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Dolphins at Jaguars: Three questions that will be answered about Miami’s defense

The Miami Dolphins have until Aug. 29 to slim the roster down to 53 players.

Miami Dolphins v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Saturday’s bout with the Jacksonville Jaguars is a closing argument for players hoping to make the 2023 Miami Dolphins. Miami sits at 1-1 this preseason and has until Aug. 29 to cut the roster to 53 players.

Cornerback Xavien Howard, Safety Jevon Holland, edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips, along with Christian Wilkins in the trenches, are pillars of Vic Fangio’s defense but questions remain on that side of the football.

Is Noah Igbingohene ready for a breakout season?

General manager Chris Grier added Eli Apple after Jalen Ramsey suffered his injury but Miami’s Week 1 starters at cornerback aren’t clear. Igbinoghene made noise throughout his fourth training camp and out-snapped Apple 54-40 through two games.

Apple, who spent the last two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, surrendered receptions on three of five targets in coverage. That said, opposing receivers average 4.7 yards on those receptions. Quarterbacks have completed all three pass attempts targetting Igbinoghene. Receivers average nine yards per reception against the former first-round pick.

Second-round rookie Cam Smith is working back from injury and Nik Needham isn’t ready to return to action — opening the door for Igbinghene to earn a starting role early in the year.

Will the Dolphins add another defensive tackle?

While they didn’t work out, Grier added players like Trey Flowers and Mackensie Alexender to help solidify the roster in the season’s opening weeks last year. With roughly $13 million in cap space to work with, defensive tackle depth is something the Dolphins may address before Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Brandon Pili has the power to change Miami’s mind against the Jaguars. The former defensive tackle on the USC Trojans went undrafted but has been on the field for 55 snaps this preseason.

Pili has two stops against the run, according to PFF, but lacks statement plays. Saturday is another opportunity for him to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that he can be the final piece behind Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, and Raekwon Davis.

Who will start next to Jevon Holland?

Keidron Smith, Verone McKinley III, and Elijah Campbell each played at least 20 snaps at safety in Miami’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Jamal Perry led all safeties with 19 snaps against the Houston Texans and DeShon Elliot played 18.

Brandon Jones may not be ready to start the season and Elliot is listed as a starter next to Holland, but keep in mind that Fangio’s defense likes to utilize three safeties. A strong performance against Jacksonville will impact Miami’s early-season plans at the position.