Both the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their 2014 preseason with a 16-10 loss in Week 1, but while both teams are looking for their first win of the preseason schedule, each team has bigger fish to fry.
Tampa will receive a boost in the secondary as starting safety Dashon Goldson will play in Saturday night’s game against Miami, Goldson has been recovering from offseason foot surgery and did not play in Tampa’s 16-10 loss to Jacksonville.
The secondary will surely be tested against the Ryan Tannehill-led Miami offense that put up a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night in their only series of work. Tannehill finished the drive with a nicely thrown ball to WR Brandon Gibson for the TD. Tannehill completed all six of his passes for 62 yards and one touchdown.
No word yet on if WRs Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline will play Saturday night, as both players sat out Miami’s preseason opener along with TE Charles Clay.
While Tampa’s secondary receives a boost, the focus in this one should be along the offensive line for head coach Lovie Smith and co. Smith is entering the 2014 regular season with a short leash for his offensive linemen in an effort to find the best unit to put on the field in Week 1. Smith has already benched starting right guard Jamon Meredith due to his poor play in Tampa’s loss last week, and will likely continue to bench whoever he must in order to field the best offensive line unit possible.
This could be a blessing in disguise for Miami as the team tries to find out what its front seven should look like heading into its season opener against the New England Patriots. The Dolphins have their front four set with DEs Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, along with DTs Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell, but the team still has a weakness at linebacker.
MLB Koa Misi has looked solid thus far, but the play of OLB Philip Wheeler has left much to be desired, which could lead to second-year OLB Jelani Jenkins or rookie OLB Jordan Tripp starting in Wheeler’s place.
Miami’s front seven will be tested in this one by Tampa’s strong run game, but the team’s secondary may have its hands full defending Tampa’s improved receiving corp — if QB Josh McCown can deliver the ball accurately. McCown struggled in the preseason opener, but will look to bounce back against an unproven Miami secondary featuring safeties Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas and corners Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan and Jamar Taylor.
If McCown struggles again, look for the team to push second-year QB Mike Glennon as their starting signal caller entering 2014. Smith has stated that McCown would be the team’s starter barring any setbacks, but it looks as though McCown has come back down to earth after a solid 2013 season.
Glennon, on the other hand, is a young gunslinger who could be a great fit in Tampa’s offensive scheme.
Be sure to keep an eye on Miami’s offensive line in this one. RG Dallas Thomas and RT Ja’Wuan James played quite well in Friday’s loss, but DT Gerald McCoy and DE Michael Johnson will surely put both players to the test. If Thomas and James pass, Miami’s offense is in good shape heading into the 2014 NFL season. If they do not, it could be more of the same in Miami after allowing a league-high 58 sacks in 2013.
I’ll be watching to see how Charles Sims (RB, TAM), Tommy Streeter (WR, TAM), Johnthan Banks (CB, TAM), Mike Gillislee (RB, MIA), Jarvis Landry (WR, MIA) and Jordan Tripp (OLB, MIA) all do in this one. Which young players will you be keeping an eye on in this one? Let me know in the comment section below.
Be sure to check out the game kicking off Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. EST. The starting units should play roughly a quarter or so in this one, which will get both teams ready for their week three matchups.