In Joe Philbin’s first-ever preseason game as an NFL head coach, the Dolphins suffered a 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay.
Typical of any team’s first preseason game, there was some inconsistency but a few bright spots, too.
Here are my five key takeaways from tonight’s preseason opener:
- Ryan Tannehill Didn’t Look Like a Rookie: It may have been Tannehill’s first NFL game action, but he looked like a seasoned veteran. The rookie QB completed 14-of-21 passes for 167 yards, finding Charles Clay across the middle of the end zone for team’s lone touchdown. It wasn’t just the sheer numbers that impressed. It was the way he led the Dolphins offense, making quick, decisive throws. As he has throughout training camp, Tannehill showed a good command of the offense.
- Young Receivers Emerge: With some of the more established receivers seeing limited action, the Dolphins’ younger receivers, especially Roberto Wallace and Julius Pruitt, stepped up big. Wallace finished with four catches for 71 yards, and Pruitt added six grabs for 52 yards. When Tannehill looked their way, both guys caught the ball and turned up field, producing some nice 20-yard-plus plays.
- Tight Ends Show Up Strong: The Dolphins tight ends had, perhaps, the strongest evening out of any individual position group, excelling in both run blocking and pass catching. Both Clay and Anthony Fasano had three catches, the former for 49 yards and a touchdown.
- Pass Defense Needs Improvement: The Dolphins struggled containing their opponents’ passing attacks during the first half of the 2011 season. If they are to avoid the same fate in 2012, the secondary will need tighten up during the remainder of the preseason. Buccaneers backup Dan Orlovsky was perfect in relief of Josh Freeman–he completed all eight of his passes.
- Offensive Line and Run Game Need to Get In Sync: The Dolphins weren’t able to have off-season continuity on the offensive line transfer into on-field success during the first preseason game. Though its pass protection was adequate, the line needs to do a better job opening up lanes for the running backs. It didn’t look like they had an explosiveness off the snap, but they have three more preseason games to start creating some consistency.