Dolphins are off to surprising 1-5 start

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. The Jaguars won 23-20. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: Ian Walton

caption arrowCaption
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. The Jaguars won 23-20. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: Ian Walton

Credit: Ian Walton

FLOWERY BRANCH — In August, the Falcons and the Dolphins got together for a couple of joint practices before playing an exhibition game.

ExploreFalcons’ depth chart against Dolphins

The value of that time spent in the heat of the summer will get a new barometer when the Falcons (2-3) play the Dolphins (1-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Dolphins were coming off a 10-6 season and were expected to contend in the AFC East. But they will enter the game on a five-game losing streak, including a 23-20 loss Sunday to Jacksonville in London.

The joint practices are a distance memory.

“The one benefit is for both teams,” Miami coach Brian Flores said Monday on a virtual call. “We’ll have familiarity with their players. But I’m sure (Falcons coach) Arthur (Smith) didn’t show all of his cards, and we didn’t show ours.”

The Dolphins pummeled the Falcons, who didn’t play many starters, in the Aug. 21 exhibition game 37-17.

“They’ve got a tough and competitive team,” Flores said. “We know it will be a tough game. But as far as them coming down here and practicing, both teams got a lot of that. I think it will be a competitive game.”

The Falcons are coming off their bye week after a win over the Jets in London.

“It wasn’t like we were full-out game-planning and you got a feel for them,” Smith said of the joint practices. “You have a little better feel for the personnel, but … we are a completely different team from when we went down there.”

For Falcons safety Duron Harmon, the joint practices will have plenty of value.

“I can take away just the personnel,” Harmon said. “Like how (tight end) Mike Gesicki moves. How (tight end Durham) Smythe moves. Their tight ends and what their quarterback was doing from a look-off standpoint. Who are their deep threats ...

”They are probably still not the same team because they are dealing with injuries. But at the end of the day, you can still take away some things. I’ll make sure that I go back and watch the practices and see how they were trying to move the ball.”

Miami owner Stephen M. Ross is disappointed with the start.

“He wants to see our team have success, but that’s really everybody,” Flores said. “He’s no different than the players, coaches and the support staff and the fans. So, we’ve got to be better.”

The Dolphins opened the season with a 17-16 win over New England. They were not competitive in games against Buffalo (35-0) and Tampa Bay (45-17). They also have a two-score loss to the Colts (27-17) and a one-score loss to Las Vegas (31-28).

“Yeah, there is a slim, slim margin for error,” Flores said. “We’re on the wrong side of that right now. We just need to continue to work.”

caption arrowCaption
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) drops to his knees after an injury suffered in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Credit: TNS

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) drops to his knees after an injury suffered in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Credit: TNS

caption arrowCaption
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) drops to his knees after an injury suffered in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fractured his ribs in Week 2. He returned against Jacksonville and completed 33 of 47 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one costly interception. The Jaguars needed two late field goals to snap their 20-game losing streak.

“There are times out there when he looks like the best quarterback on the field,” Harmon said. “You see the throws that he makes. The reads that he makes. You see the scrambling ability, which I don’t think enough people talk about and how he can really hurt you with his feet by picking up those first downs on third down.”

Tagovailoa’s top targets are rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and Gesicki.

“I think just with him, you have to see what his strengths are and try to neutralize that and then make him play right-handed,” Harmon said.

Tagovailoa was sharp in the joint practices.

“We practiced against him, so I’ve seen him scramble and run around a little bit,” Falcons defensive end Steven Means said. “It’s definitely a good part of his game that we have to make sure that we maintain. We’re going to have to keep him in the pocket. We are going to have to do everything that we can to neutralize that part of his game and try to make him throw from the (pocket).”

While they got Tagovailoa back, the Dolphins were with their top two cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Also, wide receivers DeVante Parker and Preston Williams were injured and did not play against Jacksonville.

“Byron practiced last week,” said Flores, who didn’t mind giving an early-week injury report. “Preston practiced a little bit last week. X (Howard) did not. DeVante did not. (Tight end Adam) Shaheen practiced. The guys who practiced are probably a little bit closer (to playing) than the guys who didn’t. But obviously we’ll know more later … and through treatment.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

For more content about The Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DOrlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule

About the Author

Editors' Picks