The Miami Dolphins get back on the field tonight in a Preseason Week 2 contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The second preseason game typically sees the starters play a little longer into the game, with the depth players then taking over for a majority of the contest. Then, for next week’s game three of the preseason, teams go for a full dress rehearsal of a regular season game, with starters playing all of the first half and possibly coming back after halftime for early third-quarter play.
If Miami is going to use the third game, a nationally televised game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, then they need to have a fairly good idea of who their starters will be across the lineup. There are still positions, including the quarterback and the offensive line, where there are question marks. Strong performances tonight against the Buccaneers could settle some of those remaining questions.
Who will have an impact? Who should you be watching tonight?
Rosen had a strong first outing with the Dolphins last week. By no means was it perfect, but a second-year quarterback with upside who is on his sixth offensive coordinator in his last five years of football is probably going to make a few mistakes. He finished the game last week against the Atlanta Falcons 13-for-20 for 191 yards with an interception, giving him a 75.2 passer rating.
Earlier in the week, head coach Brian Flores discussed Rosen’s body language and control of the huddle as an issue. Flores told the media, “I think he has to do a better job getting guys in and out of the huddle, his communication, body language. There were some plays there he didn’t like and we just have to move onto the next play. That’s the case for him and all the quarterbacks; but I think at that position, that’s something that’s part of the evaluation as well. But he got in there with some of those other guys and I thought he did an okay job.”
Tonight, Rosen needs to show that he can get guys in and out of the huddle, control his emotions, and have better body language. Not everything will go his way, but if he can put up another strong day, plus improve on some of those other things, he has a chance to put himself in the lead of the quarterback battle.
Mark Walton, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, Kenneth Farrow
Kenyan Drake is injured, which makes Kalen Ballage a “feature back” instead of a player platooning with Drake. The Dolphins will likely look at Ballage early, then get him out of the game, leaving extra reps for the rest of the position group. Walton likely has the inside track for the third running back spot on the 53-man roster, but Gaskin and Laird have been playing well. Farrow needs a strong performance tonight. If one of them has a great game, they could lock themselves into the third spot, or possibly force Miami to keep a fourth halfback on the roster (plus Chandler Cox at fullback).
The offensive line is still a giant question mark, and tonight may not be enough to answer everything. Laremy Tunsil is obviously the left tackle and the only sure-thing on the line. If Miami is going to start two rookies, Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun, at guard this year, there are going to be moments of rookie mistakes, but they have to use each game to get better and clean up past mistakes. Facing Ndamukong Suh all week should be helpful, but the coaches need to start seeing some cohesion along the line. Jesse Davis seems locked into the right tackle position now, with Daniel Kilgore at center. After those five, there are a lot of players with some highs and some lows that have to step up and fill a role on the team, either working as a swing tackle, a utility interior lineman, or simply just solid depth at one position. The offensive line will continue to show up on the “what to watch” list every week until it proves itself.
Does anyone have a spare pass rush they can send to Tampa for tonight and do not mind giving up until the winter? Right now, Miami needs it. Charles Harris has to step up - it really is that simple. The former first-round pick continues to disappoint, and the Dolphins need him to turn it around. Nate Orchard and Jonathan Ledbetter saw snaps as the first team defensive ends this week, replacing Harris and Tank Carradine in that role, which is not a good sign. The coaches could have just been getting them experience or sending a message, but Harris being replaceable is worrisome as we hit the mid-way point of the preseason.
There is still some scheming that can be done to help generate a pass rush, but linebacker Jerome Baker cannot be Miami’s top defender harassing opposing quarterbacks. He is needed in other roles - coverage, run stopping, etc. - more.
I was going to make this the second starting cornerback again like last week, but we all already know that needs to be answered. Instead, I want to watch Fitzpatrick this week. I would guess he is not in the game long, but the coaching staff is moving him around a lot right now, and it came to a head this week when South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly tweeted a comment about the second-year player not performing well in practice. His family responded that the coaching staff is using him in the box as a strong safety, which does not fit his skill set as well, in order to allow other players to play to their strengths. The Dolphins likely are looking to Fitzpatrick to serve as a strong safety as Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald rehab from injuries.
“He’s done a really good job,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick. “He’s a hard-working kid, does a good job with his communication, practices well every day. Obviously, it’s never perfect for anybody, but he’s a guy who we’ve used in multiple roles. He’s taken to that and really learned them all at a pretty good level. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement from a technique, from a fundamental standpoint – just an understanding of the game. He’s still a young player. It’s a new system, but he’s really a joy to work with from an abilities standpoint, as a kid – he’s a really good kid, too. I’m looking forward to working with him some more.”
How will the Dolphins use Fitzpatrick? Will he be asked to be up in the box? He should be an interesting player to watch tonight.
Bonus: Preston Williams
A strong Preseason Week 1 performance thrust Williams, an undrafted free agent, into the national spotlight. Can he continue that tonight?