The Dolphins play their first game of 2012 this week against the Buccaneers, albeit this game doesn't matter. Still, it'll be a great opportunity to get a first look at our new coaching staff and our 2012 draft picks. For the first time in a long time, the third string QB will get more attention and analysis than Miami's first string QB.
The starters may play a series, but they also may a full quarter if the coaching staff feels the team needs extra time to work on their new systems. Even if the starters are in for only a series or two, there will be plenty of things to watch for. Below are just a few of them.
Matt Moore and David Garrard: These are still the top two candidates to be Miami's starting QB when the Dolphins travel to Houston. Moore may be the incumbent, but Garrard has been outperforming Moore in training camp and is better suited for Miami's West Coast Offense. Both of these players will be under heavy scrutiny until Miami picks a started by the third preseason game. The game may not count for Miami's record, but this game means a lot for these two QBs.
Ryan Tannehill: This will be Tannehill's first test and like any first round pick, all Miami fans will be looking to see how he performs. Unfortunately, Tannehill is in a pretty tough position this week when it comes to pleasing the public. If Tannehill performs well, many will take it with a grain of salt because he will likely be facing second and/or third string competition. If Tannehill struggles, we might as well start pulling out the skepticism and getting the "bust" label ready because hey, the kid struggled against second and/or third stringers.
Miami's Offensive Line: Not only does Miami have a rookie starting at RT and a few other new faces along the line, but they are also rolling out the zone blocking scheme for the first time in 2012. The line often struggles in the first few preseason games as they build cohesion, but Miami will have extra challenges in building chemistry and playing their first game with a different blocking scheme. Hopefully the practice against their own stout defensive line will prove to be beneficial.
Miami's WRs: The receivers have struggled some this offseason with drops, which is not a good thing when the entire receiving corps is fighting for their positions. The receiving corps may struggle a bit with the alternating of the QBs through training camp and preseason, but this could be the team's largest competition in terms of the amount of personnel vying for a starting position.
Miami's Secondary: There's a few reasons to watch this group. For one, there is a competition at both FS and SS. Each player competing for the position is young with loads of athleticism and potential, but it'll be the person(s) that actually shows that athleticism and potential on the field. In the past few seasons, that has been nobody. Let's hope that changes in 2012. Another reason to watch is because of Miami's CBs. The Dolphins are expected to roll out more man coverages this year, which could be beneficial to Sean Smith. Vontae Davis is considered more of a zone coverage CB and people may want to watch him to make sure he still performs well. Like I've said throughout most of the offseason, Leon Hall is similar to Davis in abilities and is also considered a better zone coverage CB, but he still thrived in Coyle's defense with the Bengals. The final person to watch is Richard Marshall, Miami's free agent acquisition. Marshall is expected to be Miami's nickel CB, and in today's NFL that is a crucial position. Marshall has experience on the outside as a CB as well as a FS, but it is a big adjustment to move to inside CB.