We’ve come to the third preseason game for the Dolphins as they march towards the regular season, and this upcoming matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at Sun Life Stadium tonight may be the important one for the team. The third game of the preseason serves as the “dress rehearsal” for teams, as the starters typically play well into the third quarter. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a real game in August, and it gives us a chance to evaluate the 1s with a much greater sample size.
With that in mind, here’s some of the things I’ll be on the lookout for in tonight’s game:
1. Running Game
The Dolphins rushing attack has not looked as fluid as Ryan Tannehill and company have in the passing game, but this is a good opportunity to change that. Free agent acquisition Knowshon Moreno may see his first action of the season tonight and that could help kick start the running game. It’ll be nice to see both Moreno and Lamar Miller work together as a tandem. The running backs can’t do it all by themselves, so this offensive line will have more than just a series or two to not only establish the line of scrimmage but hopefully create running room for whomever carries the football over the first two and half quarters of the game tonight. The addition of Shelley Smith on the starting five is intriguing because helps the running game, because if there is one thing that he can do well it’s using his leverage and moving people along the line scrimmage.
2. Defensive Fits
The defensive side of the ball probably has the most movement in terms of who’s playing what position. We know that defensive end Dion Jordan and safety Reshad Jones will be lost for the first four games. It will be interesting to see the rotation at defensive end and at the safety position. With seventh round selection Terrence Fede likely out of the line up for tonight’s game, we’ll to see how long players like Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon actually play in the game before they give way to a rotation that included Derrick Shelby and Chris McCain. In the secondary, Jimmy Wilson will likely get the start but I’m curious to see where Cortland Finnegan lines up in the nickel package and how much of Jamar Taylor and Will Davis fill in as a replacement as a true wide corner. Also, keep an eye on a player like Michael Thomas because it’s very important for him to not only play well in the secondary but have a standout game on special teams. Tonight is also a very important step for the entire linebacking group – Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi, and Philip Wheeler - to answer questions that have lingered over their respective position changes all summer.
3. Tannehill For Three Quarters
In my opinion there’s no question that Ryan Tannehill has a firm grasp on the new offense and you can tell because of his high completion percentage and the way the ball comes out of his hand quickly. The movement in this offense has been all through the air these two games and it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins use some more screens and short passes early on to open up the middle of the field for a couple vertical seam routes to stretch the field. Obviously the most important thing is to come out of the dress rehearsal healthy, but it’s important for Tannehill to stay sharp and stay aggressive and not lose his belief in what they’re doing on offensive will be successful. This will be the longest that the 1st team will go this preseason, and they want to be able put something positive on tape that this entire group continues to be at its best when it counts in a couple weeks.
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