Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dolphins Preseason Week 2 Preview
The Miami Dolphins have progressed through training camp and the first game of the preseason and have a better idea of how the team is shaping up with three preseason games left before they kick off the season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, like the Dolphins, underwent some changes during the offseason and are attempting to make adjustments to the team. Just like the Dolphins, the Bucs underachieved in 2013 and are looking for redemption in 2014.
While both teams will be looking to continue their improvement, the Dolphins have one particular area that needs help, as their tackling was atrocious last Friday night in a 16-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. According to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel, Joe Philbin will be very disappointed if this doesn't change on Saturday against the Buccaneers.
Miami hopes to avoid disappointment, not just on defense but throughout the team, as they take on the Buccaneers Saturday night in Tampa (7:30 p.m. ET, WFOR CBS4).
Miami Dolphins Preseason Week 1 Recap
In the first preseason game of the season, the Dolphins lost to the Falcons 16-10, but there were plenty of reasons for optimism.
Miami's first drive of the game was a beauty that had Dolphins fans excited over new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's potentially high-powered offense. Ryan Tannehill completed all six of his passes for 62 yards and a touchdown despite the fact that he was without tight end Charles Clay and wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.
After that first series, Tannehill was out, replaced by Seth Lobato, who was uneven throughout the evening. Despite Lobato's unevenness, Miami's pass protection (their Achilles' heel in 2013) remained strong, giving up only one sack. Their running game did leave much to be desired, as the Dolphins only ran for 52 yards on 21 attempts.
As optimistic as Miami's offense had Dolphins fans feeling, the defense provided the pessimism thanks in part to missed tackles and bad penalties, both of which led to the Falcons scoring on their first offensive drive of the game (the only drive that featured Atlanta's first-team offense).
This week, Miami will hope to keep the first-team offense in gear when they're on the field, while fine-tuning the defense, specifically working on tackling.
News and Notes
Possible Linebacker Shakeup?
It's no secret that the Dolphins linebackers are the weakness of a defense that could potentially be one of the best in the NFL. After not addressing this position too much during the offseason, the Dolphins are looking for ways to shake it up in camp.
It started in OTAs when Koa Misi was moved inside while Dannell Ellerbe was kicked to the outside, but it looks like more change is apparent, according to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post:
Dolphins rookie LB Jordan Tripp getting looks with 1st team D again. Big day for him -- 1st and 2nd team reps.— Andrew Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) August 14, 2014
On Tuesday, Dolphins linebacker coach Mark Duffner told Abramson that Tripp was in contention for a starting job, with Abramson noting that Philip Wheeler seems like the most logical player to be replaced by Tripp in the event that Tripp earns a starting spot.
More Time for Tannehill
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was impressive in his lone series against the Falcons, and he will get more playing time against Tampa Bay.
Per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald:
QB Ryan Tannehill will start and play longer than the 10 plays he had last week. QB Matt Moore will play for first time this preseason.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) August 14, 2014
Salguero also notes that Matt Moore will play for the first time this preseason. Moore missed last week's game due to a shoulder injury (per Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel), and due to his and Pat Devlin's absence in the game, Miami relied on Seth Lobato to play every snap except for the first series.
This provided difficulty for the team in assessing the wide receivers, which is one of the deepest positions on the team with the most hotly contested position battle.
Fans Want Dion Jordan at LB
Usually, on the website Change.org, you will see people starting petitions for a variety of causes, with a good number of them being for a worthwhile change in government policies, medical research or other important matters.
Then you have sports fans using the site to start petitions pertaining to sports, such as the one started by Dolphins fan and blogger Neal Driscoll to move Dion Jordan to linebacker.
Per Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, Driscoll started the petition in hopes that it will collect 100 signatures; after that, it will be delivered to the Dolphins (currently, they have surpassed that with 500 signatures as of August 14). The reason for the petition is Miami's woes at linebacker combined with its depth at defensive end.
Abramson pointed out head coach Joe Philbin's plan for Jordan: "Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said yesterday that he’s continuing to develop Dion Jordan as a pass rushing defensive end who will occasionally line up as a linebacker in sub-packages."
Currently, this is the best position for Jordan in a 4-3 defense. Had Miami ran a 3-4, Jordan would've made a great outside linebacker in that system.
X-Factor and Matchups to Watch
Buccaneers Running Backs vs. Dolphins Linebackers
A key aspect to the Buccaneers offense is its running backs, which right now is its deepest position.
Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bucs ran for 82 yards on 25 attempts, with Bobby Rainey leading the team with 25 yards on six attempts.
Other than Rainey (who is currently second on the Bucs depth chart), Tampa Bay has West Virginia rookie Charles Sims, second-year player Mike James from Miami and its starting running back, Doug Martin.
This team can run, which will be good preparation for a Miami linebacking crew that has had difficulty stopping the run. Last season, the Dolphins ranked 24th against the run due in part to linebackers who couldn't tackle, which has remained a problem in the preseason. The Falcons ran for 84 yards against Miami in their first game of the preseason.
Dolphins Offensive Line vs. Buccaneers Defensive Line
Miami's offensive line is still a work in progress, but it showed a lot of improvement in pass protection against the Falcons, only allowing one sack in the entire game while not allowing Ryan Tannehill to get sacked at all in his one series.
The Buccaneers hope to record more than the 35 sacks they recorded in 2013 (23rd in the NFL), yet in their first game against the Jaguars last week, they could only record one sack of their own.
The Dolphins want to see improvement in run blocking, as their running game couldn't get any semblance of a push against the Falcons. The Buccaneers want to improve their run defense.
Something will have to give in the trenches when Miami's offensive line takes on Tampa Bay's defensive line as both teams seek further development.
Dolphins X-Factor Of The Week: Michael Egnew
Michael Egnew will literally be playing for his job this week.
With Charles Clay injured, the Dolphins are going to use the Buccaneers game to give their tight ends a workout. For Egnew, this is likely his final shot, as Arthur Lynch is Dennis Hickey's draft pick (which makes him a favorite to make the team over Egnew) while Gator Hoskins had practiced well until suffering a hamstring injury (per Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post).
Making predictions on preseason games is a bit pointless.
I'll predict the final score, but preseason games aren't about what team wins and what team loses. They're about seeing individuals and units in their respective matchups.
Ryan Tannehill should have another good game, only this time expect him to play for either three series or the whole first quarter (whichever gives him the most amount of snaps). While Tannehill is in the game, expect him to have at least one deep ball attempt with Mike Wallace, who told MiamiDolphins.com that he will play on Saturday night.
Brian Hartline is also expected to play (per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald), so expect Tannehill and Hartline to continue the great chemistry they have had the last two seasons.
On the defensive side, you will see a lot of mixing and matching at linebacker, and don't be too surprised if Jordan Tripp gets some runs with the first team. You will also see Louis Delmas and Jimmy Wilson paired at safety as they prepare themselves for the first four games of the regular season minus Reshad Jones.
With Matt Moore (and the newly signed Brady Quinn) likely to play on Saturday night, we will also get a better look at the wide receivers and will be able to gauge who will make the team and who won't. Also, expect more Jarvis Landry returning kicks.
I do have to predict a final score, even though in the end, it doesn't even matter.
Dolphins 20, Buccaneers 16
Statistics courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.