Dolphins vs. Bucs Preview

When: Tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium- Miami Gardens, Florida
TV: Live on NFL Network

The time is finally here. After the redundancy that comes with two weeks of non-stop grind, the Dolphins finally get to hit another team. Some of you may argue that these preseason games are a total waste of three hours, but do you realize we haven’t had the privilege of watching some Dolphins’ football in over seven months?

When you factor in getting a first glance at Brandon Marshall in a Phins’ uniform, Mike Nolan’s new defensive scheme, the various positions battles, and the rookies fighting for starting jobs and roster spots, it’s easy to see why tonight’s preseason opener is must-see TV for any die-hard Dolphins’ fan.

Unfortunately, I am short on time this afternoon, so I will be unable to get too in depth with this preview. Instead, I’ve composed a list of three questions that are derived from the more relevant story lines, and three players to watch. Check back later tonight and in the coming days for full evaluation of tonight’s game. 

3 key questions as Dolphins open preseason

1. Will interior offensive line come together?
The well-documented struggles of the interior O-line may be keeping you up at night, but rest assured Tony Sparano, who is a former line coach after all, will eventually right the ship. Tonight will be a good place to start. I expect the run blocking to be solid, but they need to limit pressure between the tackles, which is something they have reportedly struggled with all camp. I’m also interested to see which players rise to the occasion tonight, if any, and if we can get a better feel for which three guys will start come September.

2. Will pass rush be as dominate against another team?
Maybe the interior O-line isn’t playing as bad as it looks. Maybe Mike Nolan’s scheme is that good. Well, that’s what you would call wishful thinking. But, hey, a hand-full of sacks, and a few forced rushed throws from Josh Freeman and company, and that scenerio could become a little more realistic. I will say that I don’t expect Mike Nolan to be too exotic with his blitz packages, considering there is no reason to give anything away in a meaningless game, but we should see a more aggressive attack.

Cameron Wake will also be in the spotlight. According to reports, it seems like the dude is getting to the quarterback a couple times a practice. Will he continue that trend tonight, and give us more reason to believe the Dolphins have an elite pass rusher on their hands? Of course, we already knew Wake had potential as a pass rusher, so how he defends the run and drops back into coverage will be just as crucial.

3. Will the first-team offense get in the end-zone?
The starting offense will likely set the tone for a successful, lukewarm, or just plain bad night. If Chad Henne leads a scoring drive or two, but the third-stringers lose the game in the fourth quarter, everyone is still going to feel pretty good. On the same note, if the starting offense goes out there and produces a few three-and-outs, but the backups rally in the second-half, the Dolphins are going to have a bitter taste in their mouth. Henne is reportedly playing the entire first quarter, so punching it in for six has to be the goal.

3 players to watch

Randy Starks: It seems like everyone has forgotten how important it will be for Randy Starks to successfully transition to nose tackle. Maybe it’s just hard to evaluate how he is coming along when the Dolphins tend to stay away from focusing too much on the run in practice. Tonight will be a great test, however. We need to see Starks taking on two blockers at a time, and opening up space for the linebackers to make plays on the ball. If he doesn’t, the whole scheme could be in jeopardy, and the Dolphins would be wise to consider other options (the 4-3). I predict Starks will do just fine, though, and eventually be an upgrade from Jason Ferguson, considering he will provide an interior pass rush to go along with his run-stuffing ability.

Chris Clemons: We should get our best look at Clemons to date. The expected starter at free safety, has been getting reps with the first and third team’s, and is reportedly a solid showing tonight away from clinching the job. If he plays the way he practices, we should see smart decision making out there, but I also want to see his range in center-field, and his ability to make tackles in space if needed.

Brandon Marshall: Now to the biggest headline of the night. Brandon Marshall will be making his Dolphins’ debut. Will we see the guy who has reportedly been dominate for stretches, or the player who only snagged two balls in last weekend’s scrimmage?