Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Grading Each Dolphins Unit

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVAugust 17, 2014

Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Grading Each Dolphins Unit

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14 on Saturday night, gaining their first victory of the preseason. 

    The Dolphins managed to win thanks to out-executing the Buccaneers on offense and outgaining them 326-250, and they were dominant in the air, throwing for a total of 280 yards. 

    The bad news is the Dolphins only managed to run for 46 yards as a team, with the majority of these yards coming in the second half against Tampa Bay's third-team defense. 

    The Dolphins offensive line continued to play well in pass-blocking, save for a strip-sack in the first quarter. 

    Miami's run-blocking could've used a lot of work though, as it seemed to have difficulty in the running game. 

    Here's a look at the grades for each positional unit of the Dolphins. 


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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    The quarterback position isn't really a battle, so there's not a lot to get out of watching the QBs play. 

    It should be noted that having an experienced quarterback helps the wide receivers who are fighting for their jobs, which already makes this game an improvement from the last game against Atlanta

    Ryan Tannehill didn't impress, but he played well in his 22 snaps, completing nine out of 14 passes for 110 yards.

    Tannehill did turn the ball over for the first time this preseason, being stripped during a sack by Gerald McCoy. 

    Matt Moore came in during the second quarter and led the Dolphins on two great drives. The first great drive was the two-minute drill he led down the field to end the first half, which led to a Rishard Matthews touchdown. 

    The second great drive came at the start of the second half, a drive that ended with a Damien Williams one-yard touchdown run. 

    Moore finished 13-of-19 passing with 158 yards and a touchdown. 

    Brady Quinn came in toward the end of the third quarter and was serviceable despite only being added to the roster on Tuesday. Quinn was a perfect four-of-four for 22 yards.

    Final Grades: 

    Tannehill: B

    Moore: A-

    Quinn: B+

    Cumulative Grade: B+

Running Backs

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Right now, I'm not sure what to make about Miami's running game. 

    The Dolphins only ran for a total of 46 yards on 26 attempts, an average of 1.76 yards per carry. 

    The leading rusher for Miami was Damien Williams, who had 20 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts. 

    Only Orleans Darkwa and Cameron Marshall would run for double-digit yards (both had 11), and only Darkwa had a double-digit run (13 yards). 

    Lamar Miller is supposed to be the starting running back, yet he had only three yards on three carries.

    So why are the running backs struggling? Is it bad run-blocking, or bad backs?

    Will any of this change whenever Knowshon Moreno makes his Dolphins debut?

    Final Grade: F

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    With a competent quarterback in the game at all times, we got to see why the Miami wide receivers are the deepest unit on the team, as well as just how good these players are. 

    Overall, each of the wide receivers in the game graded out better than B to me except for one.

    Brian Hartline was only targeted once, and he made one catch. Brandon Gibson played well, hauling in two catches for 28 yards. 

    Rishard Matthews was responsible for a touchdown, along with three catches for 43 yards. 

    Jarvis Landry continues to impress, as he was only targeted once, and he turned that into a 26-yard reception, while Damian Williams was targeted once and gained four yards on the one catch. 

    Then there's Mike Wallace, who was horrible. 

    Wallace was targeted three times and each ball was catchable, yet not a single pass was caught. 

    The first one was a bubble screen, a play meant to get Wallace in space with the ball, taking advantage of his speed. He dropped the pass after bobbling it.

    The way the blocking was set up on the play, Wallace would've at least gained 20 yards. 

    Tannehill would then go deep to Wallace and overthrow him, yet I put the blame on Wallace for this play, as he slowed down when he should've sped up. 

    Finally, Tannehill attempted to throw to Wallace on the run but couldn't make a connection. 

    Tannehill can complete a pass to every receiver except Wallace, which should tell you more about Wallace than it does about Tannehill. 

    Final Grade: B- (thanks Mike, should've been an A-)

Offensive Line

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    One game does not make a player, especially not a preseason game against an elite defensive lineman. 

    With that being said, Dallas Thomas was awful against the Buccaneers. Gerald McCoy ate him up for breakfast throughout the game. 

    McCoy's sack and fumble on Tannehill would eventually go down as Tampa Bay's only sack of the day, as well as Miami's only turnover. 

    Outside of Thomas, Miami's offensive line played fine. Sam Brenner performed well in place of Samson Satele for a couple of plays—Satele sat out due to being checked out.

    Ja'Wuan James turned in another decent performance as well, while Billy Turner played great when he came into the game, even blocking Damien Williams' path to a touchdown in the third quarter. 

