It feels like I just wrote this piece about the Miami Dolphins' first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. Here it is time to get ready for Friday's second preseason game, as the Dolphins host the Carolina Panthers. The NFL season is getting into a rhythm, and it's not long until the games are going to really count.
Friday night, the game will still be a preparation game for the Dolphins. However, Head Coach Tony Sparano has already told the starters to be prepared for extended playing time.
So, here are some of the things that I am looking for on Friday night:
1. Dolphins offensive line vs. Panthers defensive line. This was my number one thing to watch last week against the Falcons, and it's still up there at number one this week. The offensive linemen have been moved all over the line throughout the Dolphins' two week training camp, as Sparano works to find the best combination. Left tackle Jake Long continues to be on the physically unable to perform list, so Lydon Murtha will continue to start at the position this week. Currently, the rest of the starting line is Richie Incognito (left guard), Mike Pouncey (center), Vernon Carey (right guard), and Marc Colombo (right tackle). Also in the mix is center Joe Berger, guards John Jerry, Ray Feinga, and Matt Kopa, and tackles Alan Barbre, Nate Garner, D.J. Jones, and Ray Willis. Most importantly the ability of Colombo at the right tackle position is questionable. Will he be able to succeed, especially against a speed rush. If he performs poorly again on Friday night, I would think Murtha will start to make the transition from left tackle over to right, or former right tackle Carey will regain his position. I fully expect the offensive line to play deep into the game, as they get some reps and work to develop the chemistry needed to be successful. It will be interesting to see if the line can open up the holes fr the run game and pass protect with any consistency.
2. Reggie Bush. Bush will make his Dolphins debut on Friday night. He has stated he expects to be the work load carrier for Miami in 2011, a job he never had in his five year in New Orleans. WIth Daniel Thomas' poor performance last week, Bush could come in and establish himself as the running threat Miami needs. Or, he could serve in a more traditional Bush role, as a sweep-run, pass catching threat. Either way, he will add something to the offense, but until we know exactly how the Dolphins plan to utilize their new runner, it will be fascinating to watch the trade off between him and Thomas.
3. Clyde Gates and the Dolphins receiving corps. The Dolphins are looking to lock down their receiving corps. Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline are easily set as the Dolphins top three, but behind them, the Dolphins are still sorting out the rest of the players. Their main focus is on Clyde Gates. Gates is a rookie speedster that Miami hopes will add the deep threat they haven't had since Ted Ginn dropped his way out of town. I would fully expect the Dolphins to take some shots down field against the Panthers as they look to see if Gates is ready to provide that threat. Meanwhile, Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace, Phillip Livas, Julius Pruitt, and Patrick Carter will all look to stand out from the pack, both as a receiver and a member of the special teams.
4. Tight Ends Not Named Anthony Fasano. Fasano is Miami's number one tight end. But, behind that is a mess of inexperienced players, all trying to find a role on the team. Mickey Shuler, Jeron Mastrud, Brett Brackett, and Dedrick Epps are all being looked at to fill Miami's second tight end position. However, rookie H-back Charles Clay is sitting in the mix too, although he has not been working on the tight end portion of his game as much as the fullback position. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him line up and run some routes late in the game Friday.
5. Miami's Defense vs. Cam Newton. First overall pick Cam Newton is getting the start Friday night for the Panthers. He has not been named the team's starter over second year quarterback Jimmy Clausen, but the coaching staff wants to see him against first team defenses. Well, here you go, Cam. The Dolphins are looking to be a top tier defense this year. If they are going to take that next step towards being elite, they have to be able to make a rookie quarterback, making his first start, look like a rookie quarterback making his first start. Both the pass rush and the secondary have to make Newton uncomfortable early and often.
What else do you expect to see from the Dolphins tomorrow night?