The Miami Dolphins play the Atlanta Falcons tonight in the first preseason game for both teams. Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano has admitted that this game will be "vanilla" for Miami, as he is looking to use the game as a chance to observe the younger guys on the roster, rather than actually prepare the veterans for the season.
But, that doesn't mean there aren't interesting things to watch tonight.
So, here are some of my thoughts on the match ups to watch tonight.
1. Dolphins First Team Offensive Line vs. Falcons First Team Defensive Line. Miami continues to tinker with their starting offensive line, looking to find the best combination. Plus, All-Pro left tackle Jake Long is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list and won't be playing tonight. That means third year player Lydon Murtha will be holding down quarterback Chad Henne's blind side against the Falcon's pass rush specialist, John Abraham. Meanwhile, the right tackle position will also be one to watch, as new Dolphin Marc Colombo gets his work there, while former Dolphin right tackle Vernon Carey will be moved to guard.
2. Dolphins Secondary vs. Atlanta's Passing Attack. Miami cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis plan on making Dolphins fans forget the names Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. That's a lofty goal. Well, in order to do that, the duo must perform against upper level competition. Matt Ryan, the Falcons quarterback, has developed into that level of competition. With receivers Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones, along with tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner, the Falcons have a ton of weapons. The other interesting piece here will be the play of rookie cornerback/safety Jimmy Wilson, who has looked extremely good in the early part of training camp. Look for the Dolphins secondary to be challenged.
3. Lex Hilliard/Kory Sheets/Nic Grigsby vs. Each Other. The Dolphins top two running back positions seem secure in newly acquired Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas. Behind those two, Hilliard, Sheets, and Grigsby look to make a name for themselves and claim their spot on the roster. Look for a breakout from one of them.
4. Dolphins Special Teams vs. Falcons Special Teams. This will be interesting because of who is not on the field. Coach Sparano has stated that Reggie Bush would be used as a returner in situations, but won't be the primary guy. So, who will it be? Davone Bess has held that role for Miami previously, but guys like Sheets, rookie Clyde Gates, and Phillip Livas should all be using their speed to fight for a shot as the returner. Or, do the Dolphins eventually concede and put Bush back there?
5. Chad Henne vs. Matt Moore. Yes, this is the second Dolphin vs. Dolphin match up on here, but it's still an extremely valid match up. We have all heard the complaints about Henne, and we all know the story of the almost trade for Kyle Orton. Now, as the Dolphins head into their first preseason game, the starting job appears to be Henne's. But, if Henne struggles tonight, and backup Matt Moore looks good, this competition could tighten up, at least in the eyes of the fans, a whole lot.
What match ups are you interested in seeing tonight? Who do you think will shine? Weigh in below. And check out what the Atlanta crowd is saying over at The Falcoholic.