The Miami Dolphins will play at Sun Life Stadium for the first time in 2013 when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday in Week 3 of the preseason.
As we all know, the third week of the exhibition season is often referred to as the "dress rehearsal" game since the starters will see considerable action. Keeping in mind that the first team units rarely see the field in Week 4 of the preseason, this will be the Dolphins final tune up before they travel to Cleveland for the regular season opener. We will also get a pretty good idea of where this team stands heading into the 2013 campaign. With the first round of cuts coming on Tuesday, this is the last opportunity players on the roster bubble have to prove their worth and make an impression on the coaching staff.
Head Coach Joe Philbin is treating this contest with the utmost importance. He has already made it clear that his squad has game planed for the Buccaneers, a wise decision considering that these two teams will meet once again when the games start to count. Philbin will be expecting a much sharper, much cleaner and much more disciplined performance than we've seen from the Dolphins in the first three preseason games.
Here are some players to keep an eye on as the game progresses:
1) Mike Gillislee/Jonas Gray, RB
According to Armando Salguero, only one of Gillislee and Gray will make the team. A fifth round pick in 2013, Gillislee hasn't been decisive enough at the line of scrimmage and hasn't shown enough to solidify his spot on the roster. In three games, Gillislee has rushed for 67 yards on 22 attempts but his yards per attempt of 3.0 doesn't impress. On the other hand, Gray has emerged as a potential goal line and short yardage back thanks to his ability to run with power. The undrafted rookie has rushed for 87 yards with 3.5 yards per carry while adding two touchdowns. Both running backs will get sufficient playing time in order to seperate themselves from the other, therefore, it will be worth watching to see who comes out on top.
2) Charles Clay/Michael Egnew/Dion Sims, TE
With Dustin Keller out for the season, the Dolphins will be counting on production from all three of their tight ends to fill the void. Clay has been the starter this week in practice which means he will get the opportunity to solidify his role against the Bucs. Egnew and Sims are two inexperienced players who have talent but a lot to improve on and a lot to prove. This game will allow the coaching staff to determine if their current tight end core can carry the load or if outside help is required in the form of a trade or waiver wire pickup.
3) Nolan Carroll/Will Davis/Jamar Taylor, CB
Both Carroll and Davis will be pushed into a more prominent role after the release of veteran Richard Marshall. The move has salary implications written all over it but it leaves the Dolphins with little depth at cornerback. The team is banking on rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor but is the confidence warranted? Davis has been a ball hawk in practices and in games but he has also taken several pass interference penalties and has been quite inconsistent which is expected from a rookie third round draft choice. Taylor, a second round pick, has been dealing with an injury but he is back participating and could make a significant impact in 2013 if he is as good as advertised. Carroll hasn't played as nearly as poorly as most believe in his time in Miami, however a good performance from him against the Bucs would be encouraging.
4) John Jerry, RG
Jerry played at right guard with the starting offense all week in practice and had no limitations. He is expected to play on Saturday for the first time all preseason and his performance will be worth monitoring. Right guard has been the weak link for the Dolphins throughout the exhibition, therefore it will be interesting to see how much of an upgrade Jerry is to Samuda. Jerry has been working his way back to being in game shape meaning we will be able to determine how far he has gotten thus far.
5) Rishard Matthews/Chad Bumphis/Marvin McNutt, WR
After the Dolphins top three receivers, no one has really emerged for the 4th and 5th spots. Matthews was dealing with an injury earlier in camp but hasn't done much to earn his role since returning. Undrafted rookie Chad Bumphis has showed flashes but has cooled off as of late. Following an impressive start to camp, McNutt has been extremely inconsistent in games and is in danger of losing his spot on the roster. Right now, Matthews and Bumphis have the inside track on cracking the roster with McNutt, Jeff Fuller, Brian Tyms and Keenan Davis looking to make a case on Saturday. If all these players fail to make an impact against Tampa Bay, look for the Dolphins to be active searching for wide receivers once first cuts are made.