The Miami Dolphins continue their preseason schedule on Friday as they face the Dallas Cowboys. Again on the road, the Dolphins will look to find a better rhythm early in the game Friday as compared to last week’s visit to the New York Giants. Friday night’s game should feature more of the Dolphins’ starters playing in the game, and playing for a longer period of time.
The Dolphins’ first-team offense is going to be looking for a better performance than last week’s two three-and-out possessions. The defensive line, which is expected to feature all of the starters after resting them last week, will be looking to test themselves against Dallas’ top-rated offensive line. There will be plenty to watch during the game, but what are the top things to watch for the Dolphins?
1. Dolphins defensive line versus Cowboys offensive line
There are going to be more critical things to watch for the Dolphins, but this might be the most entertaining, and really, it might be more important than some of the position battles. Dallas’ offensive line is widely considered the best line in the league, and the Dolphins are expected to be a dominant defensive line. If they can match up well this week, things will be looking good for the regular season. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Andre Branch, Chris McCain, and Terrence Fede have all looked good in training camp, but they now face a test against the best in the league. The Dolphins’ new Wide-9 technique and the players themselves will be something to watch Friday night.
2. Laremy Tunsil
The guard position battle is something to watch, but, let’s face it, really what we all want to know is how will rookie Laremy Tunsil look. Head coach Adam Gase has not said Tunsil will start on Friday, but it does seem a possibility, and even if he does not start, he should see plenty of playing time, beginning fairly early in the contest. Tunsil should be the opening day starter at left guard, and his development could be key to Miami having success this year. It might be time to let the 13th overall pick get on the field with the first-team offensive line and start building the chemistry between himself and Mike Pouncey at center and Branden Albert at left tackle.
3. Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi
Foster is expected to make his Dolphins debut on Friday, upping the position battle between him and Ajayi. During the regular season, the “starter” tag may not be as major distinction, as the two will probably split carries to make sure they both stay healthy, but on Friday, we should get a better idea of what Miami has in Foster as well as how Ajayi will respond to Foster being in the lineup.
The Dolphins activated rookie cornerback Xavien Howard, who is expected to challenge for, if not claim, the starting cornerback position opposite Byron Maxwell. Howard will not play on Friday, but should start practicing for the first time on Sunday. That gives Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, and Chimdi Chekwa one last shot to make an impression before Howard enters the position battle. McCain looked solid for the most part last week, so he could keep fighting once Howard is up to speed. McCain is also in a battle with safety Michael Thomas for the nickel cornerback spot. That will also be worth watching during the game.
5. The offense
Last week, the starting offense struggled out of the gate, but they only had two possessions to try to work it out. This week, they will be in the game longer, and they have been saying all the right things about starting to find something during practice. It is a completely new offensive system, so there will likely be growing pains, but this week should see some growth as compared to last week. “It’s now or never,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said this week. “It’s time to go. I think we feel that urgency. This week has been a good week for us. I think we got a lot better. I saw some great strides from the offensive line the past couple of days, just protecting and giving me time to get the ball out, and guys are winning downfield. We still have a lot of work to do but I think we’re headed in the right direction.” Head coach Adam Gase says he needs to call a better game than he did last week and the offense knows they have to play better as well. Now, we need to see the growth this week.