The Next Step in QB Battle

QB Ryan Tannehill

As preseason openers go, the Dolphins' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appears a lot more significant than usual. The reason is simple: It's another important step for Coach Joe Philbin and his staff in determining who should be the team's starting quarterback come Sept. 9.

Veteran David Garrard was listed as the first-team quarterback when the Dolphins released their first depth chart on Monday, but Philbin was adamant in saying the competition was far from over.

Philbin wouldn't even confirm Garrard as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay game when he spoke to the media on Wednesday, although logic says he'll be the guy.

Even though he has looked much better in practice than he did as a rookie in 2011, Pat Devlin really doesn't figure in the quarterback battle, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he didn't get any snaps against Tampa Bay.

A logical scenario would have Garrard and Moore each playing a quarter, and Tannehill getting the other two.

It will be a big game in more ways than one for Garrard, who sat out all of last season after being released by Jacksonville the week of the regular season opener and later underwent back surgery.

Garrard said he's actually looking forward to getting hit because it's been so long.

"It's going to feel great, feel great," Garrard said. "And hopefully I can get up off the ground and once I do, I'll knock the dirt off myself and keep right on moving."

While Garrard clearly is in the lead in the quarterback competition, first-round pick Ryan Tannehill also has impressed.

The biggest question regarding Tannehill is how he'll adjust to game speed and while the preseason isn't the same as the regular season, Friday night's game can start answering that question.

Moore, meanwhile, finds himself playing catch-up after closing out the 2011 regular season as one of the most effective quarterbacks in the entire NFL.

Remember that Moore went 6-3 over the final nine weeks and his passer rating of 97.8 during that span was the sixth-best in the league.

Unfortunately for Moore, he has lived up this summer to his reputation as a mediocre practice player.

Moore just might need a strong performance Friday night more than either Garrard or Tannehill, which was one reason he was so looking forward to the start of the preseason.

"I can't wait," Moore said Tuesday. "I think that's when you need to be at your best and, playing in a game, that's why you play this game. You love doing that. You love competing. It is one thing to do it out here, but you really got to step it up on game day. So I'm pumped."

Follow Alain Poupart on Twitter (@apoupartFins).

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