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AFC East Report: Brian Flores’ tenure with the Dolphins is off to a solid start

New England’s former assistant coach won his preseason debut.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The NFL preseason is in full swing, and for one former member of the New England Patriots it started well: the Miami Dolphins under new head coach Brian Flores, who joined the team over the course of the offseason after working as the Patriots’ defensive signal caller during their 2018 Super Bowl run, were able to defeat the Atlanta Falcons with a final score of 34-27. The team certainly showed some signs of life along the way.

Offseason acquisition Josh Rosen looked solid after entering the contest early in the second quarter, for example. The former first-round quarterback, who is currently the number two behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, did not post particularly impressive numbers — he completed 13 of 20 pass attempts for 191 yards and an interception — but looked comfortable in the new system and made generally smart decisions. He was not the only positive, though.

Led by roster locks Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, the running game also had a solid performance early on in the game. The defense, meanwhile, had its moments after giving up a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub to open the game. While the entire unit was up and down and had some inconsistencies when it came to rushing the passer, it did show some encouraging signs to build on.

All in all, Flores should feel good about his preseason debut as an NFL head coach. If he learned anything from his mentor, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick, he will quickly turn the page to what lies ahead for him, his staff and his players, though.

While Flores opened his tenure as Dolphins head coach with a win, the new leader of the New York Jets saw his team fall 31-22 to the in-city rival Giants. Adam Gase’s team was inconsistent with the depth secondary and kicker Chandler Catanzaro in particular struggling. However, the starting offense — it was on the field for one series and scored off a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive — looked promising.

The best takeaway from the game for New York was the performance of second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. While he should have thrown a pick-six on his first pass attempt that was dropped instead, he appeared to be in total command for the rest of the series. All in all, he finished the drive and his game by completing 4 of 5 of his passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Darnold did not do much, but he was solid.

Speaking of solid, New York’s first-team defense also looked good. A large portion of its players was on the field for just three snaps, but they did their job: the Jets surrendered only four yards on their first defensive position of the day before the unit made way for the punt coverage team and later the second-stringers. The sample size is small and the Giants’ offense as a hot mess, but the starting defense still performed well.

The Buffalo Bills also did their collective job on Thursday, and were able to beat the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts 24-16. As is the case with the Dolphins’ and Jets’ performances, everything has to be taken with a grain of salt — it is preseason after all — but there were some positives to take away from the Bills’ perspective. The team’s starting defense looked good, as did backup quarterback Matt Barkley.

Starter Josh Allen, on the other hand, was not particularly effective: the second-year man, who like Rosen and Darnold was selected in the first round in the 2018 draft, completed 6 of his 11 attempts for 66 yards but struggled with his ball placement at times. He played just two drives but failed to put points on the board — even though part of the blame has to go to kicker Stephen Hauschka for missing a 34-yard field goal to cap the second series.

Still, it would not be a surprise if the Bills will again only go so far this season as Allen will allow them to — even though the sample size was limited and the circumstances need to be considered. That being said, the 23-year old has the advantage of playing on a team with one of the NFL’s most talented defenses. If it can live up to its talent, Allen may not be needed to carry the Bills on a week-to-week basis. On Thursday, for example, the starting unit forced two punts on its only two series.