There’s never too much excitement around the Miami Dolphins.
Each year fans gather in anticipation that the Dolphins can finally break through and get into the playoffs. On Saturday night when the Dolphins played against the Atlanta Falcons the stadium looked like it was near full capacity for a meaningless preseason game; that’s how you know that the Miami Dolphins have created a lot of buzz throughout the city.
The buzz they are creating is well warranted because the Dolphins are going to make noise. However, we’ll have to wait until the regular season to do it. Don’t worry though when the Dolphins played the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night inside of Sun Life Stadium, there was plenty of optimism to go around.
Here are five things that we learned from watching the Miami Dolphins play against the Falcons.
1. Is Ryan Tannehill a Top-10 Quarterback?
Is it time to anoint Ryan Tannehill as a top ten quarterback? His time to shine might be a lot sooner than you think. According to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill’s already reached that plateau. On their quarterback rankings, he’s actually ahead of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Whether or not you feel Tannehill’s reached the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL is up for question. What can’t be questioned is how consistent he’s been playing the entire preseason. In the preseason Tannehill’s completed better than 79 percent of his passes in every game, he’s thrown for at least a touchdown, and he hasn’t thrown an interception. If that doesn’t scream growth then you’re hating.
Tannehill's line tonight: 15 of 19, 145 yards and a touchdown. Passer rating: 116.0.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) August 30, 2015
It’s time to give him some props. Ultimately though Tannehill will be judged on if he can take the Dolphins to the playoffs. If he keeps playing like this, he might be able to take them to the Super Bowl.
2. The Defensive Line Is Serious
To say that the Miami Dolphins defensive line is good is an egregious understatement.
The Dolphins defensive line looked like they were playing with fire underneath their tails because as soon as the football got snapped they were off to the races. The defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh, pressured Matt Ryan and T.J. Yates the entire first half. With that pressure created by Suh, it was difficult for Matt Ryan to find a groove and he left the game completing less than 50% of his passes (42% exactly).
By the end of the first half, the Dolphins forced four sacks, two of them which were credited to Earl Mitchell and Cameron Wake. It also doesn’t hurt that they forced two fumbles during the game. Even when Suh and the rest of the starting defensive line went out the game, the defensive line didn’t miss a beat. It’s easy to see what the strongest position of strength is from the team.
3. The Second String Is a Strong Link
In football especially more than most team sports, in order to have a competitive team that wins a lot of games it’s going to come down to the second string. The Dolphins last season didn’t have much depth and it showed because at the end of the season they looked gassed.
The Dolphins defense particularly looked winded when it came to making plays late in games and it was because there wasn’t much talent to come into the game and step up.
This year it’s much different, exceptionally on defense. The second string defensive line of the Dolphins looks like they could start on other rosters around the NFL. Furthermore, offensively the Dolphins have a rookie running back in Jay Ajayi who was a fifth-round pick but it’s expected to make a huge impact for the team. Against the Falcons, Ajayi went for three carries for 16 yards and had a 5.3 yards per carry average. If he can spell Lamar Miller with that type of production fans are going to love his game.
4. Sun Life Stadium Looks Awesome
Stephen Ross wasn’t playing when he said that the additions to Sun Life Stadium was going to make people jealous across the country. The newly renovated Sun Life Stadium, simply put, looks awesome.
Kudos to the Fins, @SunLifeStadium is looking really really nice.
Come see for yourself at our home opener Saturday. pic.twitter.com/XAkD2MNTM9
— Brian Bowsher (@brianbowsher) August 30, 2015
The execution of getting rid of the dreadful orange seats around the stadium and swapping them for aqua colored seats was the right decision. Not only is the stadium ascetically pleasing to the eye, it looks like there’s a bigger home-field advantage. When fans sit around the stadium and they’re in their Miami Dolphins gear it matches a lot more with the vibe of the stadium.
Yeah I could get used to this. pic.twitter.com/IHHcNN8DjQ
— Brian Bowsher (@brianbowsher) August 29, 2015
Another sweet caveat is the food selection that’s offered inside of Sun Life. Inside of the stadium fans can select from Bru’s Room, Cafe Versailles, Everglades BBQ and Burger FI. When the stadium is completely finished in the next two seasons it’s only going to get better.
5. Bittersweet Homecoming For Falcons
Even though many people were rooting or the Miami Dolphins to win, there were just as many people in the stands who wanted to see some of the Atlanta Falcons do well too. Two of the Falcons, accurately, were fan favorites down here in South Florida, Devin Hester & Leonard Hankerson. Each of the two played for the beloved Miami Hurricanes during their time in South Florida and were each fan favorites when they played. Hester, in particular, is a legend for the electrifying things that we saw from him during his time playing in Coral Gables.
As for Hankerson, he had a strong senior season playing for Miami and turned it into an NFL career.
The two each had decent games in limited playing time. Hester finished with two catches for 21 yards. Hankerson shined with three catches for 50 yards.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey.