The Miami Dolphins dropped their fourth preseason game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night by the score of 17-16. Miami’s meaningless preseason record now stands at 1-3.
Miami did, however, come out and perform well from the beginning of the game, which is something many fans were dying to see happen. Although the offense performed well for the majority of the night, a Jonas Gray fumble led to a Tampa Bay touchdown late in the fourth quarter giving Tampa the victory.
There were certainly some good signs we can extract from this game, but also a few lingering negatives that must be cleaned up.
- The biggest positive of the night, in my opinion, was the play of QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had the look of a top-tier quarterback last night. The second-year pro finished the night 17-of-27 for 150 yards and 1 touchdown. His stat-line could have looked much better if receivers such as Brandon Gibson, Charles Clay, etc. could have held onto the football when given a chance. Tannehill is definitely a bright-spot for this team.
- WR Brandon Gibson was another bright-spot last night. Gibson finished the night with 5 receptions for 43 yards and 1 touchdown. Gibson performed well in the absence of TE Dustin Keller, proving to be Tannehill’s go-to guy. Gibson did drop at least two balls that I counted that were catch-able. BUT, Gibson looked very good last night and should be one of this team’s top targets.
- TE’s Dion Sims and Evan Rodriguez looked like the two best tight ends on the squad last night. Sims looked powerful and had a very nice 18-yard reception – his only reception of the night. Rodriguez, on the other hand, made this team last night. The former Chicago Bear put together a solid night blocking and had two receptions for 16 yards. Rodriguez will likely stick as the team’s “fullback” but could actually move Charles Clay to that position, but we will get to that later.
- MLB Dannell Ellerbe looked fast. Hell, Ellerbe looked like the fastest linebacker on either team last night. Ellerbe grabbed two tackles last night, but he was all over the field making an impact. Ellerbe is a huge upgrade over former Dolphin, Karlos Dansby.
- DE Olivier Vernon looked like a man-child last night. Vernon looks much more explosive this season and much, much stronger than he was during his rookie season. Vernon could actually prove to be the break-out defender for this Dolphin defense this season.
- RG Josh Samuda actually looked pretty good last night. Maybe all of the criticism he has taken in recent weeks has fired him up and, in turn, motivated him to improve in all areas. He did not look like the same guy we have seen out there the past three weeks.
- Linebackers Josh Kaddu, Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny want to make this team. Kaddu played well last night showing versatility which will help him make this team (1 tackle, 1 sack). Jenkins looked pretty darn good last night in my opinion. Yes, he made his fair share of mistakes, but Jenkins is definitely someone the coaching staff can work with (3 tackles). Freeny easily was the best back-up linebacker the team had last night. He finished the night with four tackles and one sack, but also was flying around.
- Special Teams, special teams, special teams…Specifically the punt return unit. PR Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt last night which is something coach Darren Rizzi will not be happy about. And CB Nolan Carroll caused another turn-over. Although Carroll was pushed right into the ball, he must have a better sense of awareness if he wants to carve himself a niche on special teams.
- RT Dallas Thomas had another tough outing last night allowing a sack. He was beaten inside by DE Trevor Scott for the sack. And when I say beaten I mean just absolutely owned by Scott’s speed.
- RB Jonas Gray likely just fumbled away his chance at making this squad. Sorry for the pun there, but seriously. Gray looked like he had a chance to make this team for his performance through the first three games of the preseason. That all changed last night. Head Coach Joe Philbin did not look impressed after the fumble occurred. I know that Gray does not play defense therefore he does not deserve all of the blame, but giving the opposing team field position that close to the end-zone at the tail end of the game will almost always result in a loss.
- TE Charles Clay did not look good at all as a tight end last night to be quite honest. Clay does have a nice skill set to be a decent tight end, but his route running is atrocious. Clay does not have that natural route running ability like a Dustin Keller, but he needs to do his best to improve in this area. Evan Rodriguez looks like he would be a better fit as the team’s top tight end, which would move Clay back to the fullback/H-back role.
- Turnovers, penalties, and third-down execution. Miami had four fumbles (three of which were lost) last night paired with one interception. That does not equate to a successful evening. Miami also committed 5 penalties for 37 yards. Lastly, Miami was 6 for 17 on third-down equating to a 35% success rate. Miami must improve in these areas if they wish to compete this season. If you can win the turnover battle, commit a low number of penalties and execute on third-down then you can compete with any team in the league.
Miami will face off against New Orleans next Thursday night in the team’s final preseason game. Although the starters will not play much, it will be due or die time for the back-ups to prove they have the potential to contribute for this team.
Tuesday is cut day for NFL teams. Teams will be cutting their rosters down to 75 players. Keep an eye out for updates on who exactly Miami will be parting ways with.