. But perhaps the biggest concern is at linebacker. Starters Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe and Koa Misi didn't have a good first showing in last week's 16-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. There were missed tackles and inconsistent coverage as Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed all seven of his passes. Tackling has been a major emphasis in practice this week, which is needed. The Dolphins' linebackers did an "Oklahoma drill" this week against the running backs and put on an ugly display. Miami’s running backs dominated the drill, which didn't offer much hope that Miami's tackling will drastically improve.
3. Matt Moore, backup quarterback: Moore has been a solid backup quarterback in Miami the past three seasons. But this year's training camp has been filled with injury and inconsistency. Moore was bothered with a shoulder ailment that has kept him out of practices and the first preseason game. The Dolphins made a statement by signing seven-year veteran quarterback Brady Quinn this week to compete with Moore. That should make things more interesting in the second half of preseason games.
1. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: Tannehill could not have had a better start to the preseason. He was a perfect 6-for-6 passing for 62 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta. This is a good foundation for Tannehill to build on this preseason. He has had a solid week of practice and appears to be gaining confidence in Bill Lazor's new offense. Tannehill will try to have another solid performance Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2. Jimmy Wilson, safety: With Jones out, Wilson is the next man up. Wilson will get a golden opportunity to become a full-time starter for the first time in his career. The former seventh-round pick has been solid in training camp and the entire offseason, earning the trust of the coaching staff. Wilson was projected to be Miami’s nickel cornerback. But those plans are were thrown out this week.
3. Terrence Fede, defensive end: There is something about seventh-round picks in Miami. The Dolphins have had success drafting players in the final round. Wilson, receiver Rishard Matthews and special teams ace Don Jones have all produced as seventh-rounders, and Fede could be next to make Miami's 53-man roster. Fede has shown a good motor and athleticism in training camp and the preseason. With Jordan’s suspension, Fede could step in as the fourth defensive end.
Seven years ago, Quinn was a highly-touted quarterback from Notre Dame expected to go in the top 10. The Dolphins had the No. 9 overall pick and desperately needed a quarterback.
However, the Dolphins -- led by general manager Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron -- made the infamous pick of receiver Ted Ginn Jr. at No. 9. Miami fans were shocked and highly upset. The Dolphins went 1-15 in that season in 2007 and Ginn turned out to be a draft bust for Miami. Cameron also was fired after one season.
Quinn fell to No. 22 overall to the Cleveland Browns, where things also didn't pan out. On Tuesday, Quinn finally put on a Dolphins uniform for the first time as a backup quarterback trying to make the 53-man roster.
"To be honest, I thought I was going to Miami," Quinn reflected after practice. "It's crazy to think [seven] years later now, I finally made it here."
Quinn is not your usual "camp arm" signing for the Dolphins. His is not Brock Jensen or Seth Lobato. This aforementioned pair had little chance of making the 53-man roster or challenging incumbent No. 2 Matt Moore.Quinn actually comes to Miami with a pedigree, a history. He's a former first-round pick who played in 24 career games. If Quinn can learn the offense quickly, he has the potential to make the regular-season roster and even push Moore for the backup job behind starter Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins' signing of Quinn makes a statement. It says the team isn't willing to stand pat at any position. Miami's had the same trio of quarterbacks -- Tannehill, Moore and Devlin -- during head coach Joe Philbin's entire tenure until Quinn shook things up this week.
Moore said after practice Tuesday that he's ready to compete.
"I've been through this so many times, it's nothing anymore," Moore said. "What do you want me to do? I mean, they're going to do what they think they need to do. All I can do is keep going. But it really has no effect. If it does, I'm in trouble. Mentally, I think I need to stay focused and continue to get better."
Quinn's first practice had mixed results. His best throw was a deep ball connection on the sideline to receiver Kevin Cone in team drills. It was a "wow" moment you rarely see from a No. 3 quarterback and showed Quinn's potential. However, Quinn also threw an interception to cornerback Will Davis.
Interest certainly has picked up at the backup quarterback position for Miami. The battle between Quinn and Moore adds more reason to closely watch the second half of Dolphins' preseason games this summer.
Quinn, who put his television career on hold to join Miami, believes he still has good football left in him and can fill a role with the Dolphins.
"It's whatever the team needs me for," Quinn said. "That's the biggest thing is going out and learning the offense and a new system."
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes new Dolphins quarterback Brady Quinn returns to the team that passed him up in 2007.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel reports cutting Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore for Quinn could save them $2.5 million.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp is competing for a starting job.
