Well, you know how the old saying goes, a win is a win, right? Not exactly on this night. Not when the thought to be drastically improved first-team offense goes 0 for 4 on series that were cut short by a couple costly penalties and a few drive killing drops. The much anticipated debut of All-Pro receiver Brandon Marshall was as disappointing as they come, as the $50 million man saw two perfectly placed Chad Henne passes go in and out of his hands. You can play the blame game all day long, but the fact is, it's going to rain this year, and the Dolphins are going to have to play on that hideous dirt in-field for at least two games, which just happen to arguably be the two most important home games of the season (Jets and Patriots).
Maybe the Dolphins need to get out of that nice little bubble of theirs, and practice in the elements a bit, because Marshall has to make those catches. Having said that, there's no reason to lose sleep over this. There is a reason Marshall has three straight 100+ catch seasons under his belt. He's an elite talent and is eventually going to get out of this little funk he's been in ever since last weekends scrimmage. The interior O-line didn't struggle nearly as bad as they have reportedly during camp. Before Vernon Carey's holding penalty on the opening series, the running game was starting to build some momentum, as Ronnie Brown was putting together a nice little drive. Also, the offensive line as a whole kept Henne clean, outside of the hit he received on the play-action roll-out pass to Fasano.
On the bright side, the defense was pretty solid all night long. The first-team gave up a touchdown, but it took a perfectly placed Josh Freeman pass and a spectacular catch by Mike Williams to beat great coverage by Vontae Davis, which got that scoring drive going. Other than that, the pass rush was pretty solid, as Koa Misi and Cameron Wake forced Freeman out of the pocket on a couple plays, and the front seven as a whole was close to dominate for the entire first half. The first-team run defense was good, not great, but if it wasn't for a missed tackle by Kendall Langord, they would have fared much better.
Randy Starks looked the part of a true nose guard tonight, but the performance of the night was arguably owned by Paul Soliai. Soliai recovered a fumble, and was the cornerstone for a dominate run defense during most of the second quarter. This is just me speaking, but if Soliai continues to look this good, why not move Starks back to defensive end and give the keys to Soliai at the nose? That is still a big if and purely speculation, but it appears Miami is pretty deep at the position for the time being.
The Buc's receivers made some great plays out there tonight, but I would say the secondary as a whole had a pretty decent outing. Sean Smith bounced back nicely from being a bit out of position on Tampa's only score of the night, with his third preseason interception in his two-year career. Chris Clemons looked sharp, Nolan Carroll showed us why everyone has been hyping him up in training camp, and Nate Ness was the player of the second-half, with two forced fumbles, and two passes broken up.
At the end of the day, the offense's lackluster performance leaves us with a sour taste in our mouth, but anytime you escape these exhibitions with no serious injuries, things could always be worse.
Game Ball: Paul Soliai, NT
C. Henne: 5-11, 19 yards
T. Thigpen: 10-19, 145 yards
R. Brown: 5 carries, 20 yards
R. Williams: 3 carries, 10 yards
L. Hilliard: 8 carries, 19 yards, 1 touchdown
M. Moore: 2 receptions, 44 yards
P. Turner: 2 receptions, 44 yards
J. Pruitt: 2 receptions, 23 yards
N. Ness: 2 forced fumbles
P. Soliai: 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
J. Odrick: 1 fumble recovery
R. Jones: 1 fumble recovery, 11 yard return
S. Smith: 1 interception
Top 5 Tacklers
N. Ness: 4 tackles
A. Spitler: 4 tackles
J. Allen: 3 tackles
C. Crowder: 3 tackles
M. Johnson: 3 tackles