The feel good aura of the Philbin era came crashing back to reality as Tampa Bay routed Miami 20-7 in the muggy rain of a practically empty Sun Life Stadium, Friday night. The game started with the news of David Garrard’s arthroscopic knee surgery and went downhill from there. The Dolphin offense never found its stride and the defensive backfield looked lost in the new 4-3 scheme.
Garrard prepared for several weeks, looking like the starter, when the injury thrust Matt Moore into the spotlight, seemingly moments before the game. Garrard was getting most of the 1st team snaps and Moore did not look sharp with the starting receiving corps.
Chad Johnson’s New England disappearing act continued in Miami, as his impersonation of the invisible man was spot on. The act was epitomized when Johnson dropped the only pass thrown his way to kill a Miami drive. Johnson’s name does not appear on the stats sheet, if it weren’t for the awkward dropped ball, Miami fans would not have known he was on the field.
The focus of the game was obviously on the QBs, as the Dolphins threw the ball 50 times, while accumulating only 15 rushing attempts. Ryan Tannehill stole the show completing 14 of 21 passes for 167 yards with the Dolphins only TD, Tannehill also had a TD overturned by replay. Moore was a lethargic 7 of 12 for 79 yards and an interception, with Pat Devlin a pedestrian 9 of 17 for 65 yards.
The injury to Garrard was the opportunity Moore needed to take over the team and lead them in a game situation. Moore failed miserably, leaving the door wide open for Ryan Tannehill to become the 1st rookie to start his 1st game as a Dolphin. Tannehill looked the part, with a quick compact release and a fearless gunslinger mentality. Many Dolphin fans had hoped Tannehill would start the season carrying a clipboard, but the Garrard injury could drastically change that notion.
The heat on Matt Moore just turned red hot without Garrard taking snaps, Moore will have to clearly outperform Tannehill or the Dolphins will have no choice but to start the rookie. If Tannehill enters the season as the starter, either Garrard or Moore will be cut and Garrard is the likely choice. Garrard has very little value on the trade market, while Moore has shown enough, and is young enough for a team needing a backup to trade for him.
Beyond the QBs, Reggie Bush rushed for 17 yards on 4 carries with most of that coming on a 12-yard scamper. The rest of the backs we quiet, Lamar Miller gained only 4 yards on 5 carries. It was clearly all about the QBs on this night with Daniel Thomas rushing twice for -2 yards and Steve Slaton rushing twice for 4 yards.
While the O-line was not opening very many holes in the rushing game, they did not allow one sack, which was a bright spot. The up-tempo offense was a refreshing change, but it never seemed to get in rhythm with far too many botched plays that killed drives.
Roberto Wallace 4-71 and Julius Pruitt 6-52 won the back-up receiver race with Clyde Gates unaccounted for and the rest of the receivers making no impression. Charles Clay continued his rise as a budding star at TE, catching the only TD pass, while hauling in 3 passes for 39 yards.
In giving up 20 points, the Dolphins defense was unremarkable mostly due to the starters playing only minimal time, particularly on the front 7. The Dolphins allowed the Bucs to maintain possession on several long TD drives that ended with a Tampa running back diving into the endzone.
The secondary did not allow a TD pass, but seemed confused and out of position most of the night. The corners and safeties missed easy tackles and the lack of contact in practices, dictated by the new CBA was evident in the Dolphin secondary. Richard Marshall started in place of Vontae Davis, but neither was clearly better than the other and Sean Smith was feeble in attempts at tackling. This will have to be corrected if the Dolphin defense hopes to start the season looking like the squad that ended 2011.
The safeties in particular left virtually no impact on the fans watching the game, there were no interceptions, with none of the BDs coming close to getting their hands on a Buccaneer football. Without a forced fumble and only one fumble recovery, the Dolphin defense looked as though the dog days of training camp had taken a toll on tired legs.
Not much is expected from a 1st preseason game and reading too much into it would be a mistake. The bright spot was Ryan Tannehill, the dark spots were the Dolphins receiving corps and secondary. Chad Johnson may not make the team with another outing like this one, unfortunately the Miami secondary will have to get better, because none of these players can be cut.
With the lofty expectations lowered, expect the trolls to come out of the woodwork and the Miami bashing to begin. At Dolphinshout we recognize the 1st preseason game for what it is and withhold judgment, but the Miami Dolphins will need to clean things up or the dismal showing in the stadium will only get worse.