Observation deck: Bucs-Dolphins
August, 10, 2012
By James Walker | ESPN.com
MIAMI -- The Dolphins began the Joe Philbin era Friday night on a sour note with news of quarterback David Garrard requiring knee surgery. But the Dolphins had a preseason opener to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay beat Miami, 20-7.
Here are some notes and observations:
What I liked: Miami first-round pick Ryan Tannehill showed promise in his NFL debut. The No. 8 overall pick made several nice throws and finished 14-of-21 for 167 yards and one touchdown. Tannehill was just 3-of-7 in the first half. But the rookie warmed up and did better in the second half when the Buccaneers played most of their third stringers. I don't want to overrate anything that happens in the second half of a preseason game. But Tannehill at least showed some things physically that prove he deserves to be in Miami's quarterback race, especially now that Garrard is out with a knee injury.
What I didn’t like: It was a disappointing start for Miami's new-look, 4-3 defense. The Buccaneers played starting quarterback Josh Freeman for just one drive, and Tampa drove down the field 59 yards on 13 plays for a first-quarter touchdown. Freeman was replaced by Buccaneers backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky on the second drive and Miami’s defense still struggled. The Dolphins had a mix of starters and backups on the second drive, but allowed a second consecutive touchdown. Orlovsky made two big connections with receiver Tiquan Underwood for 23 and 44 yards. The Dolphins are relying on their defense to lead the team this year.
Moore up and down: Dolphins starting quarterback Matt Moore failed to make a strong impression with the starting offense. Moore was 7-of-12 for 79 yards and an interception. It wasn't an awful performance. But Moore missed a golden opportunity to put his stamp on this quarterback race. Instead, Moore left the door wide open and will continue to compete with Tannehill.
Johnson's missed opportunity: Chad Johnson only got one chance to impress in his Dolphins debut and missed it. Johnson had one pass thrown his way in limited playing time. It was a third-down throw by Moore that went right through his hands. That drop will probably stick with Johnson until he plays his next game. He’s been the best receiver in training camp for the Dolphins.
Trusnik shines: It's never too early for a bubble watch. Miami backup linebacker Jason Trusnik is one of those players who must impress a new coaching staff to make the team. Trusnik had six tackles (one for loss) and fumble recovery on special teams. Trusnik played with good energy, which has to catch the eye of the coaching staff as he plays his way off the bubble.
Healthy returns: Miami has a lot of options at kickoff returner. But rookie receiver Rishard Matthews was the most impressive. Matthews had two returns for 73 yards, including one return for 46 yards in the first half. Special teams are the best way for Matthews to make the 53-man roster.
What's next: The Dolphins will hit the road next week for a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 17. The Dolphins will continue to evaluate their two quarterbacks while also facing one of the exciting young quarterbacks in the league in Carolina's Cam Newton.