NFL Nation: 2013 preseason reaction Week 3 buccaneers-dolphins

MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins completed their fourth game of the preseason in a 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was the important "dress rehearsal" game for Miami, which will now begin to turn most of its attention toward preparation for the regular season.

Before the game I highlighted three keys to watch for the Dolphins. Here is a recap of how the team fared in those areas:

1. Who emerges at tight end? With starting tight end Dustin Keller (knee) out for the season, the Dolphins didn’t gain any clarity Saturday night at the tight end position. Charles Clay got the start and had a shaky game. He struggled to get open and had just one reception for 5 yards. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill targeted Clay six times in the game without much success. Dion Sims also had one reception for 18 yards in the second half. This position remains a work in progress with the regular season right around the corner.

2. Lamar Miller’s workload: Miller entered with just nine carries in the first three preseason games. Miller got his biggest workload of the preseason Saturday against a good run defense with the Buccaneers. Miller rushed for 35 yards on eight carries. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but much of it was gained on a 20-yard run. With Daniel Thomas (seven carries, 3 yards) struggling, Miller secured the starting job for the Dolphins to start the regular season.

3. John Jerry’s progress: Jerry, Miami’s projected starting guard, made his preseason debut for the Dolphins on Saturday. Jerry is returning from a knee injury he suffered in the first week of training camp. He only played in the first quarter and had mixed results. The Dolphins didn’t want to put too much on Jerry’s plate right away. But he has plenty of strides to make before the start of the regular season.

MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins completed their fourth preseason game of the season with a 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. Miami fell to 1-3 in the preseason.

This was the important "dress rehearsal" game for both teams. Here are several observations for the Dolphins:
  • The Dolphins finally got off to a fast start on offense in the preseason. Miami head coach Joe Philbin has been disappointed with the offense needing multiple drives to put points on the board. Miami’s offense, led by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, finally were successful right away with a 17-play, 76-yard field goal drive to start the game. Tannehill completed six passes on the drive and was sharp early. Tannehill later threw a touchdown at the end of the first half. Tannehill's final numbers were 17-of-27 for 150 yards and a touchdown. Outside of some red zone issues and a couple drops, it was a solid performance for Tannehill.
  • The Dolphins were sloppy on special teams. Miami’s punt-return team had two turnovers that led to 10 points for the Buccaneers. Dolphins defensive back Nolan Carroll allowed the ball to hit him in the first quarter while blocking and Tampa Bay recovered. That led to one touchdown. Returner Marcus Thigpen also fumbled in the second quarter, which led to a field goal. Saturday’s game was the dress rehearsal, and it’s clear Miami still has work to do on special teams.
  • Miami still didn’t get much clarity on who will replace injured tight end Dustin Keller, who is out for the year with a knee injury. Charles Clay got the start and recorded just one catch for 5 yards. Clay was targeted six times in the game and had trouble getting open. There were a couple plays where Tannehill tried to force the ball in anyway, and it nearly led to a turnover. This position remains a work in progress with Week 1 of the regular season just around the corner.
  • Dolphins slot receiver Brandon Gibson is expected to get more opportunities over the middle with Keller out. Tannehill went to Gibson eight times in the first half and he recorded five receptions for 43 yards. Gibson also had two drops, and one was a potential touchdown catch over the middle. But based on this game, Tannehill is looking Gibson's way more often.
  • Miami projected starting guard John Jerry made his preseason debut on Saturday. Jerry has been dealing with a knee injury he suffered in the first week of training camp. Jerry played in just one quarter of work with mixed results. The goal is to work off the rust and be ready for Week 1. Jerry was replaced by backup guard Josh Samuda at the start of the second quarter.
  • It was not a good day for Miami's running backs. The Dolphins rushed for just 71 yards on 31 carries, which was a 2.4-yard average. Backup running back Jonas Gray particularly had a tough outing. He rushed for just 12 yards on eight carries. Gray also had a late fumble that led to Tampa Bay's go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Gray is on the bubble heading into cut week and his poor showing Saturday was bad timing.
  • Defensive tackle Jared Odrick had perhaps his best game of the preseason. He was a disruptive force in the first half and registered two tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. Odrick has had a solid training camp and cemented his spot as Miami’s Week 1 starter.
  • It’s only the preseason, but it’s worthy to note that AFC East teams struggled during an important preseason weekend. The New England Patriots were drilled by the Detroit Lions, 40-9. The Buffalo Bills suffered a potential concussion to quarterback Kevin Kolb and lost, 30-7. The New York Jets' starting offense also struggled against the New York Giants, when rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw three first-half interceptions. It was not a strong dress rehearsal week overall for the AFC East. The division has been down for the past two seasons.

