MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – It’s been a long spring and summer of waiting, but Miami Dolphins fans will finally get to see their team take the field Friday night at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins are set to take on the Carolina Panthers in a preseason game you can only see on CBS4.
When last the Dolphins were on the field, the reserves fought back from a 17-0 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to win the game by a final score of 28-23.
Despite the win, the Dolphins starters did not look good in the game. Starting quarterback Chad Henne struggled throwing two ugly interceptions early in the game. He came back to hit wide receiver Brian Hartline on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Henne’s backup, Matt Moore, played well against the Falcons backups. Moore was 11-18 for 123 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. But, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is sticking with Henne as the starter for Friday’s game against the Panthers.
Another area that needs a lot of work is the running game. Starting left tackle Jake Long remains sidelined as he recovers from surgery. Without Long, the running game was almost non-existent last week against the Falcons.
Dolphins starting running back Daniel Thomas was given four carries in the game and managed just five yards. But, this week, the Dolphins will get a shot in the arm this week when the team takes the wraps off of free-agent acquisition Reggie Bush.
The former New Orleans Saints running back struggled to get his career going in New Orleans after a Heisman Trophy campaign at USC. Bush battled injury problems which he partially blamed on the artificial turf at the New Orleans Superdome.
Bush doesn’t have to worry about turf problems on Sun Life’s natural grass, but if the Dolphins hope to have any chance this season, they need big production out of Bush. He’s expected to be used as scat back type of player, meaning he’ll run the ball and catch a lot of passes out of the backfield.
The wide receiver corps will also get a big addition Friday night as Brandon Marshall is expected to play tonight to round out the receiving group with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Marshall has had an offseason of troubles and triumph as he revealed he’s battling borderline personality disorder.
There will likely only be three spots left to fill in the receiving corps and seven players looking to fill those openings. Receiver Phillip Livas looked dynamic in the return game and could make it as a special teamer. That leaves Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, Clyde Gates, Julius Pruitt, Patrick Carter and John Matthews battling for the spot.
Wallace caught three passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in the first preseason game and looks to follow that up with a strong performance against the Panthers.
The starting defense will also need to rebound against the Panthers after getting run over and abused by the Falcons starters last week. The Falcons made mincemeat of the Fins’ starters on the way to a 17-0 lead.
The defense will get back legendary Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor into the lineup this week. Taylor is on his last run with the Dolphins, but still has plenty left in the tank if the Fins use him as a situational pass rusher.
Taylor is also tutoring both starting linebackers Koa Misi and Cameron Wake, which can only help the young duo reach their potential even faster. That should make opposing quarterbacks very, very nervous.
On the other side of the field, the Panthers are about to unleash their number one overall draft pick Cam Newton. Last year’s Heisman winner will start Friday night against the Dolphins.
Newton has freakish size, 6’5”, and weighs 244 pounds. He played well as a backup last week, but will face his first starting defense against the Fins. Newton can throw the ball on a frozen rope to receivers and also has great mobility.
Newton will be tough to take down and at his size, he may become a more mobile version of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Last season, Newton ran wild in the always tough SEC to the tune of 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns on just 264 carries.