Ten things to watch for during Dolphins first preseason game?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Although the game does not count in the win/loss column of the 2016 standings doesn’t mean the game is ‘meaningless’.  Here are 10 things to watch for while viewing tonight’s Dolphins/Giants preseason contest.

Can the Dolphins establish the run?

Under the past few head coaches, the Dolphins have gained a reputation as a ‘soft’ team.  Only one time in the last ten years has Miami ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards-per-game (4th in 2009).  The good news is that Gase has shown the desire/willingness to stick with the run.

Miami was ranked 23rd in rush offense (93.5 yds/game) last year while the Giants are coming off a season where they finished 24rd in rush defense (121.4 yds/game).  Miami should be able to run against this team.  If they can’t, it will be an early ‘red flag’ that has to be addressed.

How does the first-team offense look in limited duty?

If past precedent is any indication, the first team offense will probably play two series.  (One if they look good.)  During that time, Ryan Tannehill needs to effectively move the offense down the field.  His detractors are increasing in number and getting more vocal.  After having limited success early in camp, it behooves him to have a good start to the preseason.

How does the offensive line look?

This unit’s reputation has been battered, and rightfully so, more than any other unit over the last few years.  With four former first round picks on the OL, it’s time to start seeing results.

Fans should/will be especially interested in the performance of Laremy Tunsil.  This is his first chance to show he can he outplay Dallas Thomas at LG?  It’s also worth noting how he looks at LT; since starter Brandon Albert isn’t expected to play.

Signs of life from tight ends?

As I wrote in a previous article  https://phinphanatic.com/2016/08/10/dolphins-tight-ends-underwhelm-early/, the tight ends have been practically invisible the entire off-season.  If neither Jordan Cameron nor Dion Sims impress in tonight’s game, it may be time to seek help outside the organization at this position.

How do QBs Brandon Doughty and Zac Dysert look?

As mentioned earlier, Tannehill probably won’t play more than two series and Miami already knows what it has in backup Matt Moore.  The real question is who comes in as the 3rd/4th QB and how do they look?

Dysert was brought to Miami by Gase because he knows the system (having worked together in both Denver and Chicago) and appears to have impressed Gase in limited work.  Little has been written about Dysert in camp so this is his first chance to make an impression in Miami.

Doughty, the 7th round pick out of Western Kentucky, has earned good reviews for his improvisation skills during his limited time in Miami.  Can he do enough to make the 53-man roster?  Is he even practice squad worthy?

First look at the “wide 9” defense?

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is bringing a new defensive front to Miami in 2016.  The “wide 9” defense spreads out the defensive line by placing the ends wide on both sides of the line.

It’s believed this will allow Miami to stop outside runs, improve the pass rush and allow the DTs (especially Suh) to penetrate up the field more freely.

Does Miami currently have a capable second corner?

On defense, no unit appears weaker than the cornerback position.  Fans, and media, widely recognize that the Dolphins only have one healthy, experienced corner on the team.  After Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett is currently listed as the other starting CB.  Will Lippett, Chimdi Chekwa, or Bobby McCain stand out from the pack or will Dolphins fans/coaches ‘pine’ for the return of Xavier Howard to fix the secondary?

Which backup player(s) will step up?

Every year it seems like at least one player steps up in game one of the preseason and makes a statement to the team that he can help this team win.  Last year it was players like WR Rashard Matthews, LB Neville Hewitt, and LB Mike Hull.

Who will it be this year?  Names to watch include:  G/C Anthony Steen, WR RaShawn Scott, and RB Isaiah Pead.

How does Miami’s special teams look?

In recent years, Miami has not been strong on special teams.  Too many long kick returns allowed and inconsistent kicking have plagued the Dolphins.

Can they begin to clean up the return game?   Will someone step up and take the burden of returning kicks off the shoulders of Jarvis Landry?  Will punter Matt Darr continue his strong directional kicking?

Does Miami get out of game one without a major injury?

It happens every year.  A team suffers an injury to an expected major team contributor.  Miami’s depth at most positions is highly suspect.  The team cannot afford any long-term, especially season-ending, injuries to any of its key players.

Many fans aren’t in ‘football mode’ yet.  To those of you that have been waiting since February for this moment…..LET THE GAMES BEGIN!