Observation deck: Dolphins-Panthers

August, 18, 2012
8/18/12
8:20
AM ET

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.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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