Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Vs. Miami Dolphins: Five Things To Watch

After rebounding with a nice 20-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins return home to host the Dallas Cowboys for their third preseason game in what will be SunLife Stadium’s first action of the 2014-2015 NFL season.  Here are my five things to watch as the Dolphins battle the Cowboys.

1. Ability to make plays on defense.

While the Dolphins’ offense has shined and garnered all of the attention thus far in the preseason, the Dolphin defense has struggled under the radar.  Bad tackling aside (which is STILL a problem that needs to be addressed), the Dolphins have yet to make big plays with their first team defense.  In order to take down the big name teams this year, Miami will need to create turnovers or change the momentum of the game on defense.  Look to see who (if anyone) steps up and makes a big play against a worthy Cowboy’s offense.

2. The battle of runningbacks

Newly added veteran RB Knowshon Moreno has returned to practice and should be close to his old self.  That is a good problem for the Dolphins to have (especially Bill Lazor), as Lamar Miller is also having himself a nice preseason.  Throw in rookie Damien Williams and Mike Gillislee and the Dolphins have some firepower at the position.  I will be watching for which back plays with which team on offense, and who can break open a big run and impress the coaching staff.  Oh, and where in the world is Daniel Thomas?

3. Level of play in the trenches.

Our offensive line has not looked nearly as bad as expected up to this point in preseason, and a lot of that is thanks to OC Bill Lazor’s quick paced system that has the ball out of Ryan Tannehill’s hands quickly.  Keep an eye on this Dolphins first team of linemen, and see how their blocking differs depending on the play call.  As for the defensive side of the line, DC Kevin Coyle must work on getting more pressure on the QB.  More pressure equals more takeaways, and more takeaways means more points.

4. Continued success on special teams.

So far, the Miami Dolphins have been stellar on special teams.  Both John Potter and Danny Hrapmann have not missed a field goal in Caleb Sturgis’ absence.  Brandon Fields is still producing at a high level, averaging 48.9 yards per punt on 13 punts.  Rookie sensation Jarvis Landry has one punt return for 48 yards, and should continue to see action along with Marcus Thigpen on both kickoff and punt returns.  On top of that, the Dolphins play with passion and actually hit the opposing team on special teams,  something they often forget how to do on defense.  I will be watching to see if the ST can keep up the good work, and maybe light a fire under the passionless Dolphins defense.

5. Playing time.

While the third preseason game is often the most telling and treated more similarly to a regular season game, I am hoping HC Joe Philibin proceeds with caution when determining how much time our first team plays.  I absolutely think that Ryan Tannehill and the offense should get a few drives under their belt, but I would not play our starters past the first quarter.  Same goes with our defense.  An injury to a key play this close to opening day would not only hurt the team’s physical presence on the field, but also the team’s morale.  I am anxious to see how much playing time our starters see before being sidelined and allowing the younger guys to impress.  A healthy and rested Miami Dolphins team prepared for their Week 1 game against the Patriots sounds like the best preseason strategy to me.


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