MIAMI GARDENS - As much as Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano would like to suggest otherwise, there is really only one position battle being waged inside training camp that fans are zeroed in on this preseason.
That's the battle between third-year veteran LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin for the right to be Schiano's "bell cow" running back. Judging by Friday night's first-round results, it's going to be a while before this one gets sorted out.
Setting the pace for what would be a 20-7 victory over the Dolphins in Schiano's NFL coaching debut, Blount and Martin turned in almost identical outings at Sun Life Stadium, producing 33 and 28 yards respectively and a touchdown each to cap off the Bucs' first two offensive drives.
"That's what you always plan to do — come out and put points on the board," Blount said. "Everything we've practiced (came) to life tonight. We were well-prepared and we executed everything almost to perfection."
The offense certainly did. Quarterback Josh Freeman completed four of five passes for 41 yards, including one to Blount for a gain of 3 yards during the Bucs' first offensive series.
Dan Orlovsky replaced Freeman for the second series and stayed on through the end of the first half, completing all eight of his passes, including one for 7 yards to Martin during his initial drive.
Orlovsky also completed a 44-yard pass to Tiquan Underwood, who beat a double team to wrestle the ball away from safety Jimmy Wilson, setting up Martin's third-down touchdown leap from 2 yards out three plays later.
That score was a counterpunch to Blount's 1-yard touchdown leap, which came on a fourth-down play that followed Blount runs of 1 yard on first down and 2 yards each on second and third down.
"That was good,” Schiano said. "On that fourth down LeGarrette found a way to get in there and then on the second drive, (after we start off) on our (8-yard line, Martin) found a way to get it in the end zone, too.”
The Bucs' defense didn't get off to the same kind of start as the offense. Middle linebacker Mason Foster was whistled for offside on the first play of the game, the first of three such infractions by the defense in the first half.
The Bucs also earned a personal-foul penalty from receiver Preston Parker, who gave the Dolphins an extra drive when he fumbled a punt late in the second quarter, but they were able to overcome all the mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Rookie linebacker Lavonte David did his part to help the cause by intercepting Dolphins starting quarterback Matt Moore to erase the last of those offside calls and the linemen did the rest.
In order, left end Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, nose tackle Roy Miller and right end Adrian Clayborn produced run stuffs to thwart a Dolphins offense that was shut out until 5:56 was left in the third quarter.
"We had two possessions in the red zone (but) then we got a turnover on first down," Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin said in reference to David's pick of a Moore pass for Roberto Wallace.
"We were in great field position there, and we obviously wanted to see if we could make a play there and gain some momentum right before halftime. We had a chance to score 14 points, but we didn't."
The Bucs capitalized where the Dolphins didn't largely because of the running efforts of Blount and Martin, each of whom gained extra yards while showing off their ability to break tackles.
Blount, who ran seven times for 30 yards, broke a tackle and then turned up field for a 16-yard gain during his lone series. Martin, who ran seven times for 21 yards, broke away from a tackle at the line by cornerback Sean Smith before running 10 yards midway through his series.
"It was nice to get one under our belt," Schiano said. "It was fun to play a game again. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of corrections to make, but we got some good evaluations in. We got to play everybody and we stuck to our plan, which was good."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Bucs regime hits ground running in victory
The Daystarter: What's next after Senate rejects Obamacare repeal; Bucs open training camp today; Comic Con invades Tampa; get ready for back to school