This is Week 3 in the pre-season, and that means a few things. One, for a team that is still young like the Dolphins, it means treating this game very seriously. Two, it’s a last chance for some players to make their case as starters or worthy roster spots. And three, it’s a chance for the Dolphins to start building chemistry together and hit the ground running as soon as possible instead of suffering through growing pains early in the season.
MDD Lead Editor: Eric Galko
Players to Watch
Roberto Wallace/Julius Pruitt
It’s about time for one of these two promising receivers that the Dolphins seem to be buying in on step up. Wallace is the longer, higher upside receiver while Pruitt has been a team favorite all off-season. But with the team lacking any sort of 2nd or 3rd option right now, it could be up to one of these two “favorites” to become the favorite to start opposite Davone Bess.
Egnew’s “disappointments” have been well documented in training camp, as he’s yet to live up to anywhere close to his hype as a 3rd rounder. Still, all isn’t lost now (despite being listed as the 4th tight end. He still has time to win the coaching staff over, and they’ll give him every chance to succeed. Look for him to get multiple targets in this game.
It’s easy to feel sorry for Moore as a person. The decision to start Tannehill may have been a good one, but in my opinion, it seems they almost were hoping Moore wouldn’t win the job. Now he’ll be in with the second stringers yet again. Hopefully he can still remain focused and be a leader for this team by example.
With Eric Steinbach now in retirement and off the team, the right guard spot is once again up for grabs. Thanks to the high pick they spent on him along with his pass protection skills, John Jerry is the expected and favorite for the spot. If he can play well in this pre-season game, the team could rest a little easier when considering their offensive line.
While he’s been the subject of trade rumors to the Colts right now, he’s more likely still battling for a starting job in Miami. Currently listed as the second team cornerback, this team needs him to play better. I’d expect him to get ample playing time against the Falcons first and second team in this game.
Match-Ups to Watch
Jonathan Martin vs. DEs
Martin has struggled mightily as a pass protector in the pre-season, especially last game against Charles Johnson last week. Now he’ll be facing speed rushers such as John Abraham, Lawrence Sidbury, and Jonathan Massaquoi. Hopefully he’ll improve this week, or else Ryan Tannehill should be very worried for the upcoming season.
Koi Misi vs. TEs/RBs in Coverage
If there is one correctable yet glaring weakness in the Dolphins defense is the lack of ideal pass coverage by the linebacking corps. In particular, Koi Misi has shown how much he’s struggled in pass coverage this pre-season. Against a team that features Tony Gonzalez and Jaquizz Rodgers, Misi will have the chance to show improvement and more decisiveness in coverage reads.
Jaquizz Rodgers vs. Dolphins LBs
Similar to the pass coverage that Koi Misi needs to show, the entire linebacking corps needs to step up in running back pass coverage as well as containing more efficiently on the outside. That is something they have severely lacked as a defense in past pre-season games, but something that needs to show improvement before the season starts.
What to Expect
Balanced Offense with Tannehill
With Tannehill named the starter, I’m looking for the offense to be structured in a regular-season type situation to begin easing him into the offense. This was one of the benefits of naming Tannehill the starter so early on: so they can hit the ground running and dodge some of the growing pains that are inevitable. They have been pass heavy as an offense thus far in pre-season to try out receivers and the quarterback battle. I’d expect much more run balance to get Tannehill comfortable in the natural offense.
Limited Matt Moore, Lots of Davone Bess
Tagging along with Tannehill in a balanced offense, that means two things for who the Dolphins will play, and how much. With the goal of the pre-season now to get Tannehill as many legitimate reps as possible, that will obviously push Matt Moore to back-up/non-important duty with the team. Along with that, the offense will likely try to get Tannehill and his best receiver Davone Bess as many reps together as possible.
More Unique Coverages/Blitzes
The Dolphins are a team that can’t afford to grow as a team once the season starts. They need every with they can get in a division that has three other teams that feel they are playoff worthy. The Dolphins would be a major shock to be in the playoff hunt, but they are looking to build on a season that saw their defense thrive last year. They need to start building continuity, especially on defense which will be the rock to that team’s hopeful success.