Game observations

The previous road losses against the Jets and Bills were frustrating because it seemed the Dolphins easily could have won those games. But Sunday's effort at Tampa Bay was a whole different ballgame because the Dolphins just struggled from start to finish. It was disappointing on a different level, and probably more alarming for the long-term outlook this season.

The biggest concerns remain the same for the Dolphins, meaning mediocre offensive line play, spotty quarterbacking, and the inability of the secondary to shut down anybody.

But what's also coming up in the road losses is the inability of any of the so-called playmakers on the team to come up big at key moments.

That includes Chris Chambers not coming down with a Frerotte bomb in the first quarter, not long before making a much more difficult catch that wasn't nearly as significant.

It means Marty Booker not being able to catch a pass thrown slightly behind him as he's running across the middle.

And it means the pass rush not being able to get a sack or create an incompletion with pressure on one of Tampa Bay's many third-down conversions.

Let's break it down.

-- We knew going into the season the offensive line wouldn't be great and it has proven that way. But it's one thing to get beat by pass rushers, it's another to over and over and over and over be committing false starts. The truth with this offensive line is there's no one on it good enough to elevate the play of everybody else. In fact, the big question is how many of the five starters on Sunday would be able to start for other teams. We're guessing not many.

-- Gus Frerotte is a veteran who knows the game, knows the offense and all that. But there's a reason he's bounced around from team to team and has been a backup pretty much his entire career. He's a pocket passer with inconsistent accuracy and he was off target all day on Sunday. It should be pretty obvious by now that quarterback again will be the No. 1 priority next offseason.

-- The secondary is just not very good. The cornerbacks play way too far off the receivers, and it was absurdly easy for Tampa Bay's wideouts -- especially Joey Galloway -- to run quick slants because there was no way the defensive backs could cut them off. He doesn't want to admit it, but Sam Madison clearly isn't the same corner he was a few years ago and Travis Daniels on the other side continues his maddening habit of never looking back at the quarterback and playing the ball. That habit leaves Daniels unable to adjust to the ball and will lead to pass-interference calls and make it difficult, if not impossible, to get interceptions.

-- Having Ricky and Ronnie is a nice luxury for the Dolphins, but it's going to be imperative for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and Saban to find a way to work them so one or both can get into a groove, which they didn't seem to get in against the Bucs. Having co-starters, as Saban likes to call it, is great and all, but maybe it's just easier to have one guy handling the bulk of the work. Really, can you think of the last great offensive team that had two running backs employed almost equally. Not that the Dolphins have the makings of a great offensive team, but they need to get better, that's for sure.


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