Preseason Opener Observations

The Dolphins dropped their preseason opener Saturday night, losing 17-6 to Tampa Bay. The story of the game was the Dolphins' inability to stop the Tampa Bay offense on third down, too many penalties on offense and special teams and the failure to get into the end zone. But the final score isn't what matters most in exhibition games. Here, then, are some observations from the game.

-- John Beck started at quarterback for the Dolphins and played the first quarter. He was followed by Chad Henne, who played the second and third quarters, and Josh McCown, who got the fourth quarter.

Of the three, Henne was by far the most impressive and that's not just a case of wishful thinking that he can be the long-term solution at quarterback. He just looked impressive in the pocket and showed off a nice arm.

Beck looked a lot like the Beck of last year, which means he didn't have a lot of zip on his passes and he didn't look comfortable in the pocket.

-- Ronnie Brown indeed did play in the opener against Tampa Bay, but he gained only 4 yards on three carries. That didn't matter, though, the important thing was getting him some work.

-- Ricky Williams, for his part, had a couple of really nice runs while gaining 31 yards on five carries. He showed great quickness through the hole.

-- Interesting to see Matt Roth start the game at outside linebacker in place of Joey Porter, who was held out. Coach Tony Sparano has talked about developing roster flexibility, but we can't help but get the feeling the Dolphins are trying to see if Roth can play linebacker because he's too small to play DE in a 3-4.

-- Jayson Foster didn't help his cause to make the team when he bobbled a punt before retrieving the loose ball and getting immediately tackled.

-- On another special teams note, Dan Carpenter did all the kicking with veteran Jay Feely nursing a groin injury and nailed two field goals in addition to doing a nice job with directional kickoffs.

-- Backup left tackle Ikechuku Ndukwe was beaten for a sack in the second half. Getting depth at offensive tackle is something the Dolphins still need.

-- Rookie defensive ends Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford both started for the Dolphins -- Vonnie Holliday was held out because of a minor hamstring injury -- and they looked pretty good.

-- Another young defensive lineman who made his presence felt was Rodrique Wright, who is battling for one of the backup jobs along the defensive line.

-- Jason Allen made a nice play to break up a third-down pass early in the game.

-- The special teams are supposed to be much improved over last season, which is why it was a little disturbing to see the Dolphins give up a 30-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.


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