Jakeem Grant made the most of his opportunity in Thursday’s preseason finale at Minnesota. Grant, the Miami Dolphins’ 5-foot-6, second-year receiver, was a one-man wrecking crew with four receptions for 141 yards in the first half, including a 65-yard reception, to lead Miami to a 30-9 victory over the Vikings.
Overall, it was a night for the guys who will do the heavy lifting during the season to rest. Quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Jay Ajayi, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end Cameron Wake, strong safety Reshad Jones and others of their ilk had the night off.
Safety Nate Allen was the most prominent Dolphins player to suit up, considering he’s a veteran projected starter. Rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, a projected starter, got a start alongside fellow defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Those two are locked in a battle for the starting job beside Suh.
Among other key players to play Thursday were rookie defensive end Charles Harris, the first-round pick from Missouri, safety Michael Thomas, left guard Jesse Davis, running back Kenyan Drake (eight carries, 27 yards, one touchdown in the first half), and Grant.
Harris, who played most of the first quarter, ended with a quarterback pressure.
The speedy Grant, who had a 69-yard touchdown reception at Philadelphia last week, continues to be one of the success stories of the offseason, training camp and preseason. He’s worked exclusively at outside receiver as opposed to the slot, which he played last season, and on special teams he hasn’t mishandled a punt or kickoff, a major concern from last year.
Although Grant, who also had receptions of 28 and 37 yards, had a deep throw go through his hands, it was a good showing for him and quarterback David Fales, who was 9 of 15 for 139 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half, when the Dolphins built a 23-6 lead.
One of the less-publicized position battles that might have been settled Thursday is at punter where incumbent Matt Darr is battling newcomer Matt Haack, who had a 47-yarder on his first punt.
“It’s competitive,” Gase said. “It’s good to see both those guys hitting the ball the way they have been. In practice, we get a lot more looks, and [it is] very competitive. In games, we’ve seen both guys really hit some really good ones.
“We’re just going to keep letting those guys compete until the end. Really at the end of the day, when we look at it, we’ll get with ‘Rizz’ (associate head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi) and ‘Mouf’ (assistant special teams coach Marwan Maalouf) and figure out what’s best for us.”
Omar Kelly's 10 things we learned from the Dolphins' 30-9 win over the Vikings
Despite sitting most of the starters, the Dolphins dominated the Minnesota Vikings during Thursday night’s preseason finale, as numerous players put together good performances before Miami has to trim the training camp roster from 90 to 53 players on Saturday. At this point it is difficult to say if any player saved themselves Thursday night, but general manager Chris Grier and his staff have to feel a little better about the roster they’ve assembled. Here are 10 observations from the Dolphins-Vikings game: (Omar Kelly)
At running back, Drake, the main backup behind Ajayi, got extensive work while Damien Williams, the third-down specialist, rested. Gase said earlier in the week the running back decision, presumably whether to keep three or four running backs on the 53-man regular-season roster, is tough. The fourth would likely be either Storm Johnson or Senorice Perry, who is battling a knee injury.
“I feel like we did get a little lucky last year by having three guys for the entire year that pretty much stayed healthy,” he said. “We’re going to keep looking at that, we’re going to see how our roster shakes out, see what the health of everybody is after this game, and then we’ll make some decisions after that.”
It’s hard to say how many spots were actually won or lost Thursday because it seemed the Dolphins’ roster was close to being set before the game. Perhaps guys such as offensive tackle Eric Smith, cornerback Torry McTyer, safety Maurice Smith or linebacker Chase Allen got a chance to put some final thoughts into the coaches’ minds before the 4 p.m. Saturday cuts.
But overall, most of the roster decisions were probably made entering Thursday’s game, and some of the ones that weren’t made might not be finalized until after Saturday when more than 1,000 players will be released.
“I feel good at a lot of spots,” Gase said last week, “but we just want to make sure that we try to tighten it up here over the next 10 days.”