It’s game time again for the Dolphins, and this week, it’s the Carolina Panthers they’ll be match-up with. While it may not be the regular season and we’ll only see the starters for roughly 8-10 minutes in this one (most likely), it’s a chance to see how one of the youngest teams in the NFL and the face of Hard Knocks is progressing.
We’ll go over Players to Watch, Match-Ups to Watch, and What to Expect from this game.
MDD Lead Editor: Eric Galko
Players to Watch
Ryan Tannehill/Matt Moore
The position in this game really will be a mixture of Moore and Tannehill, as it seems clear now that the quarterback battle is very unsettled. With Garrard gone for the entire pre-season along with Tannehill stepping up in practice and the last pre-season game, the performance of these two in this game could go a long way to deciding who starts week one.
The best receiver (statistically) from the first pre-season game, Wallace has been called out for his lack of separation ability by the coaches. He has the number one receiver skill set this team desperately needs. He’ll likely have another solid game this week, but it’s the separation ability, especially in the short area, that this team needs to see out of Wallace to make him the starting “X” receiver.
With Eric Steinbach and Artis Hicks out, Jerry will likely get ample playing time this week. As Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel has repeatedly stated, Jerry is solid in pass protection, especially in quick set-up situations. But he’ll need to make strides as a run blocker to pass Josh Samuda and Artis Hicks and be a safe roster selection.
With Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett likely not suiting up for this game, Misi is the loan projected starter set to make an impact. He played better than I thought he would in the first pre-season game, but needs to stay consistent as the weakside linebacker to not be deemed replaceable long term.
After Cameron Wake’s car accident earlier this week, he won’t be getting any playing time this week, leaving Oliver Vernon to fill his shoes for likely a substantial amount of playing time. He’s shown a lot of promise, but going against Jordan Gross (if that match-up occurs) could be very telling.
Match-Ups to Watch
Koi Misi/Gary Guyton/Jason Trusnik vs. RBs
Last week, the running backs of the Bucs won the battle between linebackers and runners. The Misi/Guyton/Trusnik core will likely start and play a majority of the game. With Mike Tolbert up the middle and the explosiveness of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the outside, these linebackers will get a chance to thrive (or struggle) in many types of situations.
Safeties vs. RBs/Cam Newton
While Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, and Jimmy Wilson all have shown starter ability, they’ll need to produce this season with the linebacking corps not great on the outside. With the running threat of Cam Newton and the play on the outside by the running backs, they’ll need to consistently step up in run support.
Jonathan Martin vs. Pass Rushers
Martin played well in the first pre-season game, but he’ll be facing very talented speed rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson against the Panthers first team. If he can be consistent this season, it’ll do wonders for Ryan Tannehill.
What to Expect
Moore to Play in Crunch Time
With Ryan Tannehill set to start, I’m expecting at least the first quarter plus for Tannehill, meaning that Matt Moore will be in the two minute offense in the second quarter as well as possibly coming in again in the fourth quarter. Tannehill will go against the first teamers, but I expect Moore to still be the one to lead the offense in unique situations.
Chance for Hogan/Gates to Thrive
Chris Hogan (“7-11”) has been great in practice and flashed some ability in the first game, but he’ll hopefully get a chance to play against the first and/or second team of the Panthers, both of which are talented. Also, on the other end of the spectrum, Clyde Gates has the natural talent to be an NFL starter, but he has yet to emerge for this team. This could be a very important game.
Lots of Passes to See QBs/RBs in Protection
The team wants to test out Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore to see which gives them the best chance to win. But along with that reason for throwing the ball substantially in this one, they’ll need to test their receivers as well as which running backs are best in pass protection. They’ll get much more of out passing the ball than exploring what they can do in the run agme.