The Miami Dolphins host the Las Vegas Raiders tonight, meeting in the second week of the 2022 NFL Preseason. What will we see during the game? More importantly, what should we be seeing? Here is our list of five things to watch for the Dolphins tonight.
UPDATE: The Dolphins have released their list of players not expected to play, with Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill not included on the list. Both players should be starting tonight’s game.
Will the Dolphins play their starters? During last week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami sat nearly two dozen players, with most of them projected starters. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running back Chase Edmonds, linebacker Melvin Ingram, safety Jevon Holland, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, safety Sheldrick Redwine, cornerback Xavien Howard, fullback Alec Ingold, running back Raheem Mostert, cornerback Kader Kohou, fullback Jon Lovett, linebacker Elandon Roberts, linebacker Jerome Baker, center Connor Williams, tackle Terron Armstead, tackle Greg Little, tight end Adam Shaheen, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive tackle Zach Sieler, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins all sat out the contest. Who will play this weekend?
Head coach Mike McDaniel said earlier this summer that he anticipated Tagovailoa seeing playing time in the preseason, but has not confirmed anything since. His answer last week and again this week was that he would review how players were performing in practice to determine who needed game reps in the preseason.
The NFL’s three preseason game schedule sets up Week 2 to be a dress rehearsal contest, allowing for Week 3 to serve as a final tuneup and a chance to see the bubble players in one more game situation. If this is going to be used as a dress rehearsal, we should see the starters in the game, potentially for an extended period of time.
This morning, Hill tweeted “Everything you got today !!!” Is that a sign that he is expecting to play today? Is that just a recognition that it is gameday? Is that him reaching out to the fans as the Dolphins play their first game at home this year? We will of course read into a simple statement.
Everything you got today !!!— Ty Hill (@cheetah) August 20, 2022
Will the Dolphins starters play tonight? Definitely, something to watch.
Tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams were in the list of players who did not play last week, but the rest of the anticipated starters, left guard Liam Eichenberg, right guard Robert Hunt, and right tackle Austin Jackson were on the field for the opening snap. They all were only in the game for 11 snaps, along with center Michael Deiter who started in place of Williams. Larnel Coleman started in place of Armstead at left tackle and played 42 of the 45 offensive snaps the Dolphins had in the game.
Armstead missing the game was not a surprise, with the Dolphins looking to keep the veteran entering his tenth season healthy for the year. Getting Williams game work at center could have been a consideration for the Dolphins coaches, though they did not choose that option. Williams played left guard for the Dallas Cowboys with Miami looking to move him to center. During training camp, there have been some issues with the snaps and getting Williams more playing time at the position would seem to be a benefit.
Jackson looked good in his 11 snaps, but it was an extremely small sample size. Will that continue as he sees more playing time? Will Eichenberg grow into his role as the left guard after being moved around the line multiple times last year? Can Hunt continue to be a solid member of the unit as the other players grow into their roles?
Increased playing time, including adding Williams to the starting lineup, would seem to make sense tonight, whether or not the rest of the starters play. Armstead staying on the sideline would be fine, giving Coleman more playing time and making sure Miami’s free agent signing is 100 percent healthy when the season starts. The rest of the line would seem to need the game-repetitions that a Preseason Week 2 contest can provide.
This could almost be an exact copy-and-paste from last week, where the first paragraph under the cornerback title read:
Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are locked in as the top two cornerbacks on the roster. While Jones is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list and is not available for tonight, Howard could play but likely will see little to no time on the field. Nik Needham is just about a lock to be the third/nickel cornerback, but behind those three, there are a bunch of question marks. Miami has to find out what they have for depth and tonight could go a long way to providing the clarity the position needs.
All of that is still true, especially when you add in the season-ending injury Trill Williams sustained last week. A “bunch of question marks” only got worse with Williams no longer available. Noah Igbinoghene is the key here, with the third-year player needing to step up and prove he is ready for a bigger role on the defense. At only 22-years-old, Igbinoghene looked like he was developing nicely early in training camp, but struggled against the Buccaneers in the two joint practices held between the teams, then again had some issues during the game (though I still am not sure he was responsible for the touchdown that was scored on a perfect zone-busting post route).
Behind Igbinoghene, Keion Crossen has been solid in camp and has special teams experience that could find him on the roster in the regular season. Kaden Kohou, an undrafted free agent, has flashed during camp.
Miami signed Mackensie Alexander, a veteran entering his seventh season who was a 2016 second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, to fill the depth chart spot Williams held. Will he come in and add the solid play Miami needs behind Howard, Jones, and Needham? Will one of the younger players step up?
Lynn Bowden, Jr.
Three receptions, 55 yards, and a touchdown. That was Bowden’s stat line from last week. At a position where the Dolphins have three locked-in starters (Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, Cedrick Wilson, Jr.), there are question marks about the depth behind them (this sounds like the cornerback writeup above). Last week, there were reports that the Dolphins were shopping Preston Williams and Bowden on the trade market, hoping to find someone willing to provide some compensation for depth receivers. Williams has continued to be buried on the depth chart ahead of the second preseason game, but Bowden’s performance last week could have pushed him onto the regular season roster. If he is able to back it up with another strong night tonight, he could find himself a roster lock.
The linebackers group were without Melvin Ingram, Elandon Roberts, and Jerome Baker last week, but even accounting for not having them, there were concerns in the group. Andrew Van Ginkel and Jaelan Phillips each played 13 snaps, so again, a small sample size as the Dolphins look to protect players who will have larger roles in the regular season. Behind that group, there are questions.
Channing Tindall, the team’s third-round pick this year, showed his speed and had a solid day. Sam Eguavoen had a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown, but he also missed a tackle and looked like a player in the first week of the preseason. Duke Riley, rookie Cameron Goode, Calvin Munson, Deandre Johnson, Owen Carney, Jr., and Brennan Scarlett all saw defensive and special teams snaps. Who in that group will step up and force themselves onto the roster, adding depth - and run stopping - to the Dolphins roster?