CHARLOTTE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins will move another step closer to the regular season on Saturday night.
The Dolphins are in Charlotte, North Carolina for the second preseason game of 2015 as they face off against the Carolina Panthers.
The two opponents should be pretty familiar with each other as they participated in joint practices earlier in the week at the Panthers training camp home at Wofford College.
Miami continued to show strength on offense, with the crisp passing of Ryan Tannehill complimented by a consistent running game anchored by Lamar Miller.
As for the defense, particularly the defensive line, dominance remained the norm.
Led by Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, the d-line is clearly the best unit on the team. That being said, the things that Tannehill and the offense have been doing keep them a close second.
One of the main things that will be watched during Saturday’s game will be the play of the Dolphins offensive line.
The two guard spots have been under the most scrutiny as three guys are fighting for a pair of spots.
At the moment it seems that Dallas Thomas is the front-runner for the left guard spot while Billy Turner and rookie Jamil Douglas are fighting to win the job at right guard.
Miami’s Pro Bowl caliber left tackle, Branden Albert, is still working his way back from injury and is still a couple weeks away from being able to participate in full contact drills, let alone an actual game.
Albert’s been seen slowly making progress during training camp, so much so that he was in full pads and working in some team and individual drills throughout the week.
In the meantime, Jason Fox has been filling in at left tackle and while he’s not on the level of Albert, he’s holding his own.
Considering the level of unknown regarding Albert’s status for the season opener on September 13th against the Washington Redskins, it’s vital for Fox to be at his very best and prepare as though he will be the starter.
Another position that will be under the spotlight against Carolina is free safety.
The man the Dolphins expected to play the position, Louis Delmas, went down with a season-ending knee injury during the joint practices with the Panthers.
For now, the next man up is second-year pro Walk Aikens. Miami selected Aikens in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he’s been used sparingly since then.
Last season the then-rookie played just 64 defensive snaps which was the third-fewest of any player on the team.
Now he’ll have a real chance to prove that he’s an NFL player.
Aikens came into training camp the third man up but he’s played well enough to jump over Michael Thomas on the depth chart, for now.
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Watch Miami take on the Carolina Panthers this Saturday at 7 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!