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Miami Dolphins: What to watch for against the Atlanta Falcons

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Dubbed preseason’s “dress rehearsal” game, week 3 is the most important to some teams. Starters play a little more, depth charts begin to round out, and playbooks get a little bit bigger. For the Miami Dolphins, week three will instill a sense of urgency. There will be plenty to focus on in Thursday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Adam Gase will have enough tape to evaluate after this game, so what can fans expect to see?

Establish the run game

Since preseason won’t decide playoff positions, look for Miami to try every which way to get the run game going. With running backs, Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster struggling in short work, look for each to get a substantial boost in carries. The Dolphins are still looking to develop that aspect of their game after failing to do so last year. Expect each player to get upwards of 10-15 carries in this matchup. Miami is also looking to find their final piece of the running back skill set.

Damien Williams, Isiah Pead and Daniel Thomas are all fighting for that last roster spot. With an offensive mind in Gase, each could find themselves in situational plays to see how they hold up. Chances are if the backups don’t see the field this game, don’t anticipate them making the final roster.

More of the same

In preseason week two against the Cowboys, the Dolphins’ starters seemed to click finally. While Miami struggled running the ball, the passing game thrived. Aside from a couple dropped passes, Tannehill and company seemed to have their way in their up-tempo offense. Kenny Stills stood out as the playmaker Miami thought he’d be. Fans can expect more of the same against the Falcons. Tannehill should spread the ball around plenty to solidify connections with his receivers. The receivers need to separate them from the rest of the pack. Not only does Miami need to keep it’s playbook open, but they also need to prove they’re not just a one-dimensional team.

Find an open tight end

There’s hiding the fact Miami needs to get a playmaker at tight end. After struggling in the red zone last season, the newly revamped offense ought to find a way. Gase described starter Jordan Cameron’s struggles as “growing pains” but he could still be a huge factor in the offense. Even Dion Sims received praise early in the week, catching Gase off guard with his speed.

Against the Cowboys, backup tight end Dominique Jones was the second leading receiver for the Dolphins. The plays are in the playbook; Miami just needs to find a way for them to work. Even if they’re failed attempts, the short game might give coaches a good look at the position. Will the unit step up, or fall back in line?

The Jakeem Grant of it all

When Miami selected Jakeem Grant in the later rounds in this year’s draft fans scratched their heads. Even if you were to put his size and speed aside. Miami already had a roster consisting of potential playmakers when they took Leonte Carroo earlier in the draft. Pick back up his speed in the return game, and he’s expected to be a playmaker. Then came the unexpected.

In the Dolphins’ first preseason game, Grant proved he wasn’t just a one-trick pony. His uncanny ability to get open thrust him into the team’s leading receiver against the Giants. With the remainder of the playbook to be rounded out, Grant should see an increase of plays his way. If the Dolphins can turn him into a playmaker in the offense, it won’t be long before plays are designed around getting him the ball in open space.

Against the Falcons, look for a huge test for Grant who, like Jarvis Landry, once gets up to speed in the game fans won’t be able to wait to get the ball in his hands. Stumble in the passing game and he might just get demoted to return duties strictly.

Fans beware. Week 3 of the preseason is a trap game. There’s plenty of expectations from fans who want the dress rehearsal to be the barometer for games. It is still just a preseason game. There won’t be early access to big plays. You won’t see 100% what the defense has to offer. Coaches are still evaluating talent and situational coaching.

While there’s plenty to see out of starting units, week 3 of the preseason is designed to thin the herd. The Dolphins are no different. Coaches will decide what starters need most work, what backups could leap frog starters, or who will be in their first round of cuts. Don’t worry Dolfans. Prejudging week 3 is just as pointless as it was two weeks ago.

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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