With the Miami Dolphins entering preseason in somewhat of a rebuilding mode, it’s time to narrow down what some key focuses should be for the team. I think deciding on a starting quarterback, finding defensive schemes that work with their talented position players and seeing what first round draft pick Christian Wilkins can bring to the table should be at the top of the list.

1. QB Situation

In what has been a rocky road for the Miami Dolphins in the last decade when it comes to their starting quarterback, they’ll go into Thursday’s first preseason game with a true QB competition. The battle between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and the young, potential rising star Josh Rosen will come to fruition as coaches and fans will be able to witness how both play in game situations.

On Tuesday, head coach Brian Flores said that Fitzpatrick would get the first start of preseason, but said this decision does not carry over and make him the official starter for the regular season. Flores liked that Fitzpatrick was showing glimpses of his old self with his leadership and play-making abilities during training camp.

Reports from ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe said Rosen has stepped his game up, however, and had his best week of practice since becoming a Dolphin during a practice simulated scrimmage on Saturday. Wolfe reported Rosen showing off better footwork, better mechanics in the pocket and better decision making.

Look for both Fitzpatrick and Rosen to play plenty of series’ when they play the Atlanta Falcons tonight and in preseason games moving forward. Flores said he hopes preseason week three is a dress rehearsal for the regular season, but knows this QB battle could take longer to figure out.

2. Defense 

Miami will be looking to step it up on defense after finishing 29th in total yards given up last season (391.1 average). The Dolphins have been used to running a 4-3 defense scheme, but that looks to be changing under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. 

“I don’t even know what that is,” Graham said in a press release following training camp.

Graham brushed aside talk of what formations the team would run, and even said the team may move away from the 4-3, 3-4 and 4-2-5.

With that being said, I expect Miami’s defense this season to be very versatile showing off different defensive set-ups that don’t necessarily align with common schemes. I also think a deciding factor for its defensive set-up will be based on the offense they’re going up against each week. Graham also said that the Dolphins will stick to defensive schemes that give them the most success, and as the season goes on, may not run such a wide variety if they find some that truly work for them. I think it’ll be important to follow what starts to work early on defense for Miami. 

3. First Round Pick

First round draft pick Wilkins from Clemson University will look to help along the defensive front seven for the Dolphins. His 6’3, 315 pound stature and impressive defensive totals under Dabo Swinney for four years speak volumes of what he can add to Miami’s defense. At Clemson, he finished with 192 total tackles with 40.5 of those tackles coming for a loss and added 16 sacks. 

Look for Wilkins to play plenty of downs in Thursday’s first preseason game. I feel as though seeing him play an entire half isn’t out of the question and will come down to how well he begins his transition from playing on a college field to a professional field. I expect Wilkins to have an impact as the season starts rolling, and for the preseason, I am predicting him to be the standout player on the defensive side of the ball. With the opportunity, I think he has to push himself, and by doing this, will motivate those around him and will have extra drive knowing he can earn a starting spot.

With these three things to watch for in the Dolphins’ preseason, I believe Miami will begin putting a lot of different pieces to the puzzle together and finish 2-2.

– Carl Mahler is a Sports Contributor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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