Dolphins Leave Carolina with More Questions Than Answers

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 17: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins drops back to pass against the Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins lost to the Carolina Panthers last night 23-17. But, the loss is meaningless in three weeks when the NFL regular season begins. The performance of the team last night, however, is something to worry about. The team did not look sharp in any aspect of the game.

Head coach Joe Philbin summed it up nicely after the game. "Offensively and defensively we're not playing well enough to win," Philbin said. "That's very evident."

Clearly, they aren't playing well enough to win. They now have three weeks to get it together and get ready for the regular season.

Surprisingly, the position they may no longer have to worry about is the one that has been the biggest competition of the summer in Miami. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill may have sewn up the starting position when Week 1 gets here. Ultimately, if the starting position goes to Tannehill, it may be less about his performance tonight than it's about the lack of performance veteran Matt Moore had.

Tannehill went 11-for-23 for 100 yards, and took control of the offense on one drive, moving the team down for a one-yard Daniel Thomas touchdown run. Moore, taking over at the start of the third quarter, struggled to do anything at all with the offense, completing just five of his 15 passes, for 57 yards.

While Tannehill still looks like a rookie out there at times, and was clearly dealing with nerves to start the game, he is playing better than Moore, who still looks like he is learning the system. If Tannehill is declared the winner of the quarterback competition, he's going to make rookie mistakes at times, but once he gets into a rhythm, he clearly will be able to move the offense better than Moore right now.

Beyond the quarterback position, the team struggled across all of the position groups. The offensive line couldn't pass block, with Tannehill being sacked four times. The running game couldn't get going, with five running backs combining for 12 carries, 37 yards, and one touchdown. The leading receiver was Marcus Tigpen, with 40 yards on three receptions. Rishard Matthews and Jeff Fuller each tallied four receptions, with Matthews adding a Pat Devlin touchdown late in the game.

The defense did not fair any better, with Chris Clemons leading the team with six tackles, as well as a forced fumble. Undrafted free agent defensive end Derrick Shelby was the highlight of the defensive, with four tackles, and a sack. Otherwise, the defense could not tackle, could not cover, and, all-around, could not stop Cam Newton or Derek Anders, who both went over the 100 yard passing mark.

Ultimately, Tannehill's performance, and Moore's struggles, may have solidified the quarterback position. But, they may be the only position that became less murky this week. The Dolphins have one week to solve their problems before the critical third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.

At least how the coaches react to this game should make Hard Knocks entertaining this week.

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