The Miami Dolphins host the St. Louis Rams tomorrow night in the final preseason contest, using the game as one last chance to answer some questions before the calendar turns to September and the games begin to count. This Dolphins teams seems more complete and more talented than last year's 8-8 club, but there are still plenty of question marks surround the team, and individual players, that will hopefully get clarified against the Rams.
1. Who will start at right guard?
All offseason through training camp and into the first two preseason games, Dallas Thomas appeared to have the starting right guard position locked up. Then he met Gerald McCoy against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the meeting did not go well for the second year lineman. Since that game, Miami has experimented some more with the position, with Thomas being rotated out and Shelley Smith and Billy Turner taking their reps with the starters. The most likely situation will see Smith claim the starting position, with Thomas the primary reserve.
2. How does Daniel Thomas look?
The much maligned running back will get his first, and only, action of the preseason in tomorrow's contest. Will he be able to demonstrate that he is the right person to fill out the Dolphins running back corps? Lamar Miller, Knowshon Moreno, and Damien Williams seem to have the top three positions locked, so Thomas is hoping to make the roster as the fourth running back, a big slide for a player that was considered a co-starter last year. The Dolphins put Mike Gillislee on injured reserve Tuesday, so the door to the 53-man roster should be Thomas' to open. Will he kick it in, or meekly try to slip through?
3. Will the reserve linebackers continue to pressure the starters?
This will probably be the most snaps players like Chris McCain, Jelani Jenkins, and Jordan Tripp will get to play in a single game this year. If any of them can shine, and all three really do have the potential to do just that, they could add to the idea that they should be getting regular snaps with the starting lineup in season, potentially replacing Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi, or Philip Wheeler.
4. How does the secondary come together?
The starting cornerbacks appear to be Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, while the safeties will be Louis Delmas and Jimmy Wilson. While the team awaits the return of Reshad Jones, freeing up Wilson to be the nickel cornerback, it appears the team will use Will Davis as the third cornerback and Jamar Taylor as the fourth. After that, there is pretty much a big question mark hanging over the secondary. Will Michael Thomas, Jordan Kovas, Don Jones, or Walt Aikens show they can serve as both a backup cornerback and a reserve safety? How will the team rotate the players throughout Thursday's game, and to what position? Some of the young players have to step up this year, or there will be a big hole in Miami's defense, and they can start stepping up with great performances Thursday.
5. Can the team tackle?
The Dolphins have struggled to actually bring down a ball carrier this preseason, missing far too many tackles. The coaching staff focused on that problem for a week earlier in training camp, and the team has to start seeing the benefit of those efforts. Tackling is such a basic function, and if the Dolphins are not able to accomplish that, then it is going to be a long year.