Home / J.T. Wilcox / Nickel Coverage: Cutler Starts, Dolphins Fall To Ravens

Nickel Coverage: Cutler Starts, Dolphins Fall To Ravens


The Dolphins’ Thursday night preseason game did a lot of “preseason-ing”, as Miami fell to the visiting Baltimore Ravens 31-7 in the team’s last home preseason game.

The Fins, who will play its final two preseason games on the road, led 7-0 early in the second quarter and then proceeded to give up 31 unanswered points over the final 43 minutes of the game.

Miami, which will play the Philadelphia Eagles next Thursday, was outgained 382 to 120 in total yards and allowed the Ravens to convert 9-of-17 third downs while only converting 2-of-12 of its own.

Five storylines from Thursday’s game:

Cutler’s Opening Act

Dolphins fans got their first look at the guy who’s slated to be the starting quarterback when real games start in about three weeks.

Jay Cutler, who had to be coerced out of retirement by Miami head coach Adam Gase and signed a 1-year deal with the team two weeks ago, started the game and played two series Thursday.

His very first play was a handoff to Jay Ajayi, and he followed that up by completing a check-down to Ajayi for an 11-yard gain.

Considering he spent most of the offseason apparently on clothing-optional beaches with his wife and preparing to become an NFL broadcaster, Cutler didn’t look too rusty Thursday.

Cutler showed good pocket presence, avoiding the Ravens pass rush by sliding through the pocket before connecting with DeVante Parker on a back-shoulder throw near the Fins sideline for 23 yards. Unfortunately, the play was wiped away due to a holding penalty on offensive lineman Sam Young – his second infraction of that drive.

Cutler’s second series wasn’t as eventful. He completed a 16-yard pass to Parker and followed that up with two incomplete passes, which led to a punt.

Cutler finished the night 3-of-6 for 24 yards and said the hardest part of Thursday night was the waiting.

“Just the waiting…going through the pregame and waiting for the game to start,” Cutler said after the game. “But once we got out there and Adam [Gase] was in my ear and we started rolling around, it was fun.”

Gase, who coached Cutler for a season in Chicago as the Bears offensive coordinator in 2015, sounded like he had Peaches & Herb’s Reunited playing in his head when he spoke about Cutler after the game.

“I thought he was good…it looks like we weren’t apart for a year,” Gase said. “It was probably good for him to get hit, good for him to move around the pocket, I thought he did a good job there and he made some good throws.”

“I didn’t want to over-do-it with [Cutler] tonight.”

Special Teams Woes

The Dolphins second quarter lead was squandered away by a pair of special teams blunders.

After Baltimore used 52-yard Justin Tucker field goal to cut Miami’s lead down to 7-3, the Dolphins gave the Ravens the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff when Senorise Perry fumbled the return and gave Baltimore the ball back on the Miami 24-yard line.

The Ravens’ drive stalled and Tucker tacked on another field goal.

Miami’s lead completely evaporated three minutes later when Ravens receiver Chris Matthews made his way around the line of scrimmage and blocked Matt Darr’s punt and set Baltimore up on the Dolphins’ 4-yard line. The Ravens took the lead on Ryan Mallett 1-yard touchdown pass to Larry Donnell.

Rookie receiver Drew Morgan didn’t do himself any favors either when he muffed the catch on a punt return early in the third quarter. He recovered the loose ball but could’ve easily dug Miami’s hole even deeper.

Specials teams coach Darren Rizzi was visibly upset on the sideline.

Hull In The Middle

With rookie Raekwon McMillan headed to the injury reserve list with his torn ACL, second-year linebacker Mike Hull got the start at middle linebacker for the Dolphins Thursday.

It was Hull who filled in for McMillan last week when he went down with the knee injury on a special teams play and he played most of the first half against Baltimore.

The 6-foot, 237-pound former Penn State linebacker finished the game with five total tackles – including a tackle for loss.

Spotlighting Hull during multiple series Thursday, you could see where he shines as well as where he struggles.

When plays would flow towards him, his short stature would haunt him because he would get “walled off” or get lost in the traffic of the play and would be relegated to pursuing the play from behind once he could see the ball carrier.

Hull does play with a tenacity that enables him to be around the ball, a lot.

Gase said he expects that kind of energy from Hull.

“He’s always active, that’s him,” Gase said. “This year it’s a bit different for him. Last year he was filling in for guys and was just trying to do what he does. This year, he’s playing in between Kiko [Alonso] and Lawrence [Timmons] so it’s a bit different…it’s better for him.”

Who’s Number Three?

Cutler and Matt Moore represent the Dolphins’ top two quarterbacks respectively, right now.

And it is hard to think that the Fins will elect to keep more than those two on the active roster moving forward, which means Brandon Doughty and David Fales are essentially fighting for a spot on the team’s practice squad.

Fales got the most playing time Thursday, replacing Matt Moore during the second quarter and playing through the early part of the fourth quarter.

Brandon Doughty, who got the lion’s share of the reps during Miami’s first preseason game played the final few drives of the fourth quarter against Baltimore’s reserves.

“We’re trying to get those guys as many reps as possible – get some good tape of them to keep evaluating them.”

Stat Line

Perry scored the team’s only touchdown. He finished with 25 yards on six carries – both team-highs.

Ajayi, who had been in concussion protocol, played just the first series of the game. He was taken out after he took a big hit on the Dolphins’ sideline, which drew an unnecessary roughness penalty on Baltimore’s Eric Weddle, and finished with two carries for negative-2 yards.

Former University of Miami and Miramar High receiver Malcolm Lewis tied for the team-high with two catches for 15 yards.

Rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and Xavien Howard each recorded interceptions on Mallett.

About J.T. Wilcox

J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist that has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" Blog and "The Baldcast" Podcast. J.T. Wilcox joined the Football Hotbed staff in 2017.

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