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2 posts from August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

Dolphins beat Bucs, 20-14: Some good, some not

If there was a question before Saturday night that Matt Moore is going to be the Dolphins No. 2 quarterback this year, that is gone now.

Matt Moore is on the Dolphins -- his $5.5 million salary cap number and all.

And the way he earned the right to be on the team is, in part, by an outstanding perfomance against Tampa Bay in the preseason's second game. Moore completed 13 of 19 passes for 158 yards and one TD without an interception.

Moore finished with a quarterback rating of 111.3.

"It felt good to finally get back out and play and get into a rhythm out there," Moore said.

One of Moore's two TD drives came out of the two-minute drill to end the first half. It was outstanding work.

"Felt good to put a stamp on it out there for the touchdown," Moore said.

The truth about Miami's quarterback situation is the Dolphins are definitely keeping two -- Ryan Tannehill and Moore -- and Brady Quinn must fight and claw to earn a spot, which at this writing seems unlikely because the Dolphins could certainly use the extra roster spot for other players that are more valuable.

That is a major issue the Dolphins answered in this game.

Tannehill, by the way, posted his second consecutive solid performance of the preseason. Despite inconsistent blocking up front, Tannehill was 9 of 14 for 110 yards without a TD or interception. The starters had a FG while Tannehill was in the game.

Another big night?

Surprisingly, kicker John Potter had a nice night. He was 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 51-yarder that was impressive. This must be said:

Caleb Sturgis is not having a good preseason.

He was injured earlier this preseason and seemed to re-injure his groin in pregame warmups. He did not kick in the game despite dressing and warming up.

Sturgis was hurt last season and struggled in the middle of the season as a result. If he cannot stay healthy ... and the other guy is connecting on 51-yard kicks ... well, the competition is on.

This game showed the Dolphins still have work to do in multiple areas.

The first such area is right guard where Dallas Thomas had a terrible game. He was beaten by Gerald McCoy for what turned into a strip sack for Tampa Bay and led to a TD. He got no push on running plays. And he had a penalty as well.

The rest of the offensive line was better than Thomas but didn't really win up front.

Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, serving as a guest during the CBS-4 broadcast, said his personnel department is constantly looking for players to upgrade the roster.

Allow me to suggest Hickey look at the possibility of trading for San Francisco guard Alex Boone. I'm not saying it must be done. Boone is holding out because he wants a new contract and he has a history that requires investigation. But he's an outstanding guard.

So look into it ... The Dolphins have a wealth of wide receivers. Maybe they can ship one to the 49ers, whose receiver corps could use upgrade.

Coach Joe Philbin said the idea of moving Shelley Smith, who was at center early in camp and left guard lately, to right guard is not out of the realm of possibility.

The tackling continues to be inconsistent despite the team spending an entire week focusing on the issue. Most troubling was the tackle attempt by starting safety Jimmy Wilson against receiver Mike Evans.

Rather than wrap Evans and bring him to the gound, Wilson merely rammed into him and as happens when a 5-10 guy runs into a 6-5 guy, Wilson merely bounced off. Evans turned and ran for an apparent TD that was called back when Brent Grimes, running down the play from the other side of the field, caught the receiver and caused a fumble out of the end zone for a Miami possession instead.

 You'll remember the Dolphins managed only two rushing yards against Tampa Bay in a loss last season. Tonight the Dolphins rushed for 46 yards on 26 attempts. The team rushed for minus-5 yards on nine attempts in the first half -- when starters and top reserves played for both teams.

Lamar Miller, Miami's starting running back, rushed for 3 yards on three carries.

"I thought we threw the ball well, I thought we had some guys open, I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball well," Philbin said. "But I think we all agree we had way too many negative-yardage plays in the running game. That really wasn't fixed the way I would hope."

Philbin said there was too much penetration and his team "didn't establish an edge."

"They established the edge, penetrated and got up in our backfield way too much, way too much," Philbin said.

The running game has a long way to go, folks.

"It looks to me we still have some work to do," Philbin repeated. "I thought we'd have more production in our run game. I thought we'd be better."

Dolphins at Bucs: Five things to watch

The Dolphins play their second preseason game at Tampa Bay tonight at 7:30. Follow me on twitter for in-game commentary, real-time updates and more.

I have five observations about the Dolphins that require significant attention between now and the time the regular season kicks offs because I believe they can affect the direction of the 2014 season.

The first is Dion Jordan. Jordan got off to a roaring start at training camp. But, as I write in my column, that has changed lately. He needs to show up, folks. He's the No. 3 overall pick. Guys aren't picked No. 3 to be special teams players and backups.

The second is the deep ball combination of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace. Both players repeatedly tell you the right thing -- it is getting better. I tell you the unvarnished truth of what I've seen in every single practice I've attended so far -- and I did not miss any training camp practices.

Tampa Bay allowed 238 passing yards per game last season. That was 22nd in the NFL. That's not good. Opposing QBs had an 88.9 QB rating against that defense last year. That's not very good. That was 22nd in the NFL.

There should be opportunities for Tannehill and Wallace to connect tonight.

Remember the offensive line worries of three weeks ago? I'm feeling a lot better about this group than I was then. They're coming together.

Are they going to be the Great Wall of South Florida?

Probably not.

Are they going to be a replay to the 2013 nightmare, giving up 58 sacks?

I think we're safe believing not. But watching them against Tampa Bay's solid front should be interesting.

I'm not thrilled about how the running back competition unfolded during training camp. That's because it never really unfolded.

Finally, I want to see more work for the starting linebacker corps. The company line is that moving Koa Misi to the middle and Dannell Ellerbe outside would be a major upgrade. That might still happen.

But right now, today, there is still much work and much growing to do because the first preseason game and practices have uncovered some issues.

The good news? Training camp just ended.

There are still two meaningful preseason games remaining, including tonight. (The final preseason game is a joke and everyone knows it.) So there's still a chance the issues I'm presenting get resolved.