TAMPA, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins still bear the scars of last season’s 45-17 whipping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October.
That’s why this team, with a new coach and loads of new players, was still openly talking about it Wednesday at the Dolphins-Bucs joint practice in Tampa. They were connecting it to a future they hope will be brighter.
“We’ve been waiting on this day,” Miami defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah admitted after the Dolphins and Bucs finished the first of two dual practices. The two teams also practice again Thursday and play a preseason game Saturday.
“We feel like we got embarrassed last year,” Ogbah continued. “We’ve got to go out there and do better this year. It was a good practice against them and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Dolphins-Bucs Joint Practice: Miami Measuring Stick
Ogbah was talking about August practices like they’re worthy of marking on the calendar. And that’s weird because it means tangibly nothing in the standings.
But to the Dolphins these practices are a measuring stick.
They’re a chance to compare themselves to a high standard and see if they stack up.
And let me offer the bottom line right now: The Dolphins were pretty much the Bucs’ equal in the one workout.
Tampa has been a very good team and is expected to be that again in 2022. The Dolphins haven’t been very good but think 2022 can be different.
Miami’s Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, who has zero to prove about his ability, did indeed keep last year’s 28-point loss on his mind. Howard recognizes these practices were important to his team.
“When we were back at home, I already knew about it,” he said. “That was on my mind 24/7. It still is. So I feel like that brings a little bit of fire to it. I feel like if you want to get motivated, you can watch that game, the people that were there last year, and they see what they did to us.”
The team that didn’t seem to belong on the same field with Tampa Bay last year apparently has come a long way.
Dolphins-Bucs Joint Practice: Tampa Has Its Moments
The Bucs, too, had their moments. New receiver Julio Jones made plays that suggested talk of his demise are greatly exaggerated. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett at one point had a free run up the gut at Tua Tagovailoa that might have launched the quarterback into orbit were it a regular-season game. (Barrett simply pulled up and ran past Tagovailoa).
But the Dolphins otherwise matched the Bucs play for play.
Defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler and Ogbah, who club sources say have been having good training camps, were active. Linebacker Melvin Ingram made a pass-rush spin move that left a Tampa Bay offensive tackle trying to block air.
For every pass Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard caught from Tom Brady, the Dolphins got completions to someone in their upgraded backfield. Speedy new addition Tyreek Hill also delivered consistent playmaking.
The Dolphins did see a rough day by Teddy Bridgewater. The backup quarterback threw two interceptions. And the tight ends continue to be a mystery, while playing in an offense that made George Kittle a star in San Francisco.
Mike McDaniel Pumped
New coach Mike McDaniel said he was “pumped” to be at these practices. He must know the Buccaneers have no plans to play accomplished starters in the preseason game, so the practices are a better chance to face quality competition than that game.
“Every time you’re on the football field, something I really try to instill in the guys [is] every time you’re on the football field is telling you where you’re at,” McDaniel said. “Everything else is fake. It’s all made up.
“It’s something that you’re excited to see where your team is at that day and then whatever that is, can they best handle that for the next day.”
The Dolphins handled it this day. The team that lost by 28 points last October seemed an even match.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero