MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have one more preseason game to get through before they can completely shift focus to the NFL regular season.
Thursday night the Dolphins will be in Minnesota for an exhibition battle with the Vikings, a game that both teams are hoping brings some clarity to the bottom half of each team’s 53-man roster.
All NFL teams are permitted to carry 90 players until Saturday at 4 p.m. when all active rosters must be cut down to 53.
Here are some key storylines to watch for:
The Dolphins starting and backup quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Matt Moore, are locked in to their roles. Cutler will not play Thursday but Moore may get a few reps to try and end his preseason on a positive note.
Moore has struggled so far, completing 9-of-17 passes for 59 yards and a pair of interceptions. His preseason passer rating is a putrid 21.1
The quarterback roster battle comes down to the two guys competing for the Dolphins’ third QB spot, Brandon Doughty and David Fales.
Both have had their moments during the preseason and the coaches will likely want to see every snap they can before making a final decision.
Miami may not carry three quarterbacks on the active roster but there will certainly be at least a practice squad job waiting for whoever comes out on top.
OFFENSE HAS BEEN OFFENSIVE AT TIMES
Through three preseason games the Dolphins offense is averaging 246.7 yards per game, good for 31st out of 32 teams in the league.
Aside from a couple of big plays, the offense has been largely stagnant.
They’ll look to get going tonight against a Vikings defense that has surrendered the second most yards during the preseason, giving up 382.0 per game.
The struggles of Byron Maxwell have given an opening to guys like Alterraun Verner, rookie Condrea Tankersley and undrafted rookie Torry McTyer.
Verner could end up taking Maxwell’s spot with the starters as the veteran has looked extremely solid during training camp and the preseason.
The rookies have also been flashing and could push for more prominent roles.
LEFT GUARD FAR FROM LOCKED DOWN
Miami’s offensive line has had a big question mark hanging over the left guard spot for most of training camp. Original projected starter Ted Larsen went down with a biceps tear the same day that Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season.
Kraig Urbik, who was slated to replace Larsen for the duration of his time on the sideline, was waived with an injury settlement after it was revealed that a knee injury he had been fighting through would require surgery. He has also been battling a back issues.
That leaves the job open for Jesse Davis, Jake Brendel and Anthony Steen to fight for. Davis has seen the most time with the first team since Urbik was lost but head coach Adam Gase has indicated that he could use multiple guys at the position depending on the game situation.
BATTLE OF THE PUNTERS NAMED MATT
Incumbent Matt Darr and rookie Matt Haack have quietly had one of the more intense and competitive position battles during training camp and the preseason.
Darr played with the Dolphins last season as a rookie and performed well, but Haack has seeminly matched Darr kick for kick so far this season.
The deciding factor could come down to an off-the-field element. Darr is an impending free agent who also makes $150,000 more than Haack.
Haack is also under contract for three years.
Ultimately, the decision should be made based on what the coaches see on the field.