Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Miami Dolphins Preview

August 12 - Are you ready for some football? Yes, it's only preseason, but it has been 223 days since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a football game. The Bucs will open the preseason at home on Monday night against their state-rival Miami Dolphins. Miami is hoping to win their first game of the preseason while the Buccaneers plan on having the Dolphins walk the plank in front of a national audience. Here is Buccaneer Magazine's first installment of the Bucs-Opponent Preview for the 2001 season

MATCHUP: Miami Dolphins (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida

WHEN: Monday, Aug. 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET. on ESPN

LAST WEEK: The Miami Dolphins lost to the St. Louis Rams last Monday night in the Hall of Fame Game, 17-10. Although Miami came up short against St. Louis, there were several bright spots for the Dolphins. Miami's offense outgained St. Louis' 295-216 and also amassed 192 yards with their first and second teams on the field. Quarterback Jay Fiedler was intercepted on the second play of the game when ex-Bucs' LB Don Davis tipped his pass in the air to Dexter McCleon, but it did not take long for Fiedler to rebound from that play. Fiedler converted three first downs and eventually led his offense into the end zone for a touchdown. The Dolphins' starting QB finished the night 4-of-5 for 68 yards. Fiedler also rushed one time for a gain of six yards. Back-up QB Ray Lucas came in and picked up where Fiedler left off, completing 5-of-6 passes for 46 yards. Lucas rushed two times for 11 yards. Lucas would have played more, but had to leave the game because of back spasms. QB Mike Quinn came in for Lucas and completed 7-of-11 passes for 55 yards. Rookie QB Josh Heupel completed 4-of-8 passes for 62 yards.

Running back Lamar Smith rushed seven times for 21 yards and one touchdown. Rookie RB Travis Minor rushed nine times against St. Louis for a total of 35 yards.

Although ex-Bucs' RB Autry Denson did not carry the ball against the Rams, he did play a vital part in the passing game last week. Denson caught four passes for 51 yards. Fullback Rob Konrad also contributed in the passing game, hauling in two catches for 41 yards.

The Dolphins defense stuffed St. Louis' run last Monday night by holding the Rams to just 52 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Take this with a grain of salt-RB Marshall Faulk did not play in the game. Miami's defense also held St. Louis to just 95 yards of total offense over the fist two quarters of the game. Miami also recorded three sacks in the first half against St. Louis.

Miami's special teams did well. The Dolphins received a solid effort from Ben Kelly, who averaged 28-yards per kick return against the Rams. Pro Bowl K Olindo Mare made 1-of-2 field goal attempts on the night.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has not played a preseason game yet, but the Dolphins and Bucs did hold three joint practices Aug. 10-11 at the University of Tampa's Pepin-Rood Stadium.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers LT Kenyatta Walker vs. Dolphins DE Jason Taylor. Taylor will give the Bucs' rookie left tackle all he can handle right out of the gate, but in the joint practices leading up to Monday night's game between the Dolphins and Bucs, Walker did a superb job on Taylor and was able to hold off his pass rush. Having lined up against speed rushing DE Simeon Rice throughout training camp has obviously helped Walker progress quickly as a left tackle, but Taylor is coming off a Pro Bowl year where he recorded 14.5 sacks. Although Walker held his own against Taylor in the joint practices, don't be surprised if the Bucs leave a tight end in to help him block for all four of their quarterbacks' blindsides against Miami on Monday night. Remember, Tampa Bay does not want to take a chance of losing any of their quarterbacks, especially their $28 million one in Brad Johnson.

THE LAST TIME THESE TWO TEAMS MET: December 10, 2000-The Buccaneers escaped Miami with a 16-13 win at Pro Player Stadium in a game that was played through a steady rain. The Dolphins led the Buccaneers after three quarters, but that is when K Martin Gramatica came on the field to save the day. Gramatica kicked a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 46-yarder with just over eight minutes to play. Gramatica's field goals prove to be the difference in the game.

The Buccaneers and Dolphins also played each other in the preseason last year on Aug. 10 at Pro Player Stadium, where Miami defeated Tampa Bay by a score of 15-13.

