Plenty To Learn From First Preseason Game

Posted Aug 12, 2012

Everything speeds up from this point for the Miami Dolphins, as the second of four preseason games is just five days away.

Training camp officially breaks after Friday night’s preseason game at the Carolina Panthers, but the last practice open to the public is Wednesday morning. So Head Coach Joe Philbin is fast tracking his team in order to get everyone comfortable on both sides of the ball.

“This to me is the biggest week we have in training camp from a practice standpoint, four days in a row,” said Philbin, whose team lost 20-7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason opener at Sun Life Stadium two nights ago. “We’ve got a lot of things we want to accomplish and a lot of situations we want to cover.”

Training camp and the preseason are when teams want to work out the kinks and start to cut down on the mistakes so that when the regular season begins on September 9th at Houston for the Dolphins they are all on the same page. There were plenty of ups and downs in the opener against Tampa Bay on both sides of the ball that led to the final result, but the players were the first to admit that.

Defensively, there were missed tackles, missed assignments and broken coverages in passing situation, all that allowed the Bucs to jump out to a 14-0 lead. This is a unit that prides itself on shutting down the run and not allowing too many points, so that was a disappointment.

“I think everybody as a whole made mistakes,” starting defensive tackle Randy Starks said. “I think as far as defense we didn’t like the way we came out, how they scored two touchdowns on us, but everything we made a mistake on is correctable, so that’s what we’re working on this week. Everybody knows what they need to work on. We have three more games to get it corrected before the first game. Everybody is just trying to get better.”

The same can be said about the offense after being held to just seven points and coming away empty on five trips into Tampa Bay territory. Kicker Dan Carpenter missed on two field goal attempts from 51 and 50 yards the offense turned the ball over on downs twice at the Bucs’ 3.

Quarterbacks Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill and Pat Devlin did combine for 311 passing yards while completing 30-of-50 passes, but Miami managed just 43 yards on the ground with a 2.9 average. That leaves a lot of room for improvement in both phases of the offense.

“We got a lot of stuff to work on,” said free agent wide receiver Legedu Naanee, who caught one pass for 12 yards. “It’s pretty easy right now. It’s kind of tougher during the season when you’re gearing up for another opponent, but right now we’re still in camp mode. We just had a game and this is our first practice back so we have a lot of corrections to make.”

In addition to ironing out the rough edges on offense and defense, Philbin still needs to decide on a starting quarterback and he has said in the past that typically that decision should be made by the third preseason game. That’s the game where the starters play the longest, but he is remaining flexible with his timeline as far as when that decision will be made.

Tampa Bay’s defense played a bit more vanilla than Philbin would have liked, which handicaps his evaluation process a little when it comes to the rookie Tannehill. He was able to get a decent picture of Tannehill’s command of the huddle and the speed with which he makes decisions.

“There was some good tape on there,” Philbin said. “It wasn’t probably on either side a high percentage of pressure; it was probably more coverage. I mean we saw some blitzes. They certainly gave us a couple, but not a ton. It’s part of the evaluation of the quarterbacks that’s helpful. That’s why we do so much of it in our own practices is just to get a feel how they respond.

“The blitz-pressure plays can be real momentum changers in a ballgame on either side of the ball. Before we put a quarterback out there, you better have a level of confidence that he’s prepared for those situations, has some kind of what we like to say, has a toolbox, some answers, some resources that he can go to in those critical situations to either protect himself or get the ball out quick or a combination of those.”

Tannehill, Moore and Devlin can expect lots of blitzes coming their way over the next three days of practice.
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