Week 2 of the preseason has rolled around and the Miami Dolphins have made the short trip to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is a team on the rise under new head coach Lovie Smith and will present a good gauge for this Dolphins team.
Here are eight things to watch when the game kicks off at 7:30 PM/ET.
Matt Moore/ Brady Quinn
This "competition" will be very interesting. Moore has yet to play in the preseason due to a sore shoulder. Though Moore is one of the best back up quarterbacks in football, but if Quinn plays well Saturday it could spell trouble for Moore in Miami.
Moore's high salary puts him in cap casualty range, as the Dolphins would save $2.5 million by cutting Moore, but heading into the season without a viable insurance policy behind Ryan Tannehill is risky.
That's where Quinn comes in.
Quinn, playing for the team that many thought his career would begin with, could prove to be a solid-enough back-up that the Dolphins chose to part ways with Moore.
For the record, I do not believe that this scenario will play out. However, the signing of a veteran like Quinn is great incentive for Moore to step up his play and prove that the team that he could still lead the Dolphins to victories if need be.
Perform well or risk losing your job, that's the NFL for you.
The Dolphins' starting offensive line vs the Buccaneers starting defensive line
The Dolphins offensive line will face a very good defensive front on Saturday that will give us a good gauge of how the line will look this season.
Tampa Bay has a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Gerald McCoy that will test Miami's interior line play and a long, slippery, athletic defensive end in Michael Johnson who will likely line up against rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James at times.
Can the Dolphins get a push in the run game? Will solid protection of Tannehill continue? These are things that we will be able to better determine after Saturday's contest.
The first thing I will be looking for with Jordan is, obviously, how he handles his duties at defensive end. Will he be able to seal the edge to prevent outside runs effectively? Will he be able to beat offensive tackles consistently to get sacks?
I'll be watching to see if Jordan does indeed move slower or more sluggishly with his new body mass.
I'll also be very intrigued to see if Jordan takes snaps at any other position than defensive end. Last Friday Jordan took one snap as a nickel linebacker and dropped into coverage. I'll be very excited to see this more, but based on recent comments from Joe Philbin I wouldn't expect to see Jordan at linebacker too much as the Dolphins try to see what he can do at defensive end throughout these next three games.
If Jordan doesn't flash at defensive end by the end of preseason, it's likely he will be getting some linebacker training during his four-week vacation to start the regular season.
Dolphins pass defense vs Tampa Bay's passing offense
The Dolphins will be playing a high-powered passing offense Saturday. The Buccaneers' top three passing targets are each 6'5", and each of Miami's starting cornerbacks stands at only 5'10". Each target for the Buccaneers weighs at least 40 pounds more than both Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes.
It will be fun to see how these mismatches are handled, but the real fun will come when watching the Dolphins attempt to cover Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins is a beast of a tight end who presents a seam threat and a redzone threat (21 collegiate touchdowns in three seasons).
The Dolphins linebackers, mainly Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, will need to use their experience and football IQ's to win matchups against the rookie. That being said, it could get ugly out there. The Dolphins LBs need to have a good showing to instill some confidence into the fanbase, but it likely won't come in Week 2 of the preseason.
Will the Dolphins defense improve upon the atrocious tackling from game one of the preseason? I mean, it can't get much worse.....right? All jokes aside, Miami's defense needs to improve upon it's tackling Saturday or this could become a real issue.
What I want to see from Tannehill is simple. In the two or three series that he plays, I want to continue to see Tannehill be "the man". I want to see him continue to take control of this offense, lead clean drives that end in points and throw accurate passes. That's about it.
Oh, and I will be looking for Tannehill to not run. Yes, not run.
It's the preseason, why risk injury? More importantly, why let the cat out of the bag? Tannehill will run plenty in the season, but keeping it under the wraps to unleash on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in Week 1 would create a classic game(just like the Wildcat game of 2008) and a big smile on my face.
Backup tight end battle
Charles Clay, the Dolphins do-it-all tight end who suffered an increasingly worrisome knee injury two weeks ago, will be sitting out Week 2 of the preseason and likely a little while longer as he is listed as "day-to-day".
