In preparation for their first preseason game against the Falcons, Miami will host their opponents for a joint two-day practice. In what seems to be an ongoing trend amongst NFL teams, the joint practice will serve as a first true test of Miami’s capabilities. In some ways these practices have become much more useful. Coaches now have a lot more time to practice situations and individual match-ups that otherwise wouldn’t occur during a game.
Despite some holes on the roster, this Atlanta side boasts some of the most explosive talent league-wide. How Miami handles those specific matchups will tell us a lot about the state of their roster.
In order for the Dolphins to feel confident about the direction they are heading in, they must win the following 3 position group battles.
1. Miami’s Inside Linebackers vs Atlanta’s Running Backs
Last season it was pretty clear that Miami lacked defensive speed in the middle of the field. They solved that problem quickly in the offseason with the acquisition of former Titans’ linebacker David Long. How well he and Jerome Baker operate together on the inside will dictate the play calling of DC Vic Fangio.
Their first matchup will be against the running tandem of rookie Bijan Robinson and second year player Tyler Allgeier. Robinson was selected 8th overall in this year draft and is expected to the front runner for offensive rookie of the year. Allgeier impressed mightily in his first season, averaging 4.9 yards a carry as the primary back for the Falcons. Together they have the potential to be the best one-two punch in the NFL. Much like Cordarelle Patterson, the Falcons envision on using Bijan at multiple positions. With Patterson, Robinson and Allgeier potentially all on the field at once, Miami’s linebackers will have their fair share of work cut out for them. It’ll be interesting to see how Long and Baker match up to them in coverage and while also limiting the rush.
2. Miami’s Cornerbacks vs Atlanta’s Pass Catchers
Much like their running backs, the Falcons’ pass catcher are another group capable of striking fear in their opponent. Both TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London are large targets with blazing speed. Pitts, who ran a 4.4 at the combine, stands at 6’6”. London on the other hand is 6’4” but also plays with the same type of speed uncommon to many athletes their size.
Despite still maintaining a high level of play, both Ramsey and Howard are creeping up in age. It will be interesting to see how they handle the physicality of these large specimens. The focus will be primarily on X, who at the age of 30, is showing signs of steady decline. How well he handles himself will dictate how fast rookie Cam Smith comes into the fold. Smith, who outside of X and Ramsey is the only other true boundary corner, will also need to pay good attention to how this matchup plays out.
3. Miami’s Interior OL vs Atlanta’s Defensive line
This is potentially Miami’s weakest group on their roster. With C Connor Williams and RG Robert Hunt slated to start, competition is still open for the other guard position. At this point it looks to be either third-year player Liam Eichenberg or free agent signing Isaiah Wynn. In any case, this group will face an aging but very physical Falcons defensive line. Starters David Onyemata, Grady Jarrett, & Calais Campbell are all in their 30s and have extensive playing experience. Although this Falcons unit isn’t as elite as the other two, this matchup remains important one. If Miami’s interior is not able to move these veterans of their mark, how will they manage against some of the beasts in the AFC East?