- ESPN’s Bill Polian says he “loves” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
- There were questions coming into the season with how much veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan has left in the tank. Miami’s free-agent pickup signed a two-year contract after a pair of down years with the St. Louis Rams. But Finnegan has had a solid training camp and Tuesday was his best day. He had three interceptions -- two off quarterback Ryan Tannehill and one off Matt Moore – to cap a strong practice. Finnegan is solidifying a starting cornerback job opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes. “He got a lot left in the tank,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace. “He’s a really smart guy. He knows how to play the combinations of routes. He’s seen every combination you can possibly bring. He’s a smart guy and takes chances.”
- It was another rough day for Miami’s offense overall. Tannehill and Moore combined for five interceptions. Tannehill was picked by Finnegan (twice) and Grimes (once). Moore's picks also were to Finnegan and Grimes. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said the turnovers are not what the team wants, but he’s trying not to get too high or too low with practices. On the flip side, the defense was terrific and easily won the practice against the offense.
- The Dolphins added several key players to their injury list on Tuesday. Starting defensive end Olivier Vernon (back), running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and tight end Michael Egnew (concussion) all will miss multiple practices, according to the team. It’s also unlikely any of these players will participate in Friday’s exhibition against the Atlanta Falcons.
- With Vernon out, Miami 2013 first-round pick and backup defensive end Dion Jordan has received first-team reps this week. It appears Jordan most likely will get his first career start -- albeit in the preseason -- Friday against the Falcons. This is a good opportunity for Jordan, who had a non-descript rookie year and will be suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Still, Jordan is having a solid camp and continues to make plays in practice.
- The Dolphins will return to practice Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET for their final practice of the week. Miami will have a travel day on Thursday and take the field Friday for its preseason opener against the Falcons.
- It was a semi-light day at Dolphins camp. Miami has its annual team scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Therefore, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin gave many of his veterans a light day of work. Veterans such as defensive end Cameron Wake, cornerback Brent Grimes, left tackle Branden Albert, guard Daryn Colledge and safety Louis Delmas dressed but did not take part in team drills and most individual drills. Friday wrapped a physical week of practice where the Dolphins had three sessions in full pads.
- Dolphins backup receiver Rishard Matthews continued his solid week with another strong practice on Friday. Matthews made a series of nice catches in team and one-on-one drills. Matthews received increased reps after Mike Wallace rested this week with a hamstring injury. Matthews is on the roster bubble this summer because the Dolphins are very deep at that position. Matthews is battling with veteran Brandon Gibson and rookie second-round pick Jarvis Landry for the slot-receiver position.
- This was the first practice out of several where the Dolphins didn’t have issues with the snap. Since Tuesday, Miami centers Nate Garner, David Arkin and Shelley Smith all had botched snaps throughout the week. Friday’s practice was clean in that regard. Also, backup center Nate Garner returned to practice from an ankle injury. However, he did not participate in team drills.
- More on the injury front, quarterback Matt Moore hurt his shoulder this week and will miss multiple practices. He will not play in Saturday’s scrimmage. The same goes for rookie receiver Matt Hazel (concussion) and linebacker Tariq Edwards (knee).
- Here is the Dolphins’ weekend schedule: Miami will hold its annual scrimmage Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium. Then, the Dolphins will take the day off Sunday. Their first preseason game is Aug. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Backup quarterback Matt Moore, rookie wide receiver Matt Hazel and linebacker Tariq Edwards all will miss multiple practices with various ailments, the Dolphins announced Friday morning.
Moore has a shoulder injury and didn’t throw much in team drills Thursday. That means backup quarterbacks Pat Devlin and Seth Lobato will get more reps in training camp. Hazel suffered a concussion after a hit by linebacker Chris McCain in team drills and Edwards has a knee injury.
All three players are not expected to participate in Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium. In addition to this trio, Miami receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring) and center Sam Brenner (ankle) also are dealing with injuries this week. Brenner returned to practice this morning, but Wallace is still out.
Here are seven observations from Tuesday's practice:
- It was a strong day for the Dolphins' defense. Miami's defense was disruptive all practice and, by my count, recorded three interceptions and at least four would-be sacks. (The defense is not allowed to hit quarterbacks in practice.) The Dolphins' defense has been together for three seasons and has been well ahead of the offense on days practice was open to the media. “There's going to be days where one side of the ball has the upper hand,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It looked like the back end and the linebackers, we were doing some good things from a coverage standpoint.”
- Miami receiver Brandon Gibson continues to make progress from last year's season-ending patella tendon tear. Gibson participated in team drills for the first time this offseason. He still doesn't look 100 percent but is moving around relatively well. At this point Gibson looks well on pace to be ready by Week 1.
- Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor had arguably his best practice of the offseason. Taylor, who got reps on the first team, recorded a sideline interception off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Taylor also showed some athleticism by blowing up a running play. Taylor was injured must of last year but is making strong strides this offseason.
- The Dolphins' coaching staff is putting several veterans on the maintenance program during minicamp. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and cornerback Cortland Finnegan sat out team drills Tuesday. It is unknown if that will change during the week.
- After a plan to renovate Sun Life Stadium was passed by the Miami-Dade County Commission in a 7-4 vote, Philbin credited owner Stephen Ross. “Most important to me is it shows the commitment our owner, Stephen Ross, has to making this a world-class organization,” Philbin said.
- Miami rookie defensive end Terrence Fede had the play of the day. Fede, who is 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, dropped in coverage and made a leaping interception off Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore. Fede then advanced the ball about 10 yards as his defensive teammates celebrated.
- Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan continues to flash in practice. He had another would-be sack on Tannehill coming off the corner. Jordan put on about 17 pounds of muscle since last year and looks ready to make a second-year jump after an ineffective rookie year.
Miami will continue its three-day minicamp on Wednesday morning.
Will the Dolphins select a developmental quarterback with one of those selections?
Miami hasn't drafted a quarterback since the team took 2012 first-round pick Ryan Tannehill. Two years later, Tannehill is 15-17 and entering a pivotal third season. Drafting a third, developmental quarterback Saturday might provide long-term insurance.
There are still several big names left on the board at quarterback as the draft begins Round 4. Here are some productive college quarterbacks who are expected to get picked:
- Georgia QB Aaron Murray
- LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
- Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage
- Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron
- Miami QB Stephen Morris
Tannehill is the unquestioned starting quarterback in Miami and veteran Matt Moore is a clear No. 2. But the third quarterback position is wide open with Pat Devlin and Jordan Rodgers. Any college quarterback from this \list could challenge Devlin and Rodgers and serve as a solid developmental project.
- Is Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to blame for the current state of the team?
- Here is a look at the Dolphins' quarterback situation entering the offseason.
- Will Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin ever return to Miami?
- Would Michael Sam be a good fit for the Dolphins?
Here are some additional thoughts on the issue:
- If the report is accurate, this is a clear indication Philbin is aware 2014 is a make-or-break season. The Dolphins never discussed pulling the plug on Tannehill before. Philbin was in the middle of his grace period and could stick with a young quarterback. Although ownership has backed him, many believe Philbin is on the hot seat if he doesn’t win in Year 3. Philbin is 15-17 in two seasons.Tannehill
- The September schedule could be huge for Tannehill and the Dolphins. Miami has the 12th-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL. So there is potential for the Dolphins to have top-flight opponents to start the season. A fast start similar to last season would certainly calm the waters. But if Tannehill gets off to a 1-3 start, for example, will that prompt Philbin to make a change? The schedule is expected to be released in April.
- Overall, I think it’s a bad idea to put Tannehill on a short leash. Although he didn’t make the strides many expected, Tannehill did improve in nearly every major statistical category in 2013. He also did it with an awful offensive line and a poor running game. If this report is accurate, having this message out publicly in February is not good for Tannehill’s confidence. The Dolphins need to be 100-percent behind Tannehill in order to get the best out of him in 2014.
- The Dolphins team site examines the projection by ESPN's Mel Kiper that the Dolphins will take Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin at No. 19 overall.
- Charlie McCarthy of Fox Sports Florida expects the Dolphins to look at more options in the secondary.
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports the Dolphins coaching staff expects more from rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor in 2014.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel wonders if the Dolphins should add competition for starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Both Philbin and Tannehill are 15-17 in Miami and enter a crucial Year 3 together. Here is what La Canfora wrote about the situation.
Philbin's job is riding on Tannehill progressing. I wouldn't doubt a little more pressure from highly paid back–up Matt Moore ($4M salary; $5.5M in cap) in 2014, with Philbin professing his belief in Moore to several of the GM candidates and demanding more from Tannehill.
"He definitely wants to push Tannehill more," said one source who has spoken to Philbin about the quarterbacks, "and if he doesn't see improvement he said he might go to Moore at some point. He definitely has a lot of faith in Moore, and they're paying him a lot of money."
If the report is accurate, I think it’s bad news for Tannehill and the Dolphins to have discussions about a shorter leash in February. Moore clearly is not the long-term solution in Miami, and benching Tannehill would only be a panic move. Tannehill is the best quarterback option the Dolphins have and has the higher ceiling.
It’s still too early to say whether Tannehill is the answer in Miami. But the organization must be 100-percent behind Tannehill this season in order to provide him the best chance to succeed.