The Miami Dolphins lost their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a heartbreaking fashion, scoring a touchdown in the last two minutes thanks to QB Bryce Petty and WR Isaiah Ford, with that same connection accounting for the 2-point conversion that gave them the lead with just over a minute left.
But the defense collapsed in that last minute, and the Bucs were able to add another field goal to their total, giving them a 26-24 win in the final seconds.
Overall, the team showed a lot of the same weaknesses they have had in past games in 2017. They struggled to stay consistent on offense, and the defense allowed a lot of big chunk plays that made it difficult to get off the field.
But things weren't all bad by any means. Flashes from individual players, admittedly, were abundant in this game even though the team as a whole couldn't get it done. But given that this is the preseason, in many ways, weeding out players and preparing to make cuts. So this game was informative in that regard.
So without further ado, let's dig into the top three positive takeaways from this game.
Young players coming out strong
So many young Dolphins players came out and immediately showed that they have plenty to offer their new team. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jerome Baker, and even Mike Gesicki all had moments that displayed potential greatness, while some others had less spectacular - but still good - plays that let them stand out.
Players like DT Anthony Moten, DT Vincent Taylor, CB Cornell Armstrong, RB Senorise Perry and many more were able to flash at least a couple of times, showing their potential as individuals which speaks highly of the overall depth on the team.
Fitzpatrick started in place of the inactive Reshad Jones, and made three impressive tackles and deflected a pass, while Jerome Baker was all over the field, making tackles left and right and ultimately getting a total of five by the time the game was over, all while being thrown in early and playing with the starters in place of Kiko Alonso, who was taken out presumably for precautionary reasons as no injury was reported.
Gesicki leaped up and almost made an impressive touchdown catch via David Fales, but despite it falling incomplete it showed his athleticism and how deadly he can be in the redzone when the season rolls around.
The list could quite honestly go on and on, as a lot of players had moments where they shined bright on the field. What needs to happen next, however, is finding a way to make it all come together on the field as a unit rather just individuals. That's how close losses turn into wins.
David Fales cements himself as favorite
If it wasn't already obvious, there is a distinct favorite when it comes to the backup quarterback position in Miami. Despite seemingly falling behind in some practices, David Fales put all questions as to who was deserving of the job to rest when he completed 8-of-11 passes for a total of 115 yards, resulting in a 106.3 passer rating.
His main competitor, Brock Osweiler? 10-for-21 for 83 yards. His QB rating was nearly half that of Fales: 58.2.
Even fourth-string quarterback Bryce Petty, brought in almost solely for the sake of being a camp arm, did a better job than the former high-paid QB, going 4-for-7 with 53 yards and the only touchdown pass of the night to Isaiah Ford, who then caught the 2-point conversion from Petty that very briefly gave Miami the lead.
But this is about Fales, and the fact of the matter is, the offense never looked better than when he was in control of the offense, although one could make the argument that if Ryan Tannehill had gotten more than one series, that might not have been the case.
Fales knew where the ball needed to be, was able to find open receivers, and most importantly, was accurate with the ball, leading to little plays leading up to big yards, and one really big play for even bigger yards, where he went deep into double coverage and threw a perfect pass to WR Francis Owusu for a 45 yard gain.
Osweiler attempted the same type of throw, and missed Owusu altogether.
At this point, all Fales needs to do is put together one more performance like the one he had on Thursday night, and he will have all but guaranteed that Osweiler will again be looking for another job come the start of the regular season. Although truthfully, there should be no more room for debate.
Pre-snap penalties greatly reduced
During the scrimmage this past Saturday, the Miami Dolphins seemed to get called for six pre-snap penalties in a row, and the amount of penalties there were had head coach Adam Gase stumped and frustrated as to how he could possibly fix the problem.
Well it seems like there is hope that the problem might solve itself in time. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins only committed a total of seven penalties, with only three of them being pre-snap in nature.
The first was an encroachment penalty on DT Davon Godchaux.
The second was a delay of game penalty on Brock Osweiler.
The third was center Connor Hilland - who immediately showed his frustration upon committing the penalty - getting called for false start.
But that was it. No more than that.
That already is a huge difference between appearances at Hard Rock Stadium. Pre-snap penalties have been a point of emphasis with the coaching staff this offseason, and now that the preseason is in full swing, things just might be finally looking up. If they can limit the penalties during the next game as well, then it bodes well for Miami's status among the most penalized teams in football.
As in, they won't be among them anymore.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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