No, the Dolphins’ decision-making troika will not be taking a victory lap after several of their offseason pickups helped mightily in Sunday’s opener against Tennessee.
But for a day, at least, most of the key additions made by Adam Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier made important contributions.
There was Albert Wilson jitterbugging all over the field, breaking tackles.
There was Danny Amendola finding seams in the Tennessee secondary.
There was Robert Quinn applying a bit of pressure and holding up stoutly in the run game.
There was Minkah Fitzpatrick making a fantastic tackle at the goal line to prevent a Tennessee touchdown.
There were new offensive linemen Daniel Kilgore and Josh Sitton providing generally stellar protection for Ryan Tannehill and creating holes in the running game.
And there was Frank Gore steamrolling through those holes, displaying a burst that belies his age (35).
Gore collected his 61 rushing yards on 6.8 per carry — his highest per carry average since averaging 7.6 yards per attempt as a San Francisco 49er (20 for 153) in a September 2013 game at the Rams.
Gore averaged only 3.7 yards per carry for the Colts last season, but the Dolphins believed that was primarily the result of deficient blocking, privately citing the fact his yards after contact had increased in recent years.
And on Sunday, 32 of his yards came after contact, according to Pro Football Focus, which gave him the highest grade of any Dolphins offensive player for the opener.
Meanwhile, Kilgore and Sitton were part of a line that allowed only one sack and helped Miami average 4.1 per carry.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kilgore graded out eighth among centers for the first week of the season and Sitton was 27th among 56 guards.
Wilson broke tackles on all three of his receptions, including one that allowed Miami to convert a third down.
“Albert did a really good job of making plays that were really nothing into something, making defenders miss,” Gase said.
Wilson (three receptions for 31 yards) and Amendola (4 for 26) combined for 7 receptions for 57 yards – on par with Jarvis Landry’s per game averages for the Dolphins last season (7 for 61).
Wilson and Amendola are combining to earn about $1 million less, per year on average, than the $15 million that Landry is averaging in his five-year contract with Cleveland. But more importantly, the Wilson/Amendola deals are worth a combined $36 million, compared with $75 million for Landry.
Defensively, Quinn didn’t have a sack, but PFF ranked him fifth among all defensive ends in run defense through Sunday’s games and the matchup was very competitive with Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan before Lewan left with a concussion in the second quarter.
Both Quinn and the other newcomer on the defensive line, Akeem Spence, were barreling in on Titans quarterback Blaine Gabbert before Gabbert’s rushed screen pass was intercepted by Kiko Alonso.
As for Fitzpatrick, the rookie first-rounder shifted momentum when he pushed aside Rishard Matthews to stop Corey Davis on a fourth and goal, preventing a touchdown that would have put the Titans up 10-0.
“They didn’t run it a whole lot, but it’s a combo route that teams run down there,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a good play, especially in a zone coverage. They pick one guy; the guy in the flat is wide open.”
PFF said Fitzpatrick graded out the best of any Dolphins defender Sunday; he allowed just three completions in six attempts for 14 yards and had six tackles.
Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Jerome Baker was decent, ranking the best of Miami’s linebackers by PFF, 44th of 74 qualifiers.
And a couple of other newcomers left positive impressions.
Rookie kicker Jason Sanders made both of his field goal attempts (from 27 and 30 yards) and all three extra point attempts, but a couple of his kickoffs were too short.
Special teams ace Brandon Bolden, who the Dolphins signed after being cut by the Patriots, had a key block on Jakeem Grant’s 102-yard kickoff return and made a key tackle to prevent a potentially very long return.
Meanwhile, Mike Gesicki had an adequate debut, ranking both 33th overall and 33rd in blocking (where there has been some improvement) among 53 qualifying tight ends evaluated by PFF.
As for prominent jettisoned Dolphins, Landry caught seven passes for 106 yards in his Cleveland debut. Ndamukong Suh had four tackles for the Rams and new Chargers center Mike Pouncey graded out sixth among centers in PFF’s evaluations.
But the Dolphins could emerge from Sunday feeling pretty good about the moves they made, even while knowing it’s far too soon to make any definitive conclusions.