The Dolphins will have a busy upcoming week. They will return to the practice field on Monday in preparation for their preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints. The Dolphins also will make roster cuts on Tuesday and Saturday.

All throughout the preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been waiting for quarterback Josh Freeman and the first-team offense to get into a rhythm.

They’re still waiting.

Freeman, who played deep into the third quarter, was far from effective Saturday night in his longest stint of the preseason. He completed 6 of 16 passes for 59 yards in the Bucs' 17-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Sacks, penalties, dropped passes, a lost fumble and inaccurate throws were the story for Freeman and the first unit. The only touchdown by the first team came on a Brian Leonard run after the special teams gave the Bucs good field position when a punt bounced off a Miami blocker.

I never like to read too much into what happens. But I think the Bucs should be concerned about Freeman and the offense.

Some other quick observations on the Bucs:
  • Despite Freeman's struggles, I don't think it's time to declare a quarterback controversy in Tampa Bay just yet. Rookie backup Mike Glennon did lead the Bucs to the game-winning touchdown after safety Sean Baker handed them good field position with a long return of a fumble recovery. But Glennon didn't have a good night overall.
  • The punt team came up with two turnovers that were converted into 10 points. Adam Hayward recovered two Miami fumbles.
  • The unsung story of the night was defensive end Trevor Scott, who recently was signed by the Bucs. Scott was in on three sacks. The Bucs haven’t been thrilled with the development of Da’Quan Bowers, and Scott could end up moving ahead of him.
  • Guard Davin Joseph, who is coming off a major knee injury, made his first appearance of the preseason. Gabe Carimi started at the other guard position in place of Carl Nicks, who is out with a staph infection.
  • Running back Doug Martin sat out, and that gave Leonard more playing time. Leonard continued to look good. He could end up as the top backup to Martin. The Bucs brought in veteran Peyton Hillis, but Leonard and rookie Mike James appear to be ahead of Hillis on the depth chart.
  • Kicker Rian Lindell, who was signed this week, made a 38-yard field goal.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence appears to have locked up a starting spot. He had several tackles for loss against the run.
  • Tampa Bay’s first-team defense gave up some yardage but tightened up twice and made the Dolphins settle for two field goals.
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-10 at intermission. It was an up-and-down start for the Dolphins.

Here are several thoughts at halftime:
  • The Dolphins started sloppily in two phases of the game. Miami made two crucial mistakes on special teams and one on defense that are sure to upset the coaching staff. Cornerback Nolan Carroll mistakenly touched the football on a punt return when the ball hit his helmet and the Buccaneers recovered deep in Miami territory. Two plays later, Dolphins starting cornerback Brent Grimes was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, which led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Buccaneers tailback Brian Leonard. Marcus Thigpen also fumbled his first punt return, which led to a 38-yard field goal by Tampa Bay kicker Rian Lindell.
  • Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' starting offense played fairly well in the first half. Their first drive was solid. Tannehill completed six of eight passes during a 77-yard drive that led to a field goal by rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis. However, Miami’s offense struggled with penalties and inconsistency for a long stretch after that first drive. Following a Tampa Bay turnover, Tannehill finished the first half strong, with a touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Gibson. Tannehill was 17-of-27 for 150 yards and a touchdown. He was also the victim of a couple drops.
  • Miami projected starting guard John Jerry made his preseason debut Saturday. Jerry has been dealing with a knee injury suffered in the first week of training camp. Jerry played just one quarter before he was replaced by backup guard Josh Samuda at the start of the second. The goal for Jerry is to work off the rust and be ready for Week 1.
  • Miami defensive tackle Jared Odrick got off to a fast start. He’s had his way with Tampa Bay’s offensive line and recorded two tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss. Odrick has done a good job in training camp to beat out Randy Starks for a starting job in Week 1.

Miami's starters are expected to play some in the third quarter of this dress rehearsal. We will have a full report on the Dolphins at the end of the game.