The Dolphins will kick off their 2010 preseason tonight when they welcome the Buccaneers to Sun Life Stadium. While many people get bored by preseason football, I'm not one of them. I enjoying seeing these critical roster battles play out in the preseason. And there's a lot to look for tonight. Below I highlight just some of the most interesting story lines.
Chance for "other quarterbacks" to impress
Chad Henne is the unquestioned starter of this team. Tony Sparano said this week that Henne will get about a quarter of action. He also said that Chad Pennington will likely not play tonight because they already know what he brings to the table.
That means most of tonight's game will be an audition for Tyler Thigpen and (more importantly) Pat White. In the final practices leading up to tonight's game, White saw a ton of practice reps. This staff did what they could do make sure White is prepared for his live audition tonight. It's likely that one of these two - White or Thigpen - will not be in Miami when the regular season gets underway. And all indications from the first two weeks of camp are that White has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to make this team.
Offensive line needs to settle down
Ever since last week's scrimmage, there's been a feeling of uneasiness surrounding Miami's offensive line - and for good reason. The entire unit has been surrendering far too many sacks. That's a good thing for Mike Nolan's defense. But it's a very bad thing for this offense.
The interior of the offensive line has been shifting from practice to practice. But with the first preseason game hours away, it's time for some of these guys battling for the starting jobs to step up and earn them.
A receiver needs to stand out
We know that the top four receivers on the roster are Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo. But who is going to claim the fifth and likely final receiver spot?
Patrick Turner is the early favorite. Last year's disappointing third round pick has had a solid camp so far. But he had a good camp last year, too, before disappearing in actual games and then barely sniffing the field in the regular season. And the truth is that Turner is just another possession receiver on a team filled with possession receivers.
On the other hand, youngsters like Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, and Julius Pruitt are guys who can stretch the field and make plays down field. All three have had their moments in camp. But each is also inexperienced and fundamentally raw. But any of these three could easily put together a solid preseason and steal that final receiver spot from Turner.
In search of return men
Perhaps one of the young receivers mentioned above could win a roster spot by standing out on special teams as returners. The Dolphins know what they have in other potential returners like Patrick Cobbs and Davone Bess. They are safe and reliable - but are not dynamic. Special teams coach John Bonamego is looking for that play-maker at the position. Marlon Moore could be that guy. Or maybe it's RB Tristan Davis. Or it could be rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll. The Dolphins will work a number of guys as returners in the preseason. Will one of them rise to the occasion and lay stake to the job?
Clemons can clinch
We were all worried about the free safety position entering camp after Miami failed to sign any of the big name free agents at the position. Did we worry for no reason? Maybe. Tony Sparano said that second-year safety Chris Clemons has participated in over 400 snaps in camp and has made just one mental error. That's pretty darn good.
Sparano didn't officially name Clemons the starter at the position for the regular season. But if Clemons performs well tonight and grades out well when Sparano goes back to review the film, he could lock up the starting job for week one.