The Miami Dolphins have come out on top against the Atlanta Falcons in their first preseason game of 2019, but it would be foolish to assume everything was wonderful. Even though plenty of players managed to shine, there were a lot of players who struggled mightily. Here are just the bottom three players who need to start showing major improvement in a hurry.
Nik Needham, CB
No one struggled on the field more than undrafted free agent Nik Needham did on Thursday. Needham is in the running to win the starting cornerback job opposite Pro Bowler Xavien Howard. He did not make a good case for himself, especially since he was sent to the field from the first quarter, all the way until nearly the end of the game. It didn’t matter if it was Matt Schaub or Matt Simms, Needham failed to make any sort of positive impact.
He was routinely picked on, lost track of coverage, missed tackles, committed costly penalties; name it, he did it.
When it comes to No.40, I don’t think we Needham anymore. I think I’ve seen enough from Nik. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/WObgWeFbaB
— Orlando Alzugaray (@BigOShow) August 9, 2019
It’s yet to be revealed how heavily coach Flores weighs preseason performances in his decision making. In the eyes of many, Needham has already played himself out of contention for a roster spot. It’s hard to blame them, given just how bad he was. There are other players who want his spot on the roster, not the least of which is Jomal Wiltz (who also struggled a bit).
Truly, it’s a shame that Cordrea Tankersley seems stuck on the PUP list. The Dolphins could use him right now. And with Eric Rowe out of the picture for an undetermined length of time with an undisclosed injury, Miami’s second boundary corner spot is looking extremely weak.
Jordan Mills, OT
Laremy Tunsil did not play on Thursday for precautionary reasons, which meant that someone needed to take his place at left tackle. That someone turned out to be veteran tackle Jordan Mills. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty to watch. Mills routinely allowed defenders to get past him, forcing both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen to make miraculous plays just to keep drives alive. He’s slow out of his stance, he’s unable to keep up with rushers, he’s showing why the Buffalo Bills let him walk.
Granted, Mills hasn’t played left tackle since 2009, back when he was in college. However, the fact Jesse Davis already ranks above him at right tackle as well speaks volumes. Miami needs to find someone else to compete in preseason if Mills can’t measure up to expectations. Ironically enough, Sam Young, Miami’s former utility tackle, is still on the market. Recently, Young worked out for the Buffalo Bills, but left without a contract.
If Mills continues to play like this, the Dolphins should give Young a call. He’s by no means a superstar, but he will provide better backup potential than Mills seems capable of.
Michael Deiter, G
It hurts to see this, but rookie guard Michael Deiter makes the worst player list. True, the Wisconsin guard is still young and inexperienced, but he’s supposed to be a solid player. Third round pick, comes from a school famous for producing offensive linemen, what could go wrong? Evidently, enough that Deiter couldn’t hold his own against the Falcons pass rush. Even undrafted free agent Shaq Calhoun, who also struggled, performed better than Deiter.
After the rest of the starters on the OL came out of the game, Deiter and Calhoun remained. Head coach Brian Flores apparently wanted them to get in more snaps, and he was justified in making that decision. Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo said that Deiter needed work, and he was right. Deiter even admitted as such himself, and he was also right. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time for Deiter to develop, so things aren’t hopeless yet.
However, if Deiter wants to legitimately be named the starter, he’ll have to get his act together before the preseason ends. Brian Flores will continue to stress basics and fundamentals, and Deiter needs to continue mastering them.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung