Dolphins Battle NFC Champion Falcons In Preseason Opener

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The long wait of spring and summer is finally over.

The Miami Dolphins will take the field Thursday night for their preseason opener against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

The Dolphins come into this game after an exhausting week in which they saw their starting quarterback and running back go down with injuries.

Ryan Tannehill re-injured the left knee that he partially tore the ACL and MCL last December and could be looking at season-ending surgery.

While the future of Tannehill is still up in the air, Miami acted quickly and thanks to head coach Adam Gase, lured veteran quarterback Jay Cutler out of retirement.

Gase has already told the media that Cutler will not play on Thursday.

As for Ajayi, he was seen participating in part of Tuesday’s practice but did not take any contact as he is still in the concussion protocol.

Whether or not he is cleared before the game is yet to be seen but if he does suit up, expect him to only receive a handful of carries.

GAME INFO: Kickoff 7 PM, Hard Rock Stadium

GAME MATCHUP: Atlanta Falcons (0-0, 0-0 away) vs. Miami Dolphins (0-0, 0-0 home)

The Falcons will take the field for the first time since blowing a 28-3 third quarter lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

Atlanta is poised for another strong season thanks to a stacked offense and stout defense.

Quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off an MVP season and running back Devonta Freeman just received a juicy new contract extension worth $41.25 million over five years.

As for Miami, the Dolphins are trending up after enjoying one of the team’s best seasons since the turn of the century.

Following a 1-4 start, Miami reeled off nine wins in ten games to claim one of the AFC’s Wild Card spots.

It was the first time the Dolphins made the playoffs since 2008, a place they still haven’t won a game since the 2000 season.

WATCH ROOKIES RUN

Among storylines to watch out for, Miami’s reserve receivers and youthful defensive draft picks will be on display throughout the preseason as they fight for spots on the roster and higher placement on the depth chart.

The Dolphins have four rookies in their defensive front seven that should see a good amount of playing time during the preseason as defensive coordinator Matt Burke and his staff figure out which youngsters are ready for a bigger role.

Defensive end Charles Harris, defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, and linebacker Raekwon McMillan could all play significant roles this year. Each has had their moments during OTAs and training camp but things are very different when battling against another team full of guys also fighting for their jobs.

WATCH STARTERS SIT

Don’t expect to see any starters out there for more than 6-10 snaps or a couple series’.

It will be interesting to see if Matt Moore takes any shots downfield during the limiting playing time he sees.  There is no doubt that each of Miami’s receiving threats will want to touch the ball while they have the chance.

FIGHT TILL THE END

While the quality of football tends to drop off towards the end of these games, at least when compared to the NFL product we’re used to, the effort level is always on full blast.

The first two preseason games are the best opportunity for reserve players and guys on the bubble to stand out and make a good impression while they still have a mostly clean slate with the coaching staff.

Each of these players know that everything they do is being put on film for everyone else in football to see.  They may not find a job with the Dolphins, but every team has different needs.

These precious snaps are like job interviews for many of these players and it shows in their effort, though not always with the best results.

More from David Dwork
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