Thursday night marks the return of Miami Dolphins football for the 2015 season as the team kicks off the preseason with a visit to the Chicago Bears. Early preseason games are filled with players who are hoping to make the roster, or are looking to increase their positioning on the depth chart. That does not mean there is nothing to watch in the game, however, as the Dolphins will have plenty of storylines worth tracking. We take a look at three of the top things to watch in the game.
This is an obvious story line for the game, but I will not go with the easy answer here. While we will all be watching to see exactly how the guards play throughout the game, the more interesting thing to watch may be how much the guards play. Dallas Thomas should start at left guard for the team, and appears to have the slight edge in the battle for the position over rookie Jamil Douglas, but it is a close fight. Both players will likely see plenty of playing time during the game.
At right guard, Billy Turner appears to be pulling away from the field - which may or may not be a good thing. Turner has been getting beat regularly in training camp practices, but he is also facing off one-on-one against All Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh every day. The coaches will likely look to get Turner extended snaps in the game in an effort to evaluate him against someone not rated as the top defensive tackle in the game. The coaches continue to say they want to see consistency from Turner and that he is improving. What better way to see consistency and continue improvement than a large number of snaps in an game situation.
Thursday night should give the Dolphins coaches the final answer on whether or not the team needs to go all-in on chasing free agent Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.
An odd thing to care about in the first preseason game, but the kicker position battle is one to watch. The contest between Caleb Sturgis and Andrew Franks may end up being more about who loses than who wins. Neither kicker has been superb in training camp, with both showing signs of inconsistency. The Dolphins coaches will probably use both kickers in the game, just to get another look at both players.
Sturgis is probably slightly ahead, but it is close and worth watching to see if either kicker makes a move during the game.
At this point, let us assume Lamar Miller is the starting running back. Who is the primary backup? Jay Ajayi started off hot, but seems to have fallen off some. LaMichael James and Damien Williams have both been practicing well. Mike Gillislee is somewhere in there as well. There is a nebulous cloud when it comes to the depth chart at the running back position, and someone needs to take a firm grasp of the spot.
The Dolphins currently have Williams listed as the number two runner, and it would not be surprising to see him get the majority of the carries on Thursday, but James, Ajayi, and Gillislee (plus Demitrius Bronson) should all factor into the position battle before it is over.