- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins are nearly done with the preseason. The team had its “dress rehearsal” game on Saturday in a 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dolphins fell to 1-3 in the preseason.
Here is a look at whose stock is up and down with the Dolphins:
1. Dolphins tight ends: This was the first showcase for Miami’s tight ends following the recent season-ending knee injury to Dustin Keller. The initial results were not promising. Miami’s tight ends combined for just three receptions and 34 yards in the loss to the Buccaneers. New starter Charles Clay had just one reception for five yards, despite being targeted six times. Rookie Dion Sims and Kyle Miller also had one catch apiece. Michael Egnew did not register a reception. The tight end was expected to be an important factor in Miami’s offense this year when Keller was healthy. Unless someone steps up quickly, the Dolphins’ coaching staff may have to change that philosophy.
2. Daniel Thomas, tailback: Thomas gained some momentum the past two weeks after solid practices and preseason performances. There was some thought that he was pushing Lamar Miller for the starting running-back job. But Thomas couldn’t get anything going in this important game against the Buccaneers. He rushed for just three yards on seven carries. Thomas averaged just 0.4 yards per carry, which all but cemented Miller to start in Week 1.
3. Jonas Gray, tailback: It was a tough day overall for Miami’s running backs. Gray was on the bubble and needed a great performance. Instead, he rushed for just 12 yards on eight carries. Gray also fumbled late in the fourth quarter, which led to the Buccaneers’ go-ahead touchdown. The game was meaningless in the standings, but it certainly doesn’t earn the trust of the coaching staff. Gray was on the bubble coming in, and the timing of Gray’s poor performance may keep him off the 53-man roster.
1. Dolphins defense: Miami’s first-team defense isn’t getting a lot of playing time this preseason. But this group has looked fast and sharp lately in limited playing time. The Dolphins held Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman to just 59 yards passing. Miami allowed 10 points in the first half, but all of that was due to two gaffes on special teams in its own territory. The Dolphins have a lot of talent on that side of the ball, and it’s showing. The defense looks ready.
2. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: Tannehill has quietly put together three solid preseason performances in a row. Tannehill was 17 of 27 for 150 yards and a touchdown in two quarters of work against the Buccaneers. He had a passer rating of 90.0, which is the third straight week he met or surpassed that mark. Tannehill is missing his tight end, but he’s showing good chemistry with his receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. If Miami’s offense can improve in the red-zone, it will be ready for the regular season.
3. Jonathan Freeny, linebacker: The Dolphins have waited for weeks for a backup linebacker to step up. Freeny did so by leading the Dolphins Saturday with four tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. Miami’s backup linebacker spots are wide open, and Freeny made a good impression at the right time. He’s still on the bubble. But Freeny must feel better about his standing than he did one week ago.