BUCS-DOLPHINS SERIES: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins have faced each other 15 times in the preseason. The Dolphins lead the series 11-4. Miami also leads the all-time regular season series with Tampa Bay by a 4-3 margin.

RAY OF LIGHT: Dolphins' QB Ray Lucas could give starting QB Jay Fiedler strong competition for the position. Not only does Lucas have a strong and fairly accurate arm, but he can also be a dangerous threat on the ground. Against the Rams last week, Lucas rushed two times for 11 yards (5.5 avg.), but he had to leave the game with back spasms. If he would have stayed in the game, you can bet Lucas would have ran at least a few more times. The good news is Tampa Bay's defense is much faster the St. Louis' and they should be ready for not only Lucas, but for all of the Dolphins' quarterbacks to scramble.

FEAR FACTOR: Speaking of Fiedler, he had his worst game of the season last year against the Bucs. Tampa Bay intercepted Fiedler four times last season, one of which, was returned 31-yards for a touchdown by Bucs' MLB Jamie Duncan. Tampa Bay's secondary held Fiedler to only 175 yards passing last season. In last season's game, FS Damien Robinson came up huge late in the game for the Buccaneers. Robinson has since left to New York to play for the Jets and Dexter Jackson will be starting for the Buccaneers. Fiedler and the Dolphins may try to test Jackson early, but keep this in mind. In the Bucs' preseason opener last season, QB Jeff George and the Washington Redskins tried to test Jackson while Robinson was out injured, and he made George pay by intercepting him twice.

INJURIES: OUT: FB Mike Alstott (left hamstring), DE John McLaughlin (right hip fracture), WR Frank Rice (right ACL tear) and P Mark Royals (right MCL sprain). QUESTIONABLE: MLB Jamie Duncan (left hamstring strain), DT Terry Jolly (left knee sprain), CB Anthony Midget (left hamstring strain), C/G Todd Washington (left finger dislocation), and LB Jude Waddy (jaw sprain). PROBABLE: RB Rabih Abdullah (left hamstring strain), CB Donnie Abraham (left hamstring strain), S David Gibson (right groin strain), WR Jacquez Green (right hamstring strain), FS Dexter Jackson (left hamstring strain) and RB Aaron Stecker (neck strain).

FLYNN'S FINAL: Bucs' offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen has made it clear that QB Brad Johnson will only receive about 12-15 reps against the Dolphins on Monday night. This will leave plenty of reps for quarterbacks Shaun King and Ryan Leaf, who are battling for the back-up quarterback position. Unless there is an injury, don't expect QB Joe Hamilton to receive any reps against Miami.

The Bucs's front four on defense, which is made up of all first round draft picks, will debut together on Monday night. Last season, Tampa Bay's defense could only manage one sack against the Dolphins, but this unit has high expectations this season and should take advantage of Miami's loss of two veteran offensive linemen in RG Kevin Donnalley and LT Richmond Webb.

Last season, the Buccaneers' wide receivers only caught four passes for a total of 41 yards. The most disturbing part about this is WR Keyshawn Johnson caught all four of those passes. Miami's secondary, which features two of the best corners in the league in Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, made it difficult for the Bucs to get their passing game going. Wide receivers Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony usually disappear against bump and run coverage, and that is exactly what Miami will do to them on Monday night. In the joint practices leading up to Monday night's game, WR Frank Murphy did an excellent job of getting off of the line of scrimmage against this type of defense. If Murphy and Johnson have trouble getting off of the line of scrimmage against Miami's defense, look for Tampa Bay's quarterbacks to pass to their tight ends in the seams of the field. Last season, TE Dave Moore had a huge 22-yard play against the Dolphins and Christensen plans on using his tight ends more this season.

The Bucs' running backs will also be an option in the passing game on Monday night. Last season, RB Warrick Dunn was virtually non-existent in the running game, but hauled in six receptions for 84 yards. After watching the Bucs and Dolphins workout together in the joint practices, one should expect a very close game. Both teams know each other well, possess a good amount of depth and their defenses are ahead of the offenses. This has all of the makings for a game that should be won in the trenches.

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