The Miami Dolphins play in their third preseason game tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it’s go time regardless of all the men down facing injuries.
Head coach Brian Flores told his team (and the media) that he hoped this game would be a dress rehearsal for the regular season. However, this week he said that needed to be placed on hold because of all the injuries the team is facing.
If you are not an injured player you better throw that idea right out the window.
Why? If you want to play in the NFL and you can go tonight — you better go make the team. Tonight.
That being said, if you’re healthy and in a position battle, you also need to go out there and earn your starting spot.
Here are the battles and guys to watch for tonight:
Quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen
Fitzpatrick has been quiet in the preseason and hasn’t attempted more than 20 passes. However, he was named the starter by Flores earlier in the week for tonight’s game.
“I mean that’s what I’ve been working towards all offseason. That’s what I want to be and where I want to be. That’s definitely where I want to be with this team and in this offense,” Fitzpatrick said. “I want to get in and I want to get hit once or twice. I want to have good communication in and out of the huddle, be efficient and I’m hoping we’ll do a better job and I’ll do a better job of that this game.”
Rosen has had some hiccups, but has had more nice plays and confidence in the pocket than anything else. Yet, he is still on the outside looking in to the No. 1 position.
“I don’t want to really deal in hypotheticals; but yeah, the more time, the more reps you get, the better you’ll get with anything – the more you get to do it,” Rosen said. “Whether we had 100 preseason games or one, the next day will hopefully be better than the previous and that’ll lead to improvement.”
Fans can look at tonight’s QB in two ways. One, if Fitzpatrick continues to get low snap counts the team is either resting him because management already knows he’s the regular season starter. Or, two, they’re seeing the same things he has been showing and are done their evaluation. Regardless, this is probably Rosen’s last chance to make a case for himself and he better not throw another interception deep in Dolphins territory.
Starting linebacker Kiko Alonso
What the frick, Miami. Alonso has been dealing with an undisclosed injury (hmmm) and did not practice. Rumors have come up that Alonso could be traded to free up $7 million in cap space, with only $1.3 million in dead money. If Miami did not find a trade taker for Alonso, cutting him would carry $8.2 million in dead money.
Kenyan Drake is out. Mark Walton is on extended leave from the team and facing suspension and/or jail time. Kalen Ballage was a healthy scratch last week after being named the starter earlier in the week. His status for tonight’s game is unknown. (If he doesn’t play there is more to this story). Patrick Laird emerged as a consistent (and leading) rusher last week, despite being No. 4 on the depth chart.
Fans should hope to see Ballage and Laird working the one-two together, as it would show the most realistic pairing of what could come for the opening weekend of the regular season. It is VERY likely that Laird jumps from No. 4 to the backup role, at least until Drake is out of the booth and healthy enough to take some snaps (even in limited fashion). Fans should also expect Myles Gaskin and Kenneth Farrow to continue seeing snaps despite being listed as the No. 4 and No. 5.
Jakeem Grant, the No. 4 WR on the Dolphins’ depth chart, signed a four-year contract extension Tuesday. This locks him into earning a WR spot, along with Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker, whom are battling for the No. 1 honor. Albert Wilson is on the mend from his season-ending hip injury last season, but Preston Williams, Trenton Irwin, Isaiah Ford, Allen Hurns, Brice Butler and Reece Horn are all competing for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Multiple reports said that Miami is looking to keep six or seven guys in the receiving core. From where it stands, four of those spots are already decided. Williams, Irwin, Ford, Hurns, Butler and Horn are all coming into tonight’s game to make the team. The final preseason game could pose an opportunity for the last spot to be battled for, however, their mindset needs to be to come in and win the game tonight. They (by committee) have struggled dropping passes and communicating with the QB under center, so the people who haul in their looks tonight will make the team.
It’s hard to speculate who has the upper hand because all have had successful and unsuccessful performances in the last two games. Now, it’s best two-out-of-three.
It’s a given that Xavien Howard will be one of the Dolphins’ two starting corner backs. But, it’s time for that second spot to be earned. Miami signed David Rivers and Tyler Patmon during training camp to compete for a starting spot, and team, but are still far back on the depth chart.
Nik Needham and Torry McTyer were also expected to make a run at the position, but now they, along with Rivers and Patmon, sit behind Eric Rowe. If Rowe does indeed earn the starting spot, the four of them will battle for the back-up role, along with Jomal Wiltz and Cornell Armstrong who are currently in those positions.
Miami and Jacksonville will kickoff at 8 p.m.