Buccaneers vs. Dolphins: 5 Lessons from Dolphins' 20-7 Loss to the Buccaneers
It's not like this game counted, and the Miami Dolphins should be grateful for that.
Miami starts off their preseason at 0-1 after losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-7 in front of thousands of bright orange seats and a few fans who braved the off-and-on showers that awaited them at Sun Life Stadium.
While it was a welcoming sight to see a preseason game without the infield dirt, the play of Miami's first team as well as the final score was far from the welcome we expected from the Dolphins in their maiden voyage of the 2012 preseason.
Many lessons were learned today though, lessons that I'm sure coach Joe Philbin plans on going over with the Dolphins once they take a good look at the film.
Here's five of them that we learned not only about this team, but about the NFL itself as you will see in the next slide.
1. We Want the Real NFL Officials Back.
I know that odds are we wouldn't have gotten Ed Hochuli for this game, but he's the most famous referee, hence he's the example I'm using.
Besides, I'm sure you missed him and the other referees during tonight's game.
To officiate in the NFL it takes time. The game moves faster than it does in college and high school, and decisions have to be made quicker as well.
That didn't happen, and one even cost the Dolphins a touchdown.
Ryan Tannehill's touchdown pass to Roberto Wallace was overturned after a review. The review was the same official review that comes after every touchdown; however, the execution was flawed. The video appeared inconclusive as to whether Wallace caught the ball or not. If the video is inconclusive, you can't overturn the call on the field.
This was a big mistake on the officials' part, and while it only gets a short slide in a slideshow (because it's a preseason game), it would become a huge story had it happened in a regular-season game.
This is why the NFL and the officials' union must settle as soon as possible. Without the NFL's top-flight officials, the quality of play does go down.
2. The Transition from 3-4 to 4-3 Is Going to Be Tougher Than We Expected
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Seven carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. They were LeGarrette Blount's stats for the game in only two series—both against the Dolphins' first string.
Meanwhile, Josh Freeman only played one series—and went 4-of-5 for 41 yards. The next series against the Dolphins' first string, Dan Orlovsky (a Detroit Lion during their 0-16 2008 season and an Indianapolis Colt last season) went 8-of-8 for 91 yards.
Number of sacks recorded by the Dolphins' first team? None. Number of QB hits Freeman and Orlovsky took? One from Olivier Vernon.
The Dolphins aren't getting into the backfield with the ease they did last season. Learning the 4-3 is going to take some time in real-game action.
However, that's no excuse for the fact that the first-teamers were missing tackles left and right.
That's also no excuse for...
3. The Secondary Is Atrocious
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
That is safety Jimmy Wilson and cornerback Sean Smith just looking at former Patriots Super Bowl reject and Norris Cole's spiritual high-top fade brother Tiquan Underwood as he makes a catch to put the Buccaneers into the red zone.
It was one of Underwood's three catches for 76 yards.
How does a secondary look so lost? Sean Smith did his usual "force a deflection on one play then give up a big gain the next play" routine, Jimmy Wilson tried a bit too hard to make turnovers and it would lead to big plays, while Vontae Davis showed us why he was demoted (and I thought it couldn't get any worse than what we saw of him on Hard Knocks).
While I have faith in Miami's front seven getting it together in due time, I'm having serious doubts about the secondary. With Sean Smith we know what he is; decent, not great. He's hit his ceiling already. Vontae Davis has the talent to be an All-Pro, but I really doubt his drive to succeed and his work ethic.
This isn't just an issue of Miami lacking experience without Yeremiah Bell or Will Allen, it's an issue of talent and drive. After taking great strives and improving throughout the 2009 and 2010 season, the Davis-Smith defensive backfield has remained stagnant since training camp last year.
It has me a bit worried for the Dolphins' future.
4. The Very Short Honeymoon for Chad OchoJohnson Is over
J. Meric/Getty Images
Well that lasted a while; and by a while I meant one play.
Chad Johnson/Ochocinco (I'll just call him OchoJohnson for now, if he's going to confuse us by changing his name every couple of years I'm to going stick with OchoJohnson) only had one pass thrown to him.
Was it a perfect pass from Matt Moore? No, not at all. Could OchoJohnson have caught it? Yes. Should he have caught it? Yes.
Did he catch it? No.
At least he didn't add to the Brandon Marshall impression he pulled by blaming it on the quarterback, but that drop was still disheartening for the Dolphins to see in light of his recent antics as well as the performances of Julius Pruitt and Roberto Wallace.
Speaking of Pruitt and Wallace...
5. Dolphins' Young Guns on Offense Give Hope for the Future
J. Meric/Getty Images
Chad OchoJohnson's Miami honeymoon may be over, but if training camp and the preseason are any indication, he might not be needed in Miami anyway.
This offense looks good. Legit good, not good in a "compared to the Chad Henne/Tony Sparano days."
Yes, I know it was against Tampa Bay's third- and fourth-stringers, but that offense would've done well against any decent NFL defense.
They were in sync, communicated well and did what had to be done.
They would do very well with Miami's staring offensive line.
Ryan Tannehill's numbers were outstanding: 14-of-21 for 167 yards and one (should've been two) touchdown. Quarterback rating: 106.6.
Then there's Roberto Wallace, who had four catches for 71 yards, while Julius Pruitt had six catches for 52 yards.
Second-year tight end Charles Clay had three catches for 49 yards and Miami's only touchdown of the game.
But stats aren't everything, you had to see how they played together on the field—like a well-oiled machine.
Just add Miami's starting offensive line, along with Anthony Fasano (who's a sleeper simply because we will get to see what its like when the pass is supposed to go to him as opposed to him just being a checkdown option) and Reggie Bush and you have a very good offense that will be fun to watch.
The perfect contrast was seeing the first-team offense sputter save for Reggie's 17 yards on four carries and Fasano's three catches for 29 yards. It was frustrating to see, while the younger Dolphins offense was fun to watch.
So, let's get Pruitt, Clay, Wallace and especially Tannehill with the first string next week in Carolina—Miami has to give them that test next week (and for the rest of the preseason) so we can see how good they really are and if they can live up to the potential they showed on Friday night.