AFC East: 081712 preseason obs

Observation deck: Bills-Vikings

August, 18, 2012
The Buffalo Bills played their second preseason game Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota won the game, 36-14.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's got plenty of plays from their "other" wide receivers. No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson had just one catch for seven yards. But the big question is who will step up after Johnson? Several receivers made their case against Minnesota, including third-round pick T.J. Graham. The rookie led the Bills with 69 yards, including a nice 64-yard catch where Graham showed his speed. Donald Jones also had a 31-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter, and Naaman Roosevelt led Buffalo with six receptions. The receiver group showed improvement against the Vikings.

What I didn't like: I don't like the slow starts from Buffalo. This is a group that is much improved on paper and wants to compete for the playoffs. However, the early returns from the starters have not been stellar. Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder had his way with Buffalo's first-team defense. Ponder carved up the Bills and was 10-of-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota led 10-0 after the first quarter, and Buffalo's offense didn't do much until the second quarter. It's only the preseason, but Buffalo needs to begin developing a more aggressive, winning mindset. The Bills can't assume they can just turn it on against the New York Jets in Week 1.

Young moving head: Vince Young had an important and solid performance against Minnesota that most likely moved him ahead in the race to be the No. 2 quarterback. Young led all Bills quarterbacks by going 8-of-14 for 123 yards. His counterpart, Tyler Thigpen, was 8-of-15 for 56 yards and an interception. The Bills probably will keep just one of these players and make Brad Smith the third quarterback.

Sacks for DTs: The best part of Buffalo's starting defense Friday was its two tackles. Both Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus recorded sacks with the first-team. This pair will be important in getting a push up front against the run and pass. Williams and Dareus showed a glimpse of what they can do together against Minnesota.

What's next: The Bills will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium next week to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be an important, third preseason game for both teams to get ready for the regular season.

Observation deck: Dolphins-Panthers

August, 18, 2012

The Miami Dolphins played their second preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Carolina won the game, 23-17.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't light it up in his first NFL start. But Tannehill showed poise to overcome a slow start. He completed just three of his first 10 passes. But he did better in the second quarter and finished 11-of-23 for 100 yards and was sacked three times. Tannehill at one point completed 5-of-6 passes during a 71-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a nice, 20-yard completion to receiver Jeff Fuller on third down. But overall it was a mixed bag from the rookie, who still has plenty of room to grow. So far this preseason, Tannehill is 25-of-44 passing for 267 yards and one touchdown. Not bad overall for the rookie who only had 19 college starts.

What I didn't like: Is it too early to worry about Miami's starting defense? I don't want to overrate the preseason, especially when the Dolphins were without injured linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and defensive end Cameron Wake. But it is concerning that Miami's first-team defense offered little resistance against Carolina. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton marched Carolina down the field for 17 points on the first three drives. There were two big penalties involved that led to touchdowns. But Miami's red zone defense was horrendous. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-team offense also had a touchdown last week. Miami's first-team defense has allowed 24 points in the first quarter of two preseason games.

Moore is less: What has happened to Matt Moore? The veteran quarterback finished last season on a roll by winning six of his last nine games and having a 87.1 passer rating. But Moore has not looked the same thus far this summer. He had another subpar preseason outing Friday night, completing just 5-of-15 passes for 57 yards. Perhaps the most concerning this week is Moore played exclusively against Carolina’s backups. Granted, Moore had his own backups to throw to. But a veteran with starting experience should have more success. Moore also has struggled in practice, as well, which led to both David Garrard and Tannehill getting the first two preseason starts.

Safety Watch: Miami safety Chris Clemons has been banged up in training camp. But Clemons showed why the coaching staff has played him on the first team. Clemons led the Dolphins with six tackles and had the defensive play of the day with a hit and force fumble on burly Carolina running back Mike Tolbert. Clemson is competing with Jimmy Wilson for the starting safety job and had his best game.

What's next: The Dolphins will return home to Sun Life Stadium for their third and most important preseason game of the summer against the Atlanta Falcons. This is often regarded as the "dress rehearsal" game for the start of the regular season. The big decision will be who will start at quarterback next week, because that probably will be who starts in Week 1 of the regular season. We think Miami should continue to develop Tannehill and start the rookie again.