As is always the case, there were a lot of ups and downs for the Miami Dolphins in their second preseason game. They pushed their way to a late fourth quarter lead, but the Buccaneers took advantage of the Miami backups on defense and managed to kick a winning field goal, defeating the Dolphins 16-14. But the preseason is not about record, it's about evaluation. So here are the top three players for Friday night.
Sam Eguavoen, LB
This is not even a contest. The best player on the field for Miami all night was the former CFL standout. Consider where Eguavoen came from, and it's astonishing he's made it this far. Eguavoen comes from the CFL, as previously mentioned. There, the rules are different, the field is larger, it's a whole different animal. Nonetheless, Eguavoen has unseated Raekwon McMillan as a starter on the defense even before his injury, and he's proving he deserves that.
Eguavoen made six tackles, two for a loss, and forced a fumble against the Buccaneers on Friday. It's been a long time since the Dolphins had a linebacker with that kind of playmaking ability. He's undoubtedly going to make the team, and it's well-deserved. This preseason game against Tampa Bay only confirms Eguavoen's ability.
Charles Harris, DE
Just when it seemed all hope was lost for the former first round pick, he has a game like this. Charles Harris consistently applied pressure, and even managed to set the edge on his way to four tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Buccaneers. Never has he been more physical. Surprisingly, he looked more like a well-rounded defensive end more than just a pure speed pass rusher. For Harris, that's a major accomplishment.
The Dolphins coaching staff is clearly working on his pass rush technique and the strength of his hands, and it appears to finally be paying off. Miami needs pass rushers, and Harris improving takes some of the pressure off the coaches and front office, and puts it on opposing QBs.
Patrick Laird, RB
Surprisingly, the best running back of the evening was the one who has the least impressive reputation. Patrick Laird, an undrafted free agent out of Cal, showed shiftiness and power that no one could have predicted. It makes one question why he hasn't been getting more looks higher up on the depth chart. Laird ran the ball seven times for a total of 51 yards, and he also caught two passes for a total of 16 yards and Miami's only touchdown of the night.
Laird's numbers would have been even higher but there were some unfortunate holding calls on the backup offensive linemen. Nonetheless, even with the numbers as they are, Laird was by far the superior running back. He still has Mark Walton and Myles Gaskin ahead of him, but Friday's preseason performance should put an idea in head coach Brian Flores's head that Laird needs more looks.