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Dolphins vs Jaguars: What To Watch For

Well the 2nd preseason game is upon us.  This past week was quite a week, wasn't it?  The QB drama hit new heights this week.  WE had a fight break out in camp between players.  And we had our team MVP from 2007 cut in favor of a rookie.

But now it's time to focus on this 2nd preseason game.  As Tony Sparano said earlier this week, now is the time for players to make their cases.  It's time for them to prove why they should start, or even why they deserve to be on the final 53-man roster.  So below is just a list of things that we should keep an eye on in Jacksonville on Saturday night.

Last season, we all know our offense was bad.  However, even the '07 Dolphins managed to put the ball in the endzone in the 1st preseason game.  It took them just 2 and a half quarters before Jesse Chatman busted a 74 yard run to the house.  Last week, this offense was only inside Tampa Bay's 30 yard line one time - and they never once got inside the redzone.  The only word to describe that?  Pitiful.

Sure, it's just the preseason, but it would sure be nice to see this offense put one in the endzone, you know?

Sure, it hasn't been officially announced yet.  But we all know that it will be Chad Pennington getting the start on Saturday night.  So it'll be interesting to see how much of a grasp he has of the offense so far.  Remember, though he's only been here for less than a week, he is a very smart guy and should be able to pick up this offense relatively quickly.  It'll also be our first chance to really see how Pennington is doing building chemistry with the receivers.  How bad will their timing be off?  If it's not off by much, that will be a very good sign.

So how much will Pennington play?  That's not too clear right now.  But Sparano did say this earlier in the week:

"We're going to take a long look at it, but it's going to be something comfortable. I don't want to put him in a situation where it's too much right away, or we ask him to do too much. We'll have to see where he is [on Thursday]. That will be a deciding factor."

Regardless of how long Pennington plays, though, expect the starting offense to play a lot in this game - possibly even the entire first half.  Sparano has stressed that getting some of the starters ample playing time is very important:

"We know there's a bunch of guys that are here, that are going to be here and they need to play more. A guy like Hagan needs to take more plays in a row; Ginn needs to take more plays in a row right now."

So I'd expect to see a lot more out of Teddy and Derek, as well as the entire offensive line.  And I even bet that Ronnie Brown - despite coming off of a torn ACL, is going to get more then 3 or 4 touches in this game.  The staff needs to start seeing these guys play and they need to start making plays. 

How about we get this offense to look like an actual NFL offense, eh?

I said last week that I was quite unimpressed with the play of Matt Roth at outside linebacker during last week's game.  He just seemed slow getting to the quarterback when he was asked to pass-rush and really lacks any kind of pass-rushing moves.  However, he has continued to work at OLB this week and some practice reports claim that Roth continues to improve.

But the coaching staff has to decide in the next couple of weeks if Roth can indeed play the position.  Why?  Because it could very well influence some of their roster personnel decisions as cut-down time approaches.  If they believe Roth can step in at OLB if needed, then they may decide to keep one less OLB and keep an extra player at another position instead.  So keep a close watch on Roth when he lines up outside to see a) how he does when he is ran at - which is supposed to be what he is good a defending; and b) if his pass-rushing skills have improved at all.

The 1st team defense looked pretty good last week.  However, they need to show improvement this week against the Jaguars.  And here's why.  First off, the Dolphins are indeed preparing for this game at least a little bit, with both John Beck and Josh McCown working with the scout team on offense, running Jacksonville's plays against Miami's 1st and 2nd team defenses.  So they should be more prepared than they were last week.  Secondly, the Dolphins will likely get one of their key defensive players, Joey Porter, back.  He sat out last week, mostly as a precaution, and will make his preseason debut.

Two of the areas where improvement is certainly needed are a) getting more consistent pressure on the QB; and b) getting off the field on 3rd down.  About the QB pressure, the key is consistency.  Sure, there were some plays last week where the Dolphins got to Tampa's QB, either sacking him or at least hurrying him.  However, on other plays, the QB had literally all day to throw.  And this Dolphins' secondary is nowhere near good enough in coverage for that.  Numerous times, Tampa's QB had 4 or 5 seconds to throw the ball.  That has to improve.

The other issue has been well documented since last week's preseason opener.  The defense just could get off the field on 3rd downs, allowing Tampa to convert 11 of 20 3rd downs, which was why the Bucs ran nearly 30 more plays than the Dolphins did offensively.  This was also a problem all season last year, so it'll be interesting to see if any emphasis has been put on 3rd downs this past week in practice.

Other things to look for on Saturday include:

-Dan Carpenter.  He has the starting job wrapped up, but that doesn't mean the pressure is off him.  Can he continue to kick accurately on FGs and will his kickoffs consistently get inside the 5 yard line?

-Speaking of special teams, how will Miami's coverage units perform?  Last week was disappointing.

-And who will return kicks?  Will Jayson Foster get more opportunities after an unimpressive performance last week?  Davone Bess figures to get some chances as well.  And we all know Ted Ginn has the potential to be a great return man.