Football is back, and the Miami Dolphins will get their first taste of preseason action when they face off against the Atlanta Falcons tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Dolphins likely will not have their full complement of weapons on the offensive side of the football as running back Jay Ajayi (concussion protocol) and newly acquired quarterback Jay Cutler will not play against the defending NFC champs. Mike Pouncey (hip) and Laremy Tunsil (excused personal absence) likely will not participate in tonight’s contest as well.
Cutler participated in Tuesday’s practice and played well considering he was preparing for a life in the broadcast booth with Fox Sports prior to Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury last week. Ajayi practiced sparingly on Tuesday as he ran routes and caught passes with the team but he has yet to be cleared for contact.
If this were Week 1 of the regular season, the absence of notable players on offense would dash the Dolphins’ hopes of coming away with a victory. Thankfully this is just Week 1 of the preseason and the Dolphins can afford to be without players who are projected to be key contributors in 2017.
While the Dolphins will be without some of their more prominent players tonight, many players will get an opportunity to make a name for themselves and put together a string of performances necessary to make the team.
Here are five things to look for when the Dolphins host the Falcons tonight in their first preseason action:
1. Kenyan Drake has put together one of his best weeks of practice. He’s been afforded additional reps with the first-team offense while Jay Ajayi continues to recover from a concussion. Drake has made the most out of his opportunities daily. He’s running fast and his combination of speed and vision makes him a threat to beat defenders to the corner and find cutback lanes if defenders over pursue him to the outside.
2. Julius Thomas has not had a stellar training camp by any means, but coach Adam Gase isn’t worried about the slow start. Thomas figures into Gase’s plans as a red zone target and he’s looking forward to having him as an option when the Dolphins are in scoring positon. Thomas likely had his best practice on Tuesday with Jay Cutler leading the charge at quarterback. Matt Moore will be the starting quarterback tonight and his chemistry with MarQueis Gray is palpable. It will be interesting to see if Thomas is able to make a play tonight as well.
3. The Dolphins knew they had holes to fill along the interior of their defensive line as their 2015 second-round pick Jordan Phillips has yet to realize his potential. The Dolphins selected Davon Godchaux in the fifth round and Vincent Taylor in the sixth round to remedy the paucity of production at defensive tackle and they both are having very good camps. Godchaux has played well enough to earn first-team reps next to Ndamukong Suh while Taylor (who is going to be a very good player) has been disruptive in the run and passing game when facing the second team offense during practice.
4. Undrafted free agent Maurice Smith comes to the Dolphins with safety and cornerback experience. He has showcased his ability to play nickel as well as safety since organized team activities (OTAs) and it is clear the Dolphins value his versatility. Smith is also constantly around the football and he has been awarded second-team reps as a result. It appears as he is currently ahead of last year’s sixth-round pick Jordan Lucas. An outstanding performance tonight could potentially be another step toward Smith making the roster.
5. Torry McTyer is another undrafted rookie who is worth keeping an eye on. McTyer is putting together a very nice camp and his ball skills are noticeable. In one practice he was able to pick off the quarterback twice, and one of the interceptions would’ve been a pick 6. McTyer is also capable of returning kicks as his 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash places him among some of the fastest players on the Dolphins roster.
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL.
Thursday August 10, 7:00 p.m. EST
Radio: 560 WQAM and Kiss 99.9FM
TV: CBS 4