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Dolphins at Panthers: Three positions to watch

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The Miami Dolphins face the Carolina Panthers on Saturday. We take a look at three positions to watch for Miami during the game.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Preason has moved into Week 2, which includes the Miami Dolphins visiting the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night. The second preseason game will likely see the starters play longer than they did in the first game, but it will still come down to the backups playing the majority of the time, looking to prove they are worthy of stay on the 53-man roster. With the third game being the dress rehearsal game, this is the last time some of these players will get in a contest before the first round of roster cuts later in the preseason. That leads to plenty of things to watch.

We suggest three positions to watch during the game.

Defensive Tackle

The Dolphins clearly have Ndamukong Suh in the top spot of the depth chart, with Earl Mitchell likely locked into the second spot. Behind those two, however, is a mass of players all trying to prove their value to the roster. C.J. Mosley, A.J. Francis, Anthony Johnson, Jordan Phillips, Deandre Coleman, and Calvin Barnett all have something to prove if they want to assure themselves of a spot on the roster. This could be one of their last chances.

Offensive Line

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin has said he would like to have the starting lineup locked in before the third preseason game, meaning this is the last chance for someone to earn a starting role. Jason Fox, Mike Pouncey, and Ja'Wuan James are respectively the starting left tackle, center, and right tackle, leaving the two guard positions open (along with the Branden Albert replacing Fox as soon as Albert is fully healthy). The Dolphins currently have Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner plugged in as the starting guards, but they are not yet locked into those spots. How they play against the Panthers could solidify their spots, could make the Dolphins consider other options on the roster like Jamil Douglas or Jeff Linkenbach, or they could look to find another option from free agency. The Carolina game will be crucial toward deciding how Miami's offensive line looks this year.

Safety

When the Dolphins took the field against the Chicago Bears last week, the position battle to watch in the secondary was the cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes. Jamar Taylor appeared to be doing well there, and the secondary was likely coming together. In the first of two days of joint practices with the Panthers this week, the secondary suddenly changed, with starting free safety Louis Delmas re-tearing his right ACL and likely being out for the season. How will the Dolphins adjust? Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas are the leading candidates to take over the role, with some speculation that the team could look to move Reshad Jones into more of a traditional free safety, having him play back in the secondary rather than letting him sneak up to support the run defense, while Aikens and Thomas battle for the strong safety spot. However the Dolphins decide to solve the safety issue, this week's game will be the first step.