Luckily, 2013 fourth round pick Dion Sims has had a solid camp in which he was named by Head Coach Joe Philbin as the most improved player. Sims is the Dolphins best blocking tight end and also provides a surprisingly large amount of playmaking ability in this new offense (and will likely become a beast at making receptions to keep the chains moving).
After Sims, though, is where things begin to get hazy, boring and thought-provoking all at the same time. Who will grab the third tight end spot that will rarely be used (unless, of course, one of the candidates' play warrants routine regular season action)?
Michael Egnew, a 2012 third round pick who hasn't lived up to his draft status, will be playing his first game of the preseason when the Dolphins visit the Buccaneers on Saturday. Egnew, who sat out the Dolphins preseason opener due to injury, needs to make as many plays as possible to improve his slipping standing with the team.
Egnew's draft status won't be enough to keep him around (that card left with Jeff Ireland), so producing the plays that he has the potential to make is the key to Egnew to keep his NFL dream alive.
Unfortunately for Egnew (and fortunately for the Dolphins and their fans), Egnew will face fierce competition from a couple of sleepers in this tight end battle.
Kyle Miller, who has spent time on the Dolphins practice squad the past two seasons, has been having a solid camp and may be a close second to Sims for best blocking tight end on the squad. Miller is a physical player with surprisingly soft hands and body control, both of which were on display on his fourth quarter first down reception in the Dolphins preseason opener.
Brett Brackett, a TE who has already been cut from the Dolphins once in 2014, has also been making noise the last few days of camp after a strong showing in the preseason opener. Brackett is making the most of his second chance and is someone to watch when the starters exit the field.
I wish I could tell you Gator Hoskins was playing in this game, but I honestly have no idea at this point. Hoskins was having a very good camp before suffering an injury. Hoskins cannot afford to miss much time because, even though he has shown playmaking ability, Hoskins cannot prove anything while injured. If you are in a position where you are a clawing for a roster spot, every missed day is stifling to your chances of making a 53-man roster.
Sleepers to watch
Brett Brackett - Brackett has been grabbing people's attention after receiving a third chance with the Dolphins (he was originally signed by Miami as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2011). Brackett had three receptions for 57 yards in the Dolphins preseason opener and followed that up with a decent week of practices. Brackett is the ultimate sleeper to make the Dolphins roster, but he needs to put on a little bit of weight to be effective as a blocker and needs to keep making plays.
Michael Egnew - Egnew, as one of the most polarizing players on the team, will be an interesting guy to keep an eye on and qualifies as a sleeper because many don't expect him to make the roster. However, Egnew could find the spark he possessed in college when he was mainly used as a pass catching tight end when he resumes a similar role in Bill Lazor's offense.
Kevin Cone - Cone is a poor man's Rishard Matthews, but he is slightly bigger. Cone is a strong, physical receiver who can high point a ball and make a catch, but he is inconsistent with his routes which leads to him often times not being in the correct spots. However, Cone received a good amount of playing time in the preseason opener and could gain some ground in the race to make the Dolphins roster if he can make some of the spectacular catches that he almost hauls in.
Terrence Fede - Fede is technically not a sleeper as this seventh round pick's name gains more momentum, but as someone who still isn't a sure thing to make the roster, Fede qualifies for the list. Fede is someone you should be watching every week because he will continue to ascend. This Marist product will quickly put himself in the conversation of "top value picks of the 2014 NFL Draft".
Chris McCain & Damien Williams - This list wouldn't be complete if I didn't hype these two up again. It'll be interesting to see how much Williams is used in this game after his remarkable recovery from a nasty looking ankle injury just over a week ago in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins first preseason game. I'll also can't wait to see McCain again and will be looking for him in that 4-3 Under SAM linebacker spot.
Michael Thomas - Thomas, who I like to refer to as a folk-hero for his famous game-sealing interception against the New England Patriots in Week 15 of 2013, has an excellent opportunity to earn not only a roster spot, but significant playing time in these next few games. Thomas, who is currently working as the second team nickel, has a clear shot to the starting nickel job after Jimmy Wilson shifted to the safety position to fill-in for a suspended Reshad Jones.