The Miami Dolphins open their preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night and, as always in these games, the final score won’t be nearly as important as the evaluation of the players and positional units.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 things/players to watch for the Dolphins.
HEAD COACH MIKE McDANIEL
There’s always a curiosity with a first-year head coach, even more so with a first-time head coach, when it comes to how he’ll approach the preseason.
The biggest thing to watch when it comes to McDaniel is how basic — or not — the play-calling will be for a preseason opener (both on offense and defense) and perhaps more importantly which players will be in the lineup and which ones will be kept out.
We’re already expressed our feelings that the Dolphins don’t need to use Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead or Xavien Howard against Tampa Bay, though that final verdict won’t come until about 90 minutes before kickoff.
QB SKYLAR THOMPSON
Because the Dolphins should be careful with Tagovailoa and because they know what they have in backup Teddy Bridgewater, it makes all the sense in the world for Thompson to get the majority of the snaps throughout the preseason. Thompson has been making his share of big-time throws in practice over the past two weeks and if he continues that kind of work in the preseason games, the Dolphins will have to think long and hard about finding a spot for him on the 53- man roster.
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THE RETURNING RUNNING BACKS
With the Dolphins bringing in veterans Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel in the offseason — not to mention fullback Alec Ingold — it clearly put the pressure on Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed to perform in training camp and the preseason if they want to keep their spot roster. The two have had their moments in practice, but they can’t afford any bad outings.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
You didn’t think we wouldn’t mention the offensive line, did you? This position has been a focal point of the team for several years now and the hope is that a new scheme and veteran additions Armstead and Connor Williams can help make a big difference. Regardless of whether Armstead plays against the Buccaneers, this game will provide a good measuring stick. In particular, it’ll be interesting to watch what kind of holes can be produced for the running game and, of course, whether Williams has any issues with shotgun snaps.
PRESTON WILLIAMS AND LYNN BOWDEN JR.
Yeah, this one is kind of a given in light of the report indicating the Dolphins have been shopping both wide receivers. Since the report came out Monday, Williams was targeted on a few occasions in team drills in the joint practices against the Bucs, but Bowden continued to be a non-factor. Regardless of what kind of production either has in the preseason, the likelihood remains that — barring injuries — neither will make the 53-man roster but it could help facilitate a trade with a WR-needy team.
TEs HUNTER LONG AND ADAM SHAHEEN
Talk about two players at opposite ends of the spectrum. Shaheen is kind of in limbo at this time after the failed trade with the Houston Texans after they failed him on his physical, while Long finds himself with a brighter outlook for 2022 after a rookie season where he was buried on the depth chart.
THE RETURN GAME
McDaniel has been consistent with the media when he comes to the return game with his position that he views it as important and wouldn’t be reluctant to use front-line players, such as Tyreek Hill to handle that role. But newcomer DeVonte Dedmon, who had five returns for touchdowns in his first 15 games in the CFL, could render the point moot if he can flash in the preseason and logic says he’ll be given every opportunity to do so.
NOAH AND THE OTHER YOUNG CORNERS
Because he was a first-round pick two years ago, Noah Igbinoghene always will be in the spotlight as long as he remains with the Dolphins, and he’ll be looking to rebound in the preseason opener from a rather rough couple of joint practices. On the flip side, Keion Crossen will be looking to build on his great practice from Thursday, while second-year player Trill Williams will look to continue his strong camp work to carve himself a role on the defense.
CHANNING’S BIG CHANCE
The Dolphins’ top pick in the 2022 draft, Channing Tindall, has had a pretty quiet training camp so far, but logic says he should be given a lot of playing time on defense in the preseason to speed up as much as possible his development. It’s also not like veterans such as Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts and Duke Riley need a ton of reps in the preseason, so Tindall should get a pretty full work load.
THE ROOKIE FREE AGENTS
The preseason always offers a great stage for those rookie free agents hoping to land a roster spot. Among those we’ll be intrigued to watch in the preseason are offensive lineman Kellen Diesch, wide receiver Braylon Sanders, cornerback Kader Kohou and safety Verone McKinley III. The latter three have had some impressive moments in camp and it’ll be interesting to see if they can duplicate that in the preseason.