Friday night, the Miami Dolphins will hit the field for their first preseason game, visiting the New York Giants to start their 2016 campaign. After two weeks of training camp, there are still a lot of questions to be answered by the Dolphins, but in the first preseason contest, we are not likely to get a lot of answers. The team will likely play most of the starters for a series, or maybe two, but then the game will be turned over to the second- and third-string players, giving them a chance to try to impress coaches while making sure key members of the team are not getting injured.
That means, questions like “Will Ryan Tannehill be able to find DeVante Parker deep?” is not going to be one to watch for during this game. Maybe later in the summer we can get that answered, but the first game of the preseason will be more about the depth players on the roster. As such, we have five things to watch for during this game that focuses primarily on the younger players:
1. Will Laremy Tunsil establish himself as the team’s starting left guard?
Tunsil will likely end up being a starter by the time the season starts, but right now, the coaching staff is letting him develop as an NFL player and as a guard instead of a tackle while playing against the second-team players most of the time. Tunsil will likely continue that second-team experience on Friday, and he could see extended playing time to try to help him speed up his development. He may not come out of this game as the set-in-stone starter, but he can put himself in position to move up on the depth chart in the near future.
2. Will the defensive ends have the same impact against the Giants offensive line?
This will include the starters - minus Cameron Wake who is likely not going to play in this game - but will focus primarily on the depth players like Andre Branch, Jason Jones, Jordan Phillips, Chris McCain, Terrence Fede, Chris Jones, Jordan Williams, and Cleyon Laing. The Miami defensive line has been impressive all training camp, but they have been playing solely against the team’s offensive line. How will they stand up against another team’s offensive line? Will we come away from this game feeling good about the Miami defensive line? Will we feel better about the Dolphins’ offensive line, because of how good the defensive line looks Friday night?
3. Who will establish himself as the starting cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell?
The Dolphins’ cornerback position is still a puzzle that has to be solved. Maxwell, who is established as the starter on one side of the defense, will likely see limited playing time on Friday. After Maxwell, everyone could be asked to play large portions of the game as the coaches look to find the right player to serve as the other starter. Tony Lippett currently has the edge as the second startrer, but he has not been consistent in training camp and he has to prove himself still. Chimdi Checkwa and Jordan Lucas will both be looking to challenge Lippett, and both have seen time with the starters so far this camp. At the nickel cornerback position, Michael Thomas appears to still be leading Bobby McCain, even though Thomas remains listed as a safety on the depth chart. That battle could be fought on Friday night as well.
4. How will Jakeem Grant make an impact?
During training camp, Mighty Mouse has looked good when the ball is in his hands, but Friday night will feature live hitting and tackling. Will he still look at good when the Giants are coming after him at full speed? He also has not been the cleanest when it comes to catching the ball, both in punt and pass reception, which needs to be cleaned up. Assuming Miami will not put Jarvis Landry back to return punts or kicks, despite him being listed as the starter at both positions, Grant should see the opportunity to serve as the primary returner. Will the Dolphins also look to get him involved in the offense on Friday? That could start to give us an idea of how the team will look to use Grant throughout the season.
5. Can Leonte Carroo establish himself as the fourth wide receiver or even challenge for the third position?
Carroo has been buried on the depth chart early in his rookie training camp, but he has a chance to stand out on Friday, where he will see plenty of playing time. According to the depth chart Miami released this week, Carroo is behind Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Griff Whalen, and Matt Hazel. That said, he could do a lot to jump into at least the fourth position and possibly challenge Stills for the third spot. It is not a position battle that will be completed this week, but it cannot hurt Carroo to have a great showing against the Giants.