The Miami Dolphins are getting ready to play the "dress rehearsal" third preseason game, hosting the Atlanta Falcons. Tonight is an important game for several of the Dolphins' "bubble" players; those players who are not going to be starters, but are showing enough to at least compete for a roster spot. The first round of cuts (down to 75 players) take place on Monday, so this really could be the last chance some players have ti make an impression.
The first of those players needing to impress tonight is wide receiver Marlon Moore. Moore has been listed as the team's fourth wide receiver for most of the preseason, but he has been outplayed by the receivers listed below him. With eleven wide receivers fighting for a likely six roster spots, Moore needs to have a good game tonight if he wants to make sure he is headed for the 53-man roster and not free agency. With players like Roberto Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jeff Fuller, and Chris Hogan behind him on the most recent depth chart, all of whom could make the roster, Moore clearly has work to do; developing chemistry with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill could be a requirement if Moore is to make the roster.
"The receiving battle has been intense from OTAs," Moore said this week. "There's no lack of talent in this receiving corps. Everybody deserves to be on that field."
Michael Egnew needs a good performance tonight, if only to get out of the dog house. Egnew is going to make the roster, simply based on his draft status as a third round pick. He needs time to develop, since, as we discussed on last night's Phinsider Podcast, his head seems to be swimming right now with the speed of the game, but he has the potential, and the raw skills, to be something special in the league. Egnew could use tonight as a chance to simply get the coaches to give him a break for a week.
Another player who should be looking to impress tonight is quarterback Pat Devlin. The second year player out of Delaware is on the cusp of going from a practice squad player to being the team's third quarterback on the 53-man roster.. Devlin has had good numbers this preseason, going 22-for-37 for 183 yards with one touchdown and one interception. If he can come out and play well, the Dolphins really could start looking toward an injury settlement with David Garrard, freeing up a little salary cap space.
John Jerry comes in as the fourth non-starter to watch tonight - even though he may actually be starting. Two weeks ago, Jerry's career in Miami was all but over. The 360-pound Jerry was 30-pounds over his playing weight, could not move in the Dolphins' new zone blocking scheme, and was simply out of shape. After some tough love on Hard Knocks, and an injury to Artis Hicks, Jerry seems poised to claim the starting role. It will be interesting to watch him tonight, just to see if he is ready to make the jump and help out on the offensive line this year.
Finally, Les Brown, the tight end who, according to Hard Knocks can't block. Brown is attempting to come back to football after five years away pursuing basketball in college. His pass catching ability has coaches pushing him to get better, but he has to learn to block if he is going to make it onto a roster sometime in the future. He is most likely going to be a practice squad player this year, but he should be someone to watch tonight as he grows into the NFL.
Tonight's game will feature the starters for the majority of the time. While that is key for the Dolphins, as they look to improve on two lackluster preseason performances, it may be the guys who see the field for limited snaps tonight that are the most important to watch. Especially since, this could be the last time some of these guys ever get on a football field.