Despite the Miami Dolphins earning a 23-20 win in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, the team learned the hard way that wins and losses aren’t very high on the list of things that are important when it comes to preseason action.
Meaningful repetitions, young players flashing - and most importantly - staying healthy, are things you look to get out of the exhibition season. Unfortunately for Miami, the staying healthy aspect didn’t work out as the team had hoped, losing projected starter at middle linebacker, Raekwon McMillan, to a season-ending knee injury.
While McMillan was a player both the team and fans alike were looking forward to watching this preseason, his debut will be put on hold for a year as we turn our attention to several other players with intriguing storylines heading into the regular season.
Even though it will be wise for the Dolphins coaching staff to limit the exposure Jay Cutler has to opposing team’s defenses to ensure no additional injuries to the team’s starting quarterback, Cutler needs some meaningful reps against another team’s defense before starting the 2017 season.
Cutler doesn’t necessarily need all of his possessions to end in scores, but it would be great to see the team sustain at least one or two drives, depending on how long he plays, to show that the offense can find a rhythm with him at quarterback despite the lack of practice time he’s had with his new teammates.
Everyone was excited to see rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux in action last week to see if the early reports from training camp would translate to in-game success, which it did.
Godchaux’s performance made it clear that he’s ahead of Jordan Phillips on the depth chart and that the starting nod last week against Atlanta wasn’t just to light a fire under Phillips. Now the question is whether or not Godchaux can back up his performance and once again impress in Thursday’s game against Baltimore.
As mentioned earlier, the loss of McMillan was a blow the Dolphins could have gone without, as outside of drafting McMillan and the offseason addition of Lawrence Timmons, the team didn’t address the linebacker position that was one of the bigger downfalls of the defense outside of Kiko Alonso last season.
While Mike Hull may not be the player that ultimately starts with Alonso and Timmons week one of the regular season, he’s currently the player filling in for the injured rookie and seems to be the most likely in-house option to assume the position.
Be honest, did you really expect Jakeem Grant to climb the imaginary latter and make that catch last week against the Falcons? If you said yes, I don’t believe you.
After the issues Grant had fielding the ball on special teams last season, mixed with his inability to see the field on offense as a wide receiver, Grant was able to secure his most athletic catch to date showing that he may have some ability to make plays on the outside.
The next step would be for Grant to show that he can do this on a consistent basis and provide the team with more reasons to feature him on the offensive side of the ball similar to the way Tyreek Hill did last year with the Kansas City Chiefs.
For how shaky Grant was on special teams last year and the amount of players the team has who can handle punt and kick return duties, Grant would greatly help his case for making the final 53-man roster if he can continue to make plays when his number is called on offense.
With the recent season-ending injury to cornerback Tony Lippett, rookie corner Cordrea Tankersley is the sexy name you’d think to be on the lookout for heading into week two of preseason.
However, Alterraun Verner and his seven years of NFL experience seems more likely to receive early playing time than Tankersley in his rookie season. There’s definitely the possibility of the coaching staff siding with youth at this position, but that may come later in the season as they explore what they have in Tankersley and Xavien Howard in an attempt to decide if Byron Maxwell is worth his $10 million price tag in 2018.