The Miami Dolphins are down to their final two preseason games before the schedule moves to the regular season and the games start mattering for playoff positioning. That leaves two more chances to get things fixed without it hurting. That also means there are two more weeks of things to watch to get an idea of what the 2018 Miami Dolphins will be.
What are those ten story lines to watch the rest of the Dolphins’ preseason? Let’s count them down.
Last year, the injury bug became the story for the Dolphins. Well, maybe not the only the story for the team given all the insanity that surrounded the team throughout the summer and fall, but really, there were 16 players on injured reserve for Miami at the end of the year, with at least 11 of them starters or key contributors. That means 20 percent of the players Miami was counting on making an impact in 2017 were stuck in rehab for various injuries.
This year, the injury bug has shown up a little (knock on wood), but it has not been as crippling as last training camp (seriously, knock on wood). Everything thus far has seemed like issues that can be quickly healed, or at least will not force a player to be out for the year. Even with an injury like wide receiver DeVante Parker’s broken finger, it should be healed up fairly early in the season, if not by Week 1.
Injuries - or the lack thereof - will be a story through the remainder of the preseason (and the regular season, and potentially the playoffs...).
This one is not all that critical, given that both players are doing fairly well, but the Dolphins do need someone to break away in the competition between the two rookie kickers. Jason Sanders versus Greg Joseph. Who will win? Tune in to find out.
8. Frank Gore
Another one that really is not a critical thing to watch, but Gore is expected to make his debut for the Dolphins in Preseason Week 3. The team has held him out of the games thus far, simply because they did not feel they needed to see anything from him, but he is itching to play and now seems the time to get him into a game, get those first few hits, then shut him down for the rest of the preseason. Kenyan Drake, Gore, and Kalen Ballage should be a really strong trio of runners for Miami, so Gore joining the group will be a fun thing to watch.
7. Ryan Tannehill
At this point, Tannehill’s knee injury is in the past and he is ready to play. Of course, the offensive line has actually been playing well enough to keep the quarterback upright and clean. At some point, he is going to take that first clean hit - and potentially a hit to the knee - and we will all hold our collective breath when it happens. Tannehill bouncing back up and being ready to go again, will be an important step in Miami’s preparation for 2018.
As for the offense itself, Tannehill has looked pretty sharp. There have been a few throws that got away from him, some underthrown, some overthrown, but he is dialing it in at this point and looks like he is ready for the season. He looks like he knows exactly what the offense is supposed to be doing and where he is supposed to be going with the ball, and his comfort has led to the...
6. Uptempo Offense
It seems like every year, we talk about how the Dolphins are looking to go uptempo with the offense. They want to be fast to the line of scrimmage, and they want to run more plays. We heard this under Joe Philbin and we have heard it in the first two years with head coach Adam Gase. This year, it does feel a little different, though.
The team has sped things up some in the preseason, at times getting up to the line and calling the play from there. Will they continue that into the regular season? If they are able to sustain it, it should be seen a little more during the second half of the preseason.
5. Backup Quarterbacks
David Fales stills appears to be leading the battle to be Tannehill’s understudy, but he has not pulled away and Brock Osweiler is somehow still in contention. Bryce Petty has moved the offense well late in the games and could be fighting his way into more playing time over the final two weeks. This should end up with Fales in the position and both other players cut, but this is not a lock.
Paging the linebackers. Paging the linebackers. Please show up for the 2018 season. Thank you.
The Dolphins linebackers have made some plays this summer. But they have also simply missed at times. Players have been out of position or too easily washed out of the way with a block. Miami is relying on a second-year player whose rookie experience was running down on the field on opening-kickoff coverage of the opening game of the preseason last year and, now, a rookie outside linebacker, with the two players having played together at Ohio State. Both are going to make rookie mistakes, and the Dolphins have to live with that. They cannot, however, continue to make the same mistakes.
Raekwon McMillan, entering his second season after last year’s torn ACL, has picked up the middle linebacker position he appeared to have last year. However, he has not appeared fully comfortable in the role at times, insofar as having to have Kiko Alonso (who looks healthy, by the way, which should be a great thing for Miami) make the play calls at times. He has to find his comfort zone, because right now it is not there.
Jerome Baker has moved into the starting lineup after being with the second team in Preseason Week 1, but now has to prove he is worthy of the spot. That said, Stephone Anthony behind Baker, was demoted and has struggled during the first two preseason games.
Miami’s linebackers may be the biggest concern on the team right now, and the next two games have to calm the fears of the fan base.
I am not as overly concerned about this as some of the fans on Twitter, but at some point, the first team offense needs to punch a ball into the endzone. They are moving the ball well, but stall out near the red zone. While Gase has admitted he is not calling the red zone plays the team would use in the regular season, the bad taste of last year’s inability to finish drives is coming back as we see field goal after field goal.
The Dolphins drafted tight end Mike Gesicki with this as one of his strong suits. Now, he needs to execute - and the Dolphins need to call plays to get him open and into the end zone. This should open up once the games start to count toward the playoffs, but it would be nice to see a little of it now.
Flag. The Dolphins - flag - seem to be struggling - flag - with not committing - flag - penalties this - flag - preseason - flag - . Way too many of those penalties are coming from pre-snap mistakes on both sides of the ball. This has been a theme under Adam Gase, and it is something that the team is trying to stop, but so far, it has continued to be a problem.
Seriously, can someone please just step up and claim the second starting cornerback position already? Will the Dolphins be forced to move Bobby McCain outside and leave first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick as the nickel cornerback? Why has Cordrea Tankersley vanished lately? Is Tony Lippett’s Achilles ready for him to launch an assault on the position battle the second half of the preseason? Was Torry McTyer a flash in a pan, or can he still keep himself in contention for a starting role. The Dolphins should be able to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year, but they need the cornerbacks to give them that extra beat to move it from a hurry to a sack.