The Miami Dolphins open their 2017 preseason schedule later tonight with a home game against the Atlanta Falcons. After a crazy week of injuries and investigations, the Dolphins get back to football tonight with a chance to start playing at full speed and competing against another team. Typically, this game features the younger players trying to prove themselves, so it will not have big names for most of the time, but it can still have big storylines.
For the Dolphins, there will be plenty of things to watch tonight, whether it is a position battle, a bubble watch, or just a player trying to prove himself. Here are our top five things to watch tonight. Feel free to share what you are watching as well.
1. Matt Moore and the offense.
Jay Cutler is not going to be playing tonight, so Matt Moore should be the starting quarterback with the first-team offense tonight, even if it is a quick showing. This might be Moore’s chance to prove that he should be the starter, even if there is not really a quarterback competition. Moore knows the offense and knows the receivers. He could come out and try to put on a show, just to make sure everyone knows he is ready if Cutler, who only has one practice thus far this summer, does not get up to speed as quickly as hoped.
2. Jordan Phillips’ make-or-break year begins.
It appears rookie Davon Godchaux is on the verge of establishing himself as the starting defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh. That comes as a surprise as it appeared before the offseason training program and training camp that Jordan Phillips was set to assume that role. The history of Phillips has been a lack of consistency, and that appears to be continuing into this summer. Phillips was selected with the Dolphins’ second-round pick in 2015, and it is his time to turn it on. This year could be his make-or-break season with Miami, and that will start tonight. The coaches will likely give him plenty of snaps against the Falcons, and he needs to show that he is ready to go on every single play.
The nickel cornerback position is slowly becoming a position battle, even as Bobby McCain is listed as the starter. An injury to McCain this summer has thrust Michael Thomas into the starting lineup, which is a departure for the Dolphins from their insistence that Thomas is a safety. He is still listed as the second string safety behind Reshad Jones, but do not be surprised if Thomas - who has repeatedly said he seems himself as a cornerback - makes a strong push to play the position. The Dolphins also have Aterraun Verner, Lafayette Pitts, Walt Aikens, Jordan Lucas, and Cordrea Tankersley to somehow work into the depth chart. What was a shallow position just a year ago appears to be one of more depth than the Dolphins need this season.
4. Jakeem Grant and the return game.
Miami wants Grant to become more of an option on the offense this year, working on ways to utilize his speed in mismatches. If he wants to have a position on the roster, however, it is going to have to be created through his role in the return game. Grant worked on his punt returns, something he was not asked to do in college, so he could come back more sure-handed this year. Early in camp, however, the fumble issues made an appearance. Tonight, he probably gets several of the return opportunities. How will he handle those chances? Will he show that he is ready to assume the role full time?
5. Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan.
It is always fun to see the top draft picks for the first time, and tonight will be that chance for Dolphins fans with defensive end Charles Harris and linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Harris should see plenty of snaps after Cameron Wake and Andre Branch are pulled, giving everyone a chance to see exactly how explosive a pass rusher he can be. McMillan appears to be the starting middle linebacker as of right now, but he could see extended playing time too, just to get him more experience. Both players will definitely be something to watch tonight.