Let's face it, tonight's Hall of Fame Game between the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys is not actually the Dolphins and the Cowboys. It's the Dolphins B-squad against the Cowboys B-squad. The starting lineups may or may not play a few snaps, but the vast majority of the game will feature players further down the depth chart, trying to make the roster.
As we all sit down to watch the game tonight, we will be reminded over and over that this is the first of five preseason games for these teams, and that nothing that happens tonight really matters.
But, it does matter. That's why they play these games. If nothing was on the line, then there would be no reason to risk injury to your players.
The jobs of several of these players could be on the line. A player who makes a mistake tonight most likely will not be looking for a job tomorrow, but the performance tonight could be the deciding factor for that player in a few weeks when cuts are being made.
So, how do you know if a player actually looked good tonight, or if he beat the 90th player on the Cowboys roster, who only joined the team yesterday, and really is there just so the team can say they have a full roster? Well, we take a look at the Cowboys before the game, and get an idea of where the biggest matchups for the keys areas of the Dolphins' roster.
As Dolphins fans, our key areas to watch will be the offensive line, the wide receivers, and the pass rush. How do the Cowboys match up? Let's take a look.
Dolphins Offensive Line vs. Cowboys Defensive Line
This may be the one area where the Cowboys potentially sitting all their starters would actually hurt Miami. The Dolphins need to see their starting offensive line go up against another team's top defensive line. The best thing that could happen for the Dolphins tonight is to see DeMarcus Ware (Number 94) line up against Jonathan Martin. Of course, Ware will likely beat up Martin, but if Martin can have any success against Ware, we as fans, and the Dolphins coaches, might be able to have a better idea of exactly what Martin is bringing to the left tackle position.
That scenario is the same all across the offensive line. How will Josh Samuda look? Will the line start to have the chemistry they need?
It's hard to figure out how the defensive line for the Cowboys, which is already banged up, will line up to start the game. But, the key matchup will be Ware on Martin, if it happens.
Dolphins Wide Receivers vs. Cowboys Secondary
Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace likely will not play tonight, but they are not the ones we need to watch. Third wide receiver Brandon Gibson deserves a mention, but still, he's not someone to watch. It's Marvin McNutt, Brian Tyms, Jeff Fuller, Kenny Stafford, Andrell Smith, Julius Pruitt, and Keenan Davis that need to be scouted tonight.
Assuming we will not see much of Morris Claiborne (24) or Brandon Carr (39), that leaves the Dolphins facing Orlando Scandrick (32), Sterling Moore (30), and B.W. Webb (20). Scandrick and Moore will be a solid test for the second and third string wide receivers, and can help differentiate which receivers are doing well. Webb is a fourth round draft pick, who is looking to start making the roster based more on his play than on his draft selection.
The Dolphins may not face the top of the line cornerbacks from Dallas tonight, but the rest of the group will be a decent measuring stick.
Dolphins Pass Rush vs. Cowboys Offensive Line
This may or may not prove to be a test for the Dolphins pass rush, simply because the Cowboys are badly injured along the offensive line. The Miami starters may be playing against players who will see limited to no playing time in the regular season. However, it's more what happens on the right defensive end that actually matters, so what Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick do tonight is inconsequential.
It's all about Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan. What will they do to the Cowboys right tackles? Will they continue to be hot against another team, like they have been in practice so far? However they do tonight could also impact fans' views on Martin, who has been facing Vernon and Jordan every day in practice. If those two are getting stonewalled by Darrion Weems (75) or Edawn Coughman (76), may be they are not as good as we all think they are, and maybe Martin really is struggling.
However, if Vernon and Jordan are ripping through the offensive line, maybe we do not have to worry about Martin as much as it seems.