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Miami Dolphins Looking to Take Next Step Tonight Versus Carolina

As the Dolphins get ready to take on the Panthers tonight, the most important aspect of the game may be rhythm.
As the Dolphins get ready to take on the Panthers tonight, the most important aspect of the game may be rhythm.

The Miami Dolphins are preparing to host the Carolina Panthers tonight in the second preseason game for both teams.  After the shortened off season caused by the 136 day NFL lockout, the Dolphins are struggling to find a rhythm - especially after some of the poor performances in last week's game against the Atlanta Falcons

Mike Bernadino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel explains:

'[Dolphins Head Coach] Tony Sparano is a numbers guy.

"The more arcane the better.

So when the Miami Dolphins coach tells the media, as he did Tuesday, that his team is roughly 375 practice repetitions behind last year's pace at a similar stage of the preseason, he's not moaning and groaning.

"He's just stating the facts in this post-lockout atmosphere."

As the Dolphins take the field at Sun Life Stadium tonight, they are going to be looking to take the next step in development before the 2011 season.  

As Sparano explained during his media availability earlier this week, "Well, I told the team today is that [the starters] all need to be ready to play until I’m tired of them playing, so I don’t know what that is, I don’t have a number yet so we’ll see where we go, but I think we will see some guys in there deep into the second quarter and maybe into the half."

Every repetition at this point is critical, and the starters, even if they are on the field "deep into the second quarter," need the chance to perform. Miami needs to take the next step, build a rhythm, and gain the momentum necessary to perform this season.

"Time is not a friend right now," Sparano said. "You've got to get your team ready to play."

The Dolphins are also planning on putting the entire set of offensive weapons on the field - Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush are expected to make their 2011 debut.  While neither should be on the field the entire time with the starters, their presence signifies the importance of the game.

The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington anticipates even more from the defense.

"And, yes, the defensive players will probably get to run some fun blitz packages."

So, tonight's game will be fun and exciting as Miami looks to begin building for the Week 1 Monday Night Football game against the New England Patriots.  A Patriots team that looked to be in mid-season form last night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the Patriots game looming, and so much work left to do, the Dolphins have to get off on the right foot tonight.

As Darlington writes:

"This has the potential to be a fun night that could provide some real momentum for a Dolphins team needing to start fusing together.

"Or it could be a disaster.

"As the stars come out, you can bet that fans, coaches, and players will be hoping for the former.

"'The players have to do a good job executing,' Sparano said. 'Because they all count.'"