Miami Dolphins

Dolphins linebacker suffers knee injury in preseason opener against Tampa Bay

Linebacker Mike Hull (45) hits a sled at OTAs at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, June 12, 2018.
Linebacker Mike Hull (45) hits a sled at OTAs at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, June 12, 2018.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull suffered a left knee injury early in the second quarter of the Dolphins preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday and did not return to the game.

After going down on first-and-goal, Hull was assisted off the field by a pair of Dolphins personnel and was ultimately taken to the locker room on a cart. The Buccaneers scored one play later.

Hull, a backup middle linebacker heading into his fourth season with the Dolphins, has played in 35 career games for Miami with four starts after going undrafted in 2015 out of Penn State. The 27-year-old has recorded 69 career tackles along with a pass breakup and an interception while serving as a valuable member for Miami on special teams. Hull was on the Dolphins’ starting kickoff return and kickoff coverage units Thursday.

He started Miami’s first three games in 2017 and recorded 33 tackles during the season.

Rookie report

With a host of starters not dressing for the preseason opener and the first-team offense playing just one series, several of the Dolphins’ rookies had extended opportunities on Thursday.

Seven Dolphins did not dress for Thursday’s preseason opener: Safety Reshad Jones, running back Frank Gore, cornerback Tony Lippett, center Jake Brendel, tight end A.J. Derby, defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive end William Hayes.

With that, Miami’s 2018 first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick started at safety alongside T.J. McDonald. He forced a pass breakup early in the first quarter.

Running back Kalen Ballage, a fourth-round pick, handled the bulk of Miami’s first-half carries with Gore not dressing and Kenyan Drake playing just one series. While he showed flashes, namely on a 14-yard run where he powered his way through a hole on the right side of the offensive line and as a favorite for backup quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and David Fales as a check-down option, his ball security issues came into play in the second quarter.

After catching a check-down pass from David Fales on a third down and hurdling over a Tampa Bay defender on his way to a first down, Ballage fumbled and gave the ball away to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay would ultimately score a touchdown with the short field.

Kicker Jason Sanders, the Dolphins’ seventh-round pick out of New Mexico, missed a 52-yard field goal attempt to close out Miami’s opening drive but responded with a 29-yard make on the next drive. He also made a 23-yard attempt to finish 2 for 3. Fellow rookie Greg Joseph hit a 48-yard attempt in the third quarter.

Jerome Baker was a mainstay at linebacker and was constantly near the ball. He recorded 5 tackles in the first half alone.

And tight end Mike Gesicki almost came down with a leaping touchdown in the end zone early in the first half.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about what he liked and didn't like in the preseason opener with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

This and that

Regarding a couple key defensive battles: Cordrea Tankersley started at cornerback opposite Xavien Howard. Davin Godchaux started at one of the defensive tackle spots alongside Akeem Spence.

Miami’s first touchdown of the preseason came on a 7-yard rush by Senorise Perry in the second quarter. Perry is fighting for a roster spot in a crowded running back room that is anticipated to be led by Drake, Gore and Ballage.