The Miami Dolphins hit the field for the first time in the 2019 NFL Preseason, hosting the Atlanta Falcons in a game that will primarily feature the depth players across both rosters. While the starters will likely see some early playing time before heading back to the sidelines, the backups and players fighting for a roster spot will make the game worth watching.
The Dolphins are rebuilding this year, which means there will be plenty of young players gaining experience in tonight’s game. This year will also feature the coaching staff making their debut. Will they be comfortable in these new roles?
“I think it’s exciting for both [offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham],” head coach Brian Flores, heading into his first game as the head coach, said earlier in the week. “I would say both have called a game previously – not in the regular season, but preseason games. It’ll be exciting for both guys. I remember being in that role just a year ago. There’s some excitement. There’s this feeling that you want to do everything right, make the perfect call on everything, but the game’s not played that way. It just doesn’t work out that way normally. I’m excited to see both guys perform on Thursday night. I have a lot of confidence in both – well really, all three coordinators and the entire coaching staff, or else they wouldn’t be in that role. Both are smart. Both are creative, and I’m excited to see both of them Thursday night.”
When asked where the coordinator will be during the game, on the field or up in the coaches’ booth, Flores explained, “They’re going to be on the field. I think their voices need to be heard on the field by the players. I would say most coordinators are on the field. I know there’s a handful that like to be in the booth, and I think it’s a personal preference thing, but I think they’ll both be on the field.”
The coaches will be worth watching during Thursday’s game. But who are the “must watch” players for Miami?
The Dolphins said Ryan Fitzpatrick would start the first preseason game, which immediately makes it appear he has the lead for the starter’s spot when it comes to the regular season. However, Rosen playing in the second-string spot means he should see the majority of the playing time on Thursday. The Dolphins need to see what they have in Rosen, and while the game will likely be pretty vanilla in terms of schemes and could be sloppy with younger players trying to force things to happen, if Rosen can show a command of the offense and some of the potential that made him a top-ten pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, Miami may have made the obvious choice for a not-so-obvious reason.
The position battle between Fitzpatrick and Rosen started heavily in Fitzpatrick’s favor, but the younger passer has been coming on strong the last week or so. A good performance on Thursday could shake up the depth chart a little.
Secondary not named Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Minkah Fitzpatrick
The Miami secondary is actually pretty deep and talented. But there is a hole. While some people pointed to the unofficial depth chart the Dolphins released this week, with Fitzpatrick listed as a backup safety, the Dolphins will get Fitzpatrick on the field in plenty of situations this year. None of that group of four should be a concern.
The hole comes at the cornerback position opposite Howard. Will Eric Rowe step up into it? Can someone else, like Cornell Armstrong, Jalen Davis, Torry McTyer. or Tyler Patmon, show they have the talent to claim that spot?
The starters - especially Laremy Tunsil and Daniel Kilgore - will likely not be on the field for very many snaps on Thursday. That said, the Dolphins could look to get extra snaps to some of the younger players like Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun. Jesse Davis could see extra time as well if the team is looking to move him back to right tackle after playing right guard last year.
Miami’s success - and maybe the confidence of Rosen - could be contingent on the offensive line coming together.
I did not include McCain in the secondary portion of the breakdown because, while he is not likely to be an issue on the field, he has been a cornerback for his career and his now moving to free safety. Everything seems to say he is doing well back there, but now we are starting to see game speed, and he will be asked to do things he has not had to do before in a game. Maybe there will not be any issue at all, but he is someone to watch - though it may be a quick appearance for him.
The Dolphins could use a big-bodied tight end, especially in the red zone, creating mismatches and catching passes. Gesicki would seem to be exactly the player to fill that hole, but last year he was washed out too often, and asked to block too often, as a rookie. I would anticipate Miami trying to get him involved in the offense tonight, trying to get him some experience and reps, especially with Rosen if he is going to become the quarterback of the future for the team.