Postscripts from the Dolphins’ 20-14 win at Tampa Bay in their second preseason game:
Yes, there was a lot to like, and we’ll get to that in a minute. First, five issues that should concern you:
### Has this team given any indication – ANY – that it’s capable of running the ball consistently? Last week, Miami averaged 2.5 yards per carry against Atlanta. On Saturday, the Dolphins lost five yards on nine first half carries (admittedly against a team that’s stout against the run), and finished with 46 yards on 26 attempts (1.8 per carry).
Yes, you would like to see Lamar Miller, Damien Williams and others break more tackles. The same obviously can be said for Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee, who both missed the game with hamstring issues.
But Buccaneers defensive players (primarily Gerald McCoy, but others too) too often shook blocks quickly, and too easily, on running plays. This happened during last season's game at Tampa, when the Dolphins mustered a humiliating two yards on 14 rushing attempts. And we saw it again tonight.
Perhaps Knowshon Moreno will make a difference. But the blocking needs to be better, especially from Thomas and Ja'Wuan James.
It’s worth noting that Shelley Smith, who cannot crack the starting lineup, is considered one of Miami’s best run-blockers. But he was partly to blame on a six-yard loss by Damien Williams on one running play.
Here were the final numbers from the Dolphins’ running backs: Miller 3 for 3; Cameron Marshall 4 for 11; Orleans Darkwa 6 for 11; Williams 11 for 20.
"We had way too many negative yardage plays in the running game," Joe Philbin said. "A lot of penetration. Guys in the backfield. Didn't establish an edge, got in our backfield way too much, way too much. I thought we would have more production in our run game. I know it's a very good front and well coached defense. But I thought we'd be better."
### You don’t want to overreact to Dallas Thomas’ horrific night because he isn’t going to face players of McCoy’s quality all that often. And yes, it was horrific --- beaten for a strip sack (Samson Satele provided no help), beaten for a quarterback hurry, beaten on at least two running plays for losses, and two penalties thrown in for good measure.
"There are a couple plays he has to block better on," Philbin understated.
But at the very least, Saturday’s developments should make the Dolphins reconsider their decision to move Smith to the second team. And Billy Turner played well at right guard tonight, with the major caveat that he wasn’t going up against McCoy. The Dolphins need to consider all three options. We assume they will. Philbin indicated afterward that the right guard job remains open.
### Can the starting linebackers ever make it through a half without doing something exasperating? On Saturday, defensive end Derrick Shelby’s third down sack was negated by a downfield holding penalty on linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, resulting in an automatic first down. It brought to mind Philip Wheeler's senseless and costly penalty in the fourth quarter of last year's game in Tampa.
### We agree with Armando Salguero’s assessment today that there has been no discernable improvement in Ryan Tannehill’s ability to connect with Mike Wallace on deep balls. Wallace said he cannot practice deep balls with Tannehill repeatedly after practice because it wouldn’t be healthy for his legs.
“I’m not about to sit out here and run 20 deep balls back-to-back to try to get timing," Wallace, who has battled occasional hamstring issues, said Aug. 5. I’m just not about to do it. Not that I don’t want to do it. It’s not healthy for my leg just to keep running deep balls trying to get a feel for it.
But how about just a few after every practice? That would be better than nothing, which is what they’re doing now.
Tannehill overthrew Wallace on their one deep ball attempt Saturday.
### The Dolphins love Jimmy Wilson as their nickel back. Not sure they’ll love him so much filling in for Reshad Jones during Jones’ four-game suspension.
After allowing a catch and missing a tackle against Mike Evans (resulting in another 30 yards of YAC), Wilson was very fortunate that Evans fumbled out of bounds (thanks to Brent Grimes hustling and dislodging the ball), negating a long touchdown.
But enough doom and gloom. Now the good news, and there was a lot of it:
### Aside from deep balls, Tannehill has been terrific this preseason. He followed last week’s 6 for 6 opener by going 9 for 14 for 110 yards and an 88.4 QB rating. The big blemish: fumbling on the McCoy sack, leading to Tampa’s first touchdown.
### Matt Moore solidified his hold on the backup quarterback job, leading the Dolphins’ offense to 17 points, including an impressive 9-play, 71-yard drive to close the first half. Moore’s final numbers: 13 for 19, 158 yards, one touchdown and a 111.3 rating.
"Matt threw the ball well," Philbin said.
### Brandon Gibson has regained his pre-injury form. He had two receptions for 28 yards and remains a clutch target on third down.
Others who caught more than one pass: Damian Williams (3-46); Rishard Matthews (3-43), Armon Binns (2-28), Kevin Cone (2-30), Lamar Miller (2-20), Brett Brackett (2-12).
### Will Davis played ahead of Jamar Taylor and impressed for the second consecutive week, with two pass breakups and generally tight coverage. When Davis entered, Cortland Finnegan moved inside to cover the slot receiver.
### Besides Davis, the work of some of the other young defenders was VERY encouraging. Jordan Tripp had a couple of tackles for very short gains.
Chris McCain got early work at linebacker (playing at one point alongside Ellerbe and Koa Misi) and made a few plays, including a stop on a running play for no gain.
Anthony Johnson drew a holding penalty.
Terence Fede had a sack and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be on the team.
Dion Jordan forced a fumble and had a sack.
### The Dolphins had five sacks, from Olivier Vernon, Jordan, Fede, Jared Odrick and Kemal Johnson.
### Misi had six tackles and played pretty well at middle linebacker.
### Caleb Sturgis re-aggravated his groin injury before the game, but the Dolphins might have found a capable replacement in John Potter, who nailed 48- and 51-yard field goals. This job has suddenly become a toss-up.
COUPLE OTHER NOTES
### Philbin said: "I didn't think our tackling was very good in the first half. We tackled better in the second half. Looked more like a football team. We threw the ball well. Thought we had some guys open."
### Charles Clay, Arthur Lynch, Moreno, Daniel Thomas, Gillislee, Harold Hoskins, Jason Fox, A.J. Francis and of course, Mike Pouncey all sat out.
### Nothing was learned in the kickoff and punt return battles. Marcus Thigpen left with a hamstring injury.
Damian Williams (the receiver) had Miami’s only punt return, for no yards. Jarvis Landry had the only kickoff return, for 25 yards.
### Brady Quinn played the fourth quarter, completing all four of his passes for 22 yards. "We felt very good about what he knew going into the game," Philbin said. "It didn't make a lot of sense to start chucking it a whole lot."
Please check back Sunday afternoon for the Sunday buzz column.