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Let the countdown truly begin.
With the preseason coming to an official halt Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins can now turn their undivided attention to the many challenges posed by the New England Patriots.
Granted, there are some important decisions to make over the next few days. Who stays? Who goes? Which areas still require an influx of talent? The Dolphins must settle on a 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Saturday. That’s important stuff, no denying it. But it is the big picture that must come into focus now and that journey starts with the Patriots, an opener that could prove to be as telling as any I can remember.
In truth, the Dolphins have been working on the Patriots for a while. Wouldn’t be surprised if most of the game plan is already in place. But that had to stay in the background while preseason games were played and roster decisions were made. Now, everything is right in front of us. The game. The challenges. The implications. Think what a 1-0 start would mean to this team? Think what it would mean coming against the Patriots? If that’s not enough of a backdrop for this season opener, what is?
As for Thursday night, this was about last chances. It was about one final look. It was about carving a spot on the most talented roster Joe Philbin has had in his three seasons here. The starters did not play, a smart move considering the importance of showing up on Sept. 7 with a healthy, well-rested, energized team.
Now the pace will pick up dramatically in practice. Now you’ll see game faces where smiles once resided. Now you’ll see a team focused on a singular purpose, getting ready for a home game against the team that has dominated their division for far too long.
Thursday night was an ending. Today is a beginning. The calendar says the Dolphins have 10 days to get ready. Those days will pass quickly. “We have a great opportunity,” says quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “We all understand that.”
But before then, before we start thinking about a man named Brady, let’s take one last look at the preseason and how it culminated on Thursday night against the Rams.
• So the Dolphins get a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Seth Lobato to rookie Matt Hazel to beat the Rams 14-13 and finish the preseason with a 3-1 record. Winning is always good, even on the last Thursday in August when nobody is going to remember the score in a couple of weeks.
• The best way to gauge a successful preseason? How you perform in September.
• Defensive end Dion Jordan and safety Reshad Jones both started the game, the last time they will play for a while because of four-game suspensions to start the season. How unfortunate for both players and, really, for the entire defense.
• Tannehill had a good preseason numbers-wise, but the fact that he only produced one touchdown is a disappointment and obviously must be corrected in a hurry. Still, he completed over 68 percent of his passes and had a decent 86.5 quarterback rating. I just wish there was at least one long distance connection included in those numbers.
• That Knowshon Moreno did not play against the Rams tells me that Philbin saw enough against the Cowboys to convince him he was ready. That’s encouraging.
• Nice to see Caleb Sturgis kicking again. And nice to see Daniel Thomas get in the end zone again.
• Some tough roster decisions remain, especially at wide receiver and on the defensive line. Not sure whether Thursday night provided some clarity.
• The players return to practice on Sunday with 22 less teammates and the Patriots foremost on their minds. Finally, the regular season is just about here.
(On Monday, AC in the AM takes a look at the 53-man roster).
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