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Dolphins vs Bucs: What to Watch For

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Well we are now just one day away from the preseason opener on Saturday night against the Bucs.  And as we sit here, there are, by far, more questions that surround this team than answers.  And we can't expect many, if any, of these questions to be answered in just one preseason game.  However, there will surely be some important things to note that could help us piece together the future of this team, at least in terms of 2008.  So let's talk about some of those things to watch closely on Saturday.

THE QUARTERBACKS
Yeah, yeah, I know.  It seems like all we have been doing is talking about the quarterback competition.  But let's face it: QB is the most important position in the game.  So we need to begin to get some answers here.

And considering both the coaching staff and the players aren't revealing anything to us about what the plan is for Saturday in terms of how the QBs will be used, we can't do anything but speculate and debate.  In terms of what makes the most sense, I would say that letting John Beck start is the most logical way to handle this right now.  After all, he has the most to lose this preseason.  I think that he should get a shot with the first team against the Bucs first team defense so that he can have a chance to prove himself.

There's also much more to look at besides the QB rotation.  Some other things to look for will be how each player looks on the field.  And I'm not just talking about production.  While that's certainly part of it, I think other factors have to be considered.  Things such as who is playing with what unit and, more importantly, against what unit.  For example, if one of the QBs struggle, you need to think about why they are struggling.  Are their receivers getting open?  Do they have time in the pocket?  How comfortable do they look in the pocket?  How's their decision-making?  All of these things need to be analyzed.  Don't fall into the trap that many in the media do by just looking at numbers.  In the regular season, sure.  In the preseason, numbers are only part of the evaluation.

WILL RONNIE BROWN PLAY?
Tony Sparano is calling Ronnie a "game-time decision" for Saturday night.  He admits that he wants to see Brown get some game action before the regular season.  And Brown says he's excited to get into a game - probably to help him begin to get over the injury mentally.  But right now, it's anybody's guess as to whether or not he sees the field.

If he does, it'll be interesting to see his first carry in particular.  Will he be hesitant when making cuts?  And how is he going to react the first time a defender is draped around his legs?  What about when he gets that first nasty lick from a defender?  The only thing I hope for hear is that Brown doesn't rush himself if he feels he isn't ready.  However, if he feels good on Saturday, then why not let him get 2 or 3 carries under his belt?

THE DEFENSIVE SCHEME
One of the things that we keep hearing is how much simpler and "player-friendly" this new defensive scheme is that Paul Pasqualoni has installed.  But what exactly does that mean?  We'll find out on Saturday.

But to add my 2 cents, I have a feeling that it means a lot of man-to-man coverage (with safety help, of course).  After all, it's those tricky zone coverages in the secondary that generally create confusion.  And a lot has been made about how the safeties - and Jason Allen in particular - have looked good so far in camp because they have to do less thinking and more reacting, letting their natural abilities take over.

I'm also interested in seeing some of Miami's blitz packages.  Where does the pressure come from?  Will it be the edge rushers?  Will it be up the middle from the inside linebackers?  While we likely won't see too much of the defensive scheme - so as to not give away anything for when the games count - you would have to assume that we'll be able to get a feel for what might be in store for us.

WHICH RECEIVERS WILL MAKE PLAYS?
This is one of the more interesting things to watch for in the preseason.  Which players will grab the spotlight and prove they belong on this team?  At various points, we've heard that as many as 7 current WRs on the roster have stood out in camp.  But now which ones will make plays when it counts?

Sure, Ted Ginn, Derek Hagan, and Ernest Wilford are assured roster spots.  But we don't know which will be the actual starters (though I'd be stunned if Teddy wasn't one of them).  So Hagan and Wilford will each have to prove that they deserve to start.  Can Hagan continue his impressive practice play into an actual game?  Or will he disappear/drop balls when the real lights come on?

And what about the fringe guys?  Guys like Greg Camarillo, David Kircus, Davone Bess, and Jayson Foster.  What are they going to do?  While Camarillo and Kircus at least have some NFL experience, Bess and Foster are both undrafted free agents with a lot to prove.  Can Bess create separation and find holes in the defense at this level?  Can Foster use his speed/quickness to make up for his lack of height and actually make some plays?  They better if they want to crack the 53-man roster.

OTHER THINGS TO WATCH:
-As outlined here, the defensive line rotation will be interesting.  And if Vonnie Holliday misses this game, that opens the door for Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford to get even more playing time.  Oh, and a guy like Rod Wright really needs to step up if he wants to make the team.

-Can Dan Carpenter make the most of this opportunity with Jay Feely likely sidelined with a groin injury?  Pay attention to not only his FG opportunities but also his kickoffs.  Can he consistently kick it deep?

-Is this secondary really as improved as some believe it might be based on camp?  And is Jason Allen really ready to show he belongs?

Those are just some of the many things to look for on Saturday night.  But whatever happens, good or bad, remember this: it's only the first preseason game.  And Sparano even said that they aren't game planning for this game.

With that said, football is back!!  Are you as excited as I am?  Tell me about it below...

And don't forget to spend your gameday here with other Dolphin fans in our live game thread.