MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins will wrap up their 2016 preseason slate on Thursday night when they host the Tennessee Titans.
For Miami, the night will mark the debut of several things.
First and foremost, a pair of high-round draft picks will take the field for the first time.
Cornerback Xavien Howard, taken in the second round, and running back Kenyan Drake, selected in round three, will both play for the Dolphins.
Howard has been viewed as a potential starter opposite Byron Maxwell but he missed over three weeks of training camp while recovering from arthroscopic surgery.
The coaching staff has been excited about Howard since the draft and its clear they are anxious to see him in action.
“I think we felt really good about him coming out,” said Miami head coach Adam Gase. “He was a very high target for us and I think we were just shocked that we got him when we did. We didn’t think he was going to be there and, really, he kind of fell to us. We were excited about it.”
Drake, meanwhile, has been sidelined by a hamstring injury he suffered on the second-to-last day of minicamp back in June.
Gase hasn’t been shy about discussing his desire to see Drake in game situations.
“Obviously I’d love to just see what he can do as far as routes go and what he can do in the pass game,” Gase said. “But at the same time, he’s shown us, in the run game, that he’s very effective, at least in the limited snaps that we saw of him in practice. I think we’d like to see if we can get him going in a little bit of both but you never know how this game is going to play out. You’d like to get him touches in both areas of that part of the game.”
Drake and Howard have been practicing all week and should see a fair amount of playing time against Tennessee.
The other big debut coming on Thursday is the newly named and renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has bankrolled the impressive improvements to the Dolphins home stadium, which now features a shade canopy to protect fans from the sun and elements, as well as four giant high-definition scoreboards in each corner of the stands.
It should be an impressive rollout, even though it’s only a preseason game.
Getting back to the game, another pair of Dolphins rookies will be getting a great opportunity to shine.
Wide receivers Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant have had their moments during the preseason.
Grant has shown that he is an asset in the return game while grabbing five catches for 73 yards through the first three preseason games.
Carroo was a standout receiver at Rutgers but hasn’t seen many targets during Miami’s three exhibition games, hauling in four receptions for just 23 yards.