Mike McDaniel explains decisions on which Dolphins to play in preseason opener at Buccaneers – The Denver Post


Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel had quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead, cornerback Xavien Howard and several others among 20-plus players that didn’t dress for the team’s preseason-opening win on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New Dolphins center Connor Williams was also among the inactives, which was mildly surprising considering he’s making a move from guard the past four years with the Dallas Cowboys and has had snapping issues during camp.

Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, safety Jevon Holland, edge defender Melvin Ingram, running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, fullback Alec Ingold, linebackers Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts, defensive linemen Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler and tight end Adam Shaheen were the other players that didn’t play. Shaheen was traded this past week to the Houston Texans but returned to the Dolphins after a failed physical with the Texans.

“It’s a balancing act. A lot goes into it. I talked to the players about it. I waited all the way until Thursday evening to finally stamp it,” McDaniel said postgame.

“I talked to the players on Friday that it wasn’t necessarily a punishment or a reward. It was every individual and where they’re at, who needs it to perform on Week 1. You do your best guess, so it wasn’t the, ‘We’re just sitting guys because they’ve done X, Y or Z.’ It was more protecting people against themselves.”

With the inactive list mostly a who’s who of top Dolphins players, tight end Mike Gesicki surprisingly got a start, as did second-year edge defender Jaelan Phillips.

“In general, it is not an easy job to play tight end in the offense, so we thought it would benefit him to get him in a little bit,” McDaniel said of Gesicki, who had the first offensive play, a 13-yard catch and run, drawn up for him. “Having a scope for the whole preseason, we thought it’d be good. We wanted to get him a touch, get him orchestrated and hearing the offense but also protect him.”

Gesicki is transitioning in McDaniel’s offense, which will call for him to block more often. He hadn’t been receiving many targets in practices leading up to the exhibition opener.

“I am a professional football player,” Gesicki said. “We had a game [Saturday], and it was time to play. I love football, so I am happy to play.”

Added McDaniel: “Before watching the tape, I was happy with the way that he played and how he approached it because, again, it wasn’t punishment at all.”

Said Phillips of seeing snaps early: “I was actually excited to play, just get back into the swing of things and get that experience. I’m always trying to keep learning, so never getting complacent.”

Armstead sat out the exhibition after seeing his most active practice day of training camp with his new team on Thursday. He has been slowly worked back into action from an offseason knee procedure after his 2021 campaign with the New Orleans Saints.

Young offensive linemen Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg both started as blockers playing a different position from last year, Jackson going from left guard to right tackle and Eichenberg from left tackle to left guard.

Rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson started with Tagovailoa resting and went 20 of 28 for 218 yards and a touchdown. The seventh-round draft pick got the nod as backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was available if needed but never entered.

McDaniel appeared to be leaning the way of giving Tagovailoa the game off in his Thursday comments ahead of the second of two joint practices with the Buccaneers this week in Tampa.

“Based off of the last couple practices, I’m encouraged about the idea of not playing him,” said McDaniel after watching a string of effective, efficient practices from Tagovailoa in training camp. “That has nothing to do with bottom-line results offensively. It’s more how prepared he is at practice. I just want to continue to build on what he’s been building on.”

Neither team’s starting quarterback suited up on Saturday, as future Hall of Famer Tom Brady began a personal leave from the Buccaneers on Thursday. Tampa Bay rested most of its primary contributors, as well.

McDaniel noted the need to weigh the benefits of in-game preseason reps with the potential injury risk.

“There is value in it, but every time you don’t have a red jersey on, you have the ability to get tackled,” he said. “That’s risk. There’s a lot of risk in the game of football, but you also have to weigh that upon what’s the best thing for regular-season [Week] 1. It’s a constant battle that you just have to take your time and make the best decision, hoping it’s the right decision.”

McDaniel also indicated this week he would be “surprised” if Tagovailoa didn’t get any action in the exhibition season ahead of the Dolphins’ regular-season opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Cornerback Byron Jones is still on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and therefore did not play.

The Dolphins, minutes before kickoff, added safety Sheldrick Redwine, tackle Greg Little, cornerback Kader Kohou and fullback John Lovett to the list of inactives.

Dolphins-Bally partnership

The Miami Dolphins and Bally Sports Florida/Sun on Friday announced a new partnership to bring Dolphins and NFL programming to the regional sports networks this season.

“We look forward to having the Miami Dolphins on Bally Sports and partnering to create more programming for fans, especially at this exciting time for the franchise,” said Steve Tello, Bally Sports Florida/Sun general manager and senior vice president, in a statement.

If you miss the Dolphins’ first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the Saturday night CBS4 broadcast, it is scheduled to replay on Bally Sports Florida on Sunday at 5 p.m. and Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Dolphins programming on Bally will include Dolphins Today, a weekly show that will air every Friday beginning Sept. 2, the weekly Coach Mike McDaniel Show and re-airings of Miami’s three preseason games.

Bally Sports Florida/Sun now carries programming for South Florida’s clubs in the four major professional team sports, as it already covers Miami Heat, Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers games.



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