Miami Dolphins Off to Marginal Start in Muddy Preseason Opener
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The Dolphins looked less-than-sharp on their first preseason outing versus Tampa Bay in Miami.
Just prior to Saturday night's 7:00 pm kickoff, the clouds over Sun Life Stadium opened up and soaked the field and players, making the plays that were run in the first quarter very tough to evaluate. Mechanics were sloppy on both sides of the ball, though the elements seemed to affect the Dolphins more than the Bucs.
Chad Henne failed to produce any plays of note, and took snaps for only the first handful of series. While the rain subsided in the second quarter making play-making easier, by that time, Henne's night had already come to a close. This was not exactly the first look at the young quarterback that Fins fans had been hoping to enjoy.
Also seeing limited play, Brandon Marshall disappointed a lot of folks, dropping two easy passes. Wet ball or not, the Dolphins are going to need to see a lot more from the prized receiver.
There were bright spots on offense, but they wouldn't come until after the start of the second quarter, and they would be few and far between. A short run by Lex Hilliard yielded the Fins' only touchdown.
The real story of this game was, without question, Miami's new-look defense. Several players turned heads, holding the Bucs to a single touchdown, and turning the ball over an amazing four times.
Channing Crowder looked sharp, making a few big tackles in the first half. It was good to see him get into the game, and perhaps silence some of the questions regarding his ability to make more of a difference than he has in the past.
As a result of more than a few hiccups on offense, Brandon Fields had a great game. Aside from one blocked punt as a result of a missed assignment by Roberto Wallace, Fields consistently pinned the Bucs back in their own end, including a monster 60-yard punt from deep in the Dolphins end zone.
There were a few busted coverages leading to sizable Buccaneer gains, but for the most part the Fins' young secondary looked really good.
Nate Ness, in addition to four solo tackles, also managed to force two fumbles, and impressed with his coverage skills.
Sean Smith definitely showed up to play, logging a couple of nice tackles and an interception. His top-notch play was mirrored by rookie Nolan Carroll who defensed passes, and even penetrated Tampa's backfield getting in on a forced fumble, though he was not ultimately credited for it on the stat sheet.
The player who did receive credit for the forcing and recovering that particular fumble was Paul Soliai, who also made a few monster tackles, and showed himself to be a stout backup for Randy Starks at nose tackle. Overall, the Dolphins run defense looked superb.
Though the Fins were able to edge the Bucs out 10-7, it's clear that they have a long way to go in the next three weeks to get themselves into regular season shape. While the first teams' performances were marred by torrential downpour, a football team needs to be able to excel no matter the weather.
All in all, I would rate the Dolphins performance a 4 out of 10 for this game. To be frank, I felt a great deal of disappointment over the lack of performance from the two players I was looking most forward to observing; Henne and Marshall. There were flashes of brilliance from other guys on the team, but not nearly enough. I am already looking forward to next week.
The Dolphins next preseason test will be next Saturday at 7:30pm ET at Jacksonville.
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