Dolphins’ starters struggle in 23-17 loss to Panthers

The Miami Dolphins underwent a lot of change this offseason. Most thought that the changes that were made would pay dividends rather quickly. Well, if last night’s performance was any indication of how the 2012 season will go, more changes will be needed.  The Dolphins starting offense and defense BOTH looked pretty terrible against the Panthers.  The offense went 3 and out in almost every series in the first half.  The defense?  They gave up 17 points and were pushed around by Cam Newton and the Panthers.

The big story entering the game revolved around Ryan Tannehill getting his first career start.  The results?  Tannehill went 11 of 23 for 100 yards.  He didn’t throw a touchdown, but did lead the Dolphins to a 15 play touchdown drive.  Also important, he didn’t turn the ball over.  Through 2 games, Tannehill has not turned the ball over, which is a good sign.  Honestly though, it is hard to evaluate Tannehill properly based on last night’s game.  His Dolphins teammates didn’t do much to help him.  Anthony Fasano dropped an easy pass early on.  Jonathan Martin did a great Marc Colombo impression and almost got Tannehill killed a few times.   Matt Moore came in against the Panthers 2nd/3rd team defense and went just 5-15 for 57 yards.  Neither QB separated himself from the other in the QB battle.

The receivers couldn’t get open, but even if they were, Tannehill wouldn’t have had time to find them because the offensive line was dreadful.  Legedu Naanee, who Omar Kelly said is the Dolphins biggest surprise?  He caught as many balls as I did last night.  At least the running game was solid, right?  You know, Reggie Bush and his prediction to win the rushing title?  Yeah, the Dolphins rushed 7 times in the first half for 10 yards.

So the offense had a bad night, what about the defense?  They were bad too.  The starting defense allowed 17 points in the first quarter.  They generated no pass rush, which lead to wide open receivers grazing in the Dolphins secondary.  It should be noted that the Dolphins defense was missing Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Cameron Wake.  Those are 3 important cogs in the Dolphins defense. The Dolphins run defense wasn’t great either, allowing the Panthers to push them around and pick up chunks of yards in the process.  Cam Newton finished the game going 8-11 for 119 yards and 1 TD.

Some positives

– Tannehill didn’t get a lot of help, but when he did get some, he looked pretty good.  The 15 play drive was impressive from blitz pickups to changing the play at the line, it was a good drive.  He just needs some help and needs to do it more consistently.

– Chris Clemons has seemingly locked up the starting safety spot opposite Rashad Jones. He played well last night and caused/recovered a fumble when the Panthers were driving.

– Derrick Shelby an undrafted free agent lineman who’s making a push to make the final 53, had another good game, registering a sack.

– Pat Devlin has come a long way since last year.  Many questioned his arm strength, but it’s drastically improved. He went 13-20 for 118 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  He’s going to make it hard for the Dolphins to put him on the practice squad again since he’ll have to pass through waivers and it’s likely another team will claim him.

– Rishard Matthews, the Dolphins 7th round WR, had 4 catches for 39 yards and a TD.

– Dan Carpenter connected on a 52 yard field goal after missing 2 last week

– Brandon Fields had his usually solid night. He punted 7 times for an average of 48 yards.

I’m not ready to hit the panic button quite yet, this is only the 2nd preseason game.  The Dolphins are installing a new offense and new defense.  They’re probably going to start a rookie at QB.  Patience is necessary.  HOWEVER, I do think that some upgrades are definitely needed before the 2012 season officially begins.  If I’m Jeff Ireland, I’m putting in a call to Plaxico Burress’ agent.  I’m also checking other team’s cap cuts later this preseason to see if I can find an upgrade for the offensive line.  Right now, WR and OL are the 2 biggest worries I have and I think they can/will be addressed.

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