Five things to know from Buccaneers-Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins’ first-team offense started strong and

finished fast.

The in-between needed work.

Miami mounted a 17-play, 8 1/2-minute scoring drive to start the

game, and executed its two-minute offense well to score a touchdown

with 10 seconds left in the first half. Those were their highlights

Saturday in a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay.

Miami totaled 15 first downs and 180 yards in the opening half

against the Buccaneers’ first-team defense. The score could have

been lopsided, but the Dolphins needed 17 snaps in the red zone

before they reached the end zone, and Brian Hartline and Brandon

Gibson dropped potential touchdown passes.

With one exhibition game to go, here are five things we learned

from the Buccaneers (1-2) and Dolphins (1-3):

1. MIAMI’S OFFENSE REMAINS INCONSISTENT DESPITE SIGNS OF

PROGRESS: Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 17 for 27 for

150 yards and a one touchdown, a 4-yard throw to Gibson threaded

between two defenders. That was one of 13 passes Tannehill

completed to his wideouts, the team’s most improved unit this

season, and Miami frequently lined up with three wide

receivers.

Gibson caught five passes but dropped two. Hartline caught four

passes, Mike Wallace three and Marvin McNutt one.

The Dolphins sputtered in the red zone in part because blocking

remains shaky at times. The first team netted 38 yards in 15

rushing plays, and Tannehill was knocked to the ground at least

four times, including once on a sack by Trevor Scott.

Tannehill threw several times into tight coverage, and Michael

Adams dropped a potential interception.

”I can’t tell you the rhythm offensively was great,” coach Joe

Philbin said. ”It didn’t feel that way to me. It’s got to get

better.”

2. JOSH FREEMAN HAS YET TO LOOK LIKE A QUARTERBACK COMING OFF A

4,000-YARD SEASON: After playing a total of 21 snaps in the first

two games, Freeman went 2 1/2 quarters, but struggled to get the

Bucs going. He went 6 for 16 for 59 yards, took five sacks and had

a passer rating of 48.7. He also lost a fumble at midfield with

1:29 left in the first half and led to Miami’s lone touchdown.

”The whole operation was out of sync, and he is part of the

operation,” coach Greg Schiano said.

Mike Williams was targeted seven times but caught only two

passes. The ground game sputtered, too, although Brian Leonard ran

for 38 yards and a score in 10 carries.

3. DAVE WANNSTEDT ENJOYED SUCCESS AGAINST HIS EX-TEAM: Miami’s

former head coach is in his first year as Tampa Bay’s special teams

coach, and his punt coverage unit recovered two fumbles to set up

10 points.

Backup linebacker Adam Hayward made both recoveries. One

turnover came after the kick hit blocker Nolan Carroll, and

returner Marcus Thigpen lost a fumble. Thigpen later had a 38-yard

return.

4. BOTH TEAMS ARE STRONGER UP FRONT ON DEFENSE THAN ON OFFENSE:

Neither side managed 100 yards rushing or more than 3.5 yards per

carry, and quarterbacks on both teams were harried all night.

Lamar Miller enjoyed an edge over Daniel Thomas in their

competition for the job as Miami’s No. 1 running back. Miller had

eight carries for 35 yards, including a 20-yard run on his first

carry against the Bucs’ stout run defense. Thomas carried seven

times for 3 yards.

Two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, who missed Tampa Bay’s

entire 2012 season because of a right knee injury, played for the

first time this preseason, but couldn’t give the ground game much

of a boost.

The Dolphins totaled six sacks, while Bucs newcomer Scott had

three sacks.

”It’s a good beginning for him,” Schiano said. ”We signed him

for that reason. We believe that’s what he could be. I like his

demeanor and I like the way he carries himself, so hopefully that

will continue.”

5. THE BUCS REMAIN FAR FROM HEALTHY: Cornerback Darrelle Revis,

who began practicing with the Bucs’ first defensive unit this week,

sat out his third exhibition game in a row as he comes back from

knee surgery. Left guard Carl Nicks (infected left big toe) and

running back Doug Martin (head) were also sidelined.

Veteran Rian Lindell, signed this week by the Bucs because

Lawrence Tynes has a toe infection, kicked a 38-yard field

goal.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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