    I'd like to see Turner get more run with the first team. As for Thomas, I'd have to see a lot of improvement out of him. 

    I'd also like to see if this team can run-block, which I haven't seen so far this preseason.

    Final Grade: C

Defensive Line

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    This was the positional matchup where the Dolphins felt they had a clear advantage over the Buccaneers. 

    This would turn out to be correct, as the Dolphins seemed to live in Tampa Bay's backfield throughout the game, regardless of whether it was the first team or the fourth team for either side. 

    Miami's defensive line can't be considered dominant though, as it let a lot of plays go.

    Mike Glennon was able to complete a pass to Mike Evans despite being hit as he threw in a play that would've been a touchdown had it not been for a play made by Brent Grimes at the 1-yard line to force a fumble and give Miami the ball back. 

    On a previous drive, Josh McCown was harassed in the pocket, but he was still able to pick out his receivers and lead the Buccaneers to a touchdown. 

    Miami still finished with five sacks, but that number could have easily been eight. The defensive line is good, but it needs to work on finishing. 

    Final Grade: B-


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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    Here's Miami's biggest issue: linebackers who can't tackle or finish plays. 

    The picture above shows Philip Wheeler, looking like he's about to sack Josh McCown. McCown completed that pass quite easily. 

    Coverage was terrible as well. On Tampa Bay's first-quarter touchdown, McCown took advantage of the "coverage" provided by the Dolphins linebackers, making the already-short march down the field for the Buccaneers an easy one. 

    Dumb penalties by the linebackers also cost Miami. Overall, it wasn't a stellar night, but there were some bright spots. 

    Chris McCain was pretty good when he was in action, comparatively speaking at least. He was present to make tackles, and make tackles he did. 

    Same goes for Jordan Tripp and Jelani Jenkins. No complaints for Miami's backup linebackers, but nothing special about them, either. 

    They're going to have to be special, because someone needs to challenge Miami's first string at the position. As of right now, it's not looking too good. 

    Final Grade: D


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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    Some on Twitter believe Miami's secondary will be its weak spot. 

    They are wrong, very wrong. 

    I'm not saying Miami's secondary is the strongest, but it is at least a lot better than adequate, which can't be said about the linebackers (who are worse than adequate). 

    Miami's secondary only had one real bad drive, and that was the short touchdown drive in the first quarter. That was mainly a linebacker problem, except for the touchdown pass. 

    Jimmy Wilson, who got the start in place of Reshad Jones in the hopes of getting him used to playing safety, had a rare missed tackle on Mike Evans.

    This missed tackle set up the secondary's best play—a forced fumble by Brent Grimes that led to a touchback instead of a touchdown. 

    Miami's secondary was good against Tampa Bay, as well as aggressive. I liked what I saw out of the corners and safeties.

    Final Grade: B

Special Teams

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    There's really nothing to complain about with Miami's special teams unit. 

    Punt returns seemed to be a slight problem, as you had Marcus Thigpen doing Marcus Thigpen things and fielding a punt inside Miami's own 10-yard line. 

    That was Thigpen's only return of the game. Jarvis Landry would get a few cracks at it, and he was solid in terms of simply holding on to the ball and not fielding a punt inside his own 10. He should get the return-man job this season. 

    Damian Williams also got a crack at it, and he was adequate, even though he didn't really have a "return" per se. He mainly fielded fair catches. 

    Brandon Fields is Brandon Fields. He was good. 

    There will be a battle at kicker though, as John Potter hit two field goals—one from 48 yards out, the other from 51 yards out. 

    Caleb Sturgis better hope his groin heals soon. Potter is making noise.

    Final Grade: B+


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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    I'm happy with the play-calling of the Dolphins coaches thus far. They've managed to mix it up and seem to have gotten an aspect right that last year at times went wrong in a bad way. 

    Coaching isn't all about play-calling, though. There were many issues from last week's game against Atlanta that weren't cleared up against Tampa Bay. 

    I won't harp on it too much, as the Miami coaching staff is probably more like me: looking at the preseason as a whole instead of going game-by-game. 

    It's still disconcerting that nothing that had to be fixed got fixed, but at least there are two more preseason games to go in order to fix them.

    Coaching: C+

Final Grades

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press
    Positional UnitOverall Grade
    Running BackF
    Wide ReceiverB-
    Offensive LineC
    Defensive LineB-
    Special TeamsB+
    Cumulative GradeC

    Statistics courtesy of