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Miami Dolphins: What to watch for against the Cowboys

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Week One of the NFL preseason wasn’t what fans expected out of the Miami Dolphins. Miami came out and looked very flat for two quarters of football. Adjustments were made in practice all week in preparation for their matchup Friday against the Cowboys. Miami’s offense is looking to be at full strength with the return of Devante Parker and Arian Foster. Both were held out of the Giants game due to injury. With the starters getting a little more time, look for the offense to stretch their legs a little more.

What to watch for:

In the passing game, Ryan Tannehill needs to develop chemistry with anyone not named Landry. While he’s Tannehill’s favorite target, it won’t be long before teams key in on him even more. If the Dolphins can’t develop another go-to guy on offense, it’ll be another thin playbook for them. Look for the offense to focus on getting plays to Kenny Stills or Devante Parker. Both players are deep threats Miami could use to open up the field. While Adam Gase spoke against throwing bombs all day, expect the Dolphins to test a couple of deep passes to keep defenses honest. With speedsters like Landry and newcomer Jakeem Grant, room to run will make all the difference.

Miami has to establish the tight end position. With backups doing most of the work against the Giants, veterans like Jordan Cameron have to step up in their pass game. They struggled on 3rd down last season and in the red zone, two places tight ends are needed most. So far this preseason and camp, theirs been little if any talk about the tight ends making an impact.

If they can’t get more involved, the Dolphins might as well just bring in an extra lineman to protect against defenders. Against Dallas who often allows teams to dink and dunk their way downfield, expect Miami to look towards their tight ends to keep the chains moving.

Fans get their first look at a suited up Arian Foster. Foster implied he was in the best shape of his career so look for him to be ready to go. Carrying a large chip on his shoulder after being let go from Houston, he needs to take Miami back to the days of Ricky Williams. With Jay Ajayi struggling in the passing game, look for Foster and Damien Williams to get more work.

With Williams establishing himself as one of the teams better blocking backs, look for him and Foster to be heavily evaluated. That’s not to say that Jay Ajayi won’t play his role. However if one or the other doesn’t live up to expectations, Miami could keep a longer list at running back this season.

Miami will have their toughest test on defense. Dallas not only boasts one of the best offenses lines, but has a long list of playmakers on offense. The Dolphins made short work of the Giants offensive line in the preseason. The defense was in quarterback Ryan Nassib’s face all evening in that match up. However, with how poorly New York’s line performed last season, it was a very low bar. If the defensive unit can emulate that success, fans will have reason to get excited.

Week 2 is a statement game for a lot of players. Looking to build on success, the second match up shows consistency. With either good or bad play, one week is a fluke, but multiple games is a pattern. Expect players like Kiko Alonso to amp up the intensity after a short, criticized, first game. With a few fights breaking out in camp this week, they’ll likely need someone to push around other than themselves. Defense-minded guys love to be on edge so look for a bit more physicality out of them. If the defense can turn the ball over as frequently this week, then look for the offense to open up a little more. With Xavien Howard being activated from the PUP list Thursday so he’ll be a nonfactor. However, with more competition, expect defensive backs to be looked at under a microscope. Even with a few missteps last week, the unit came out looking better than expected. With coaches in pass-or-play mode, someone needs to step up big.

Last but not least, Laremy Tunsil. The Dolphins have found their version of Brett Favre; he’s all you hear about. Fans have been less than quiet about their desire to want him to start. In press conferences, reports favorite question is when that’ll happen. Truth be told, Tunsil is a second stringer. Dallas Thomas needs to start over him for him to be successful. From a football perspective, during preseason games starters get short work.

As a rookie, Tunsil will need as much in game experience as he can get. So Miami kept him on the second strong until they know 100% Thomas isn’t their guy. Right now, he could be one of those guys coaches feels suffered from an off week. Good for the coaches for sticking to their guns and evaluating more than just seven snaps. With how bad the offensive line has been, fans shouldn’t hold a grudge when coaches take as much time as they can. They’re not picking gas station scratch off tickets; they’re trying to build a winning football team. Week 1 should be the deadline, expect nothing more before then.

Preseason leaves little for most fans to get excited for. For coaches and players, it’s the hardest part of the year. Roster cuts are always looming, position battles are won and lost, and there’s no real judge of how a full game will turn out. Look for Miami to play with a sense of urgency as preseason doesn’t last forever.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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