The Bucs went down to Miami and beat the Dolphins in a 17-6 contest that could have been a big blow out. The Bucs had a couple of opportunities to really open the game up, but missed out, making the contest closer than it should have been. Let me talk about my overall impressions of the 3 main units.
Offensively I expected a little more pop out of the offensive line. Of course, Bill Parcells is now in charge in Miami with Tony Sparano leading the way as HC. The Dolphins have changed their defense around, and it's really hard to tell if the Bucs were just going up against a unit that will be really good this year, or if there is something else going on. The line did make some holes that Bennett occasionally hit, but also tended to be slow getting into. I think Graham may have had more success up the middle than Bennett, but at least we know Bennett can run up the middle along the lines of a Pittman type back. The protection was good for almost the entire game but 4 breakdowns led to 4 sacks. Luke McCown was the first victim when Joseph let a defender blow through him. Overall, the line was solid, but not as good as I was expecting. With a base offense, though, it's hard to judge how it will carry forward.
Luke McCown was alright at QB. He had 2 drops and a failure of Stovall to complete his route fully, but he drove the team toward a possible TD, where he over threw a wide open Clayton, and a possible FG (missed by Bryant). Griese was a little better and kept drives alive, including a TD pass to Clark, but he was also the latest version of Captain Checkdown, as PR is putting it. Simms came in and got it going on his second drive and looked solid during his time. He didn't throw anything really deep, but he didn't throw anything close to a pick, nor did he have anything batted down. He made sound decisions and actually looks like someone they could keep if another QB got injured in the preseason.
The receivers were solid, but not spectacular. Clayton dropped an easy deep pass, but then caught two tough catches, and was wide open in the end zone when Luke threw the ball to high and deep. Stovall failed to run through one route, nearly resulting in a pick, but caught two other passes. Bryant looked good in limited action, as did Spurlock. The tight ends were alright, but Smith dropped a pass.
Overall the offense was alright, but not spectacular. They did hold onto the ball for 36+ minutes, keeping the defense fresh, and did not give up a turnover, or have a penalty.
Defensively, the Bucs were able to shut the fish down for most of the night. The Dolphins did manage a couple of field goals, but never got into the redzone. Barber was used on a blitz to get a sack early, and two more sacks occurred via Wilkerson and Charles Bennett. There was a good deal of pressure, but not enough sacks or contact with the QB. The defensive line did hold down the fish running game most of the time, though Ricky Williams managed a couple of good runs. The safeties were hitting, and the linebackers had solid play behind the defensive line. Adams wasn't very productive, neither was White or Carter. Which does lend to some concern, but we'll see. Brooks didn't record a tackle, but wasn't on the field too long. Talib made a nice play on what looked to be a possible long run, but he tackled the back by diving at the legs, and prevented the play from getting anything.
Overall the defense was good enough to hold the Dolphins to 198 yards and 33% on third down. They held the Dolphins to just 64 rushing yards and 134 passing yards while getting them off the field with regularity. They didn't record a turnover, though, but were also penalty free.
Special Teams was alright. Bryant missed two field goals, one a chip shot. The second was a 50+ on the baseball clay, and he just barely missed. Punting was solid. The punt coverage and returns were outstanding. The kick coverage and kick returns were below average (the Bucs averaged 2.8 yards better returning punts than kicks). So it was a mixed outing. Except for one 38 yard kick return by the Dolphins, the coverage teams held the Dolphins to poor field position all game, which was a big plus.
In summary, it was the first preseason game, and there was some rust that had to be shaken off. Overall, I think the Bucs did good, but they clearly need to address a few areas. They basically dominated a team that they should, but they still need to capitalize on opportunities to put points on the board. The final score was a lot closer than it should have been. Now the Bucs get a much better test against the Patriots at home. They should see Brady for at least a couple of series, so the defense will get some good work in. Let's see if the offense can improve too.