Five Things To Watch Revisited

Before the Dolphins took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their third preseason game Thursday night, we presented five players or issues to closely watch during the game. So how did those play out during the Dolphins' 10-6 victory at Raymond James Stadium?

1. Keeping tabs on Thomas

We wondered before the game whether the Dolphins finally would keep Thomas with the rest of the first-team offensive line the whole way or whether the rotation with Shawn Murphy would continue, and the answer was that there was no rotation.

That should send a clear signal that whatever competition might have existed for the starting right guard job is over and that indeed it will be Thomas in that spot for the season opener at Atlanta.

2. Is Hartline making a push to become a starter?

If you believe a lot of the folks who cover the Dolphins, the answer is a definite yes, and there's even a school of thought suggesting he's already won the job.

We're not quite ready to go that far because while Hartline had some big plays against Tampa Bay, he also had some miscues, most notably dropping a third-down pass after contact.

Davone Bess remains a much better receiver in my mind, but it's possible the Dolphins like him better in the slot.

Having said all that, Hartline definitely will make the team and indeed might end up starting, I'm just saying let's not anoint him as a starter just yet.

3. Which young outside linebacker can stand out?

There was good news for the Dolphins there because the answer turned out to be more than one.

The one who had the best game was Quentin Moses, who has come on big time in recent weeks and now seems likely to make the team.

Erik Walden also helped his cause when he chased down Josh Freeman from behind for a fourth-quarter sack.

Meanwhile, Cameron Wake still doesn't have a sack, but for the third consecutive game he disrupted a play by getting to the quarterback.

The one outside linebacker battling for a roster spot who had a so-so game was Charlie Anderson, who did little on defense and fumbled the loose ball after Patrick Cobbs' blocked punt in the first quarter.

4. The rookie cornerbacks

Sean Smith was back in the starting lineup after sitting out the Carolina game because of his sickness, but it was far from a triumphant return.

In fact, Smith really struggled in coverage, whether it was giving too much cushion or turning around too late to look for the ball.

Vontae Davis was more solid, although he probably should have been penalized on Tampa Bay's fourth-down attempt late in the game after his hand accidentally hit the Bucs receiver's facemask.

Davis had a great open-field tackle on Freeman at the end of a running play.

5. The return game

As expected, Ted Ginn Jr. and Patrick Cobbs took turns returning kickoffs and Ginn once again showed his habit of heading toward the sideline. Cobbs, meanwhile, ran straight up the middle on his kickoff return, which was good for 30 yards.

On punt returns, it was Bess the whole way, but he never had much room to maneuver and averaged only 6 yards on four returns.

We would suspect it would be Bess on punt returns and Cobbs (it might be wishful thinking) on kickoff returns at the start of the regular season.


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