MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When heading into the first preseason game of a new NFL season, it’s always best to temper expectations.READ MORE: 3 Million Pounds Of Dead Fish Cleaned Up Off Pinellas County In Red Tide Fish Kill
That should absolutely be the case regarding the Miami Dolphins.
Under center is a quarterback who hasn’t taken a snap in a game-setting since December of 2016.
His offensive line features three new starters. Receiver-wise, two new additions are expected to garner a lot of throws from Tannehill, who now must play without the wideout he’s target more than any other during his NFL Career following Jarvis Landry’s trade to Cleveland.
Oh yeah, and a rookie tight end who may very well end up starting come Week One.
And that’s just the first team offense, which will likely take only about 10 snaps Thursday night.
Don’t you just love the preseason? It certainly seems amazing at first, especially after not seeing your favorite NFL team since you were still marveling over your Christmas presents.
Overall, it’s been a solid training camp so far.
While there have been plenty of individual failures and mistakes, you could just as easily turn around and attribute some of those errors to a successful play on the other side of the ball.
The best measuring stick for coaches during the month of August can come during preseason games.
It’s finally an opportunity for players to put what they’ve been working on to use against someone wearing a different color jersey, to experience live hitting and true game speed.
It’s definitely something head coach Adam Gase is looking forward to seeing.
While critical at times, Gase has given an overall vibe of being pleased with the level his team is currently perofrming at.
“I’m good with what’s going on. I like the direction we’re heading,” Gase said. “Really, it’s going to be about what do we do in preseason games. How are we going to come together? How are we going to handle any kind of adversity? Are guys ready to step up? Sometimes in practice there’s less pressure, and all of a sudden you get in a game, you know one mistake can cost the whole team a game. Guys are working for that perfection part of it.”
To make things a little easier and to keep things interesting, here is a list of the main position battles and younger players keep an eye on.
Behind Tannehill, Miami currently has three quarterbacks on the roster. The main battle for backup QB has seemingly been between David Fales and Brock Osweiler, though Bryce Petty has also been in the mix.
Fales and Osweiler have rotated between the second and third teams during camp.
Both are expected to see a good amount of playing time against Tampa Bay.
“We just want to make sure that we give both of these guys legit opportunities to where – you want to say on paper – work an equal amount of time with each group,” Gase said. “I don’t know if that’s realistic because every game goes so different; but our goal is to be like, ‘you have this series.’ And maybe it’s two series in a row, then the next guy comes in for one series. I think it’s really going to come down to how many plays per series that we’re talking about.”
STARTING CORNERBACK #2READ MORE: ‘This Is Our Fight’: From Miami To Hialeah, Crowds Gather To Support Cuba
You can pencil in Xavien Howard as one of the Dolphins starting cornerbacks.
Actually, go ahead and use ink. Or even a Sharpie. He’s looked that good.
Battling for that second spot are Cordrea Tankersly, Tony Lippett and Torry McTyer.
As far as the stock watch goes, McTyer’s has been rising since the start of training camp while Lippett’s has not.
To make matters worse for Lippett, he may not play Thursday after suffering an ankle injury during Tuesday’s practice.
Someone to keep an eye on is second-year corner Taveze Calhoun. He’s fighting for one of the team’s final roster spots but has steadily improved through the first three weeks of camp and could play his way into a regular role on the team.
He should see a good amount of snaps during the second half on Thursday.
When thinking about Miami’s freshman class so far this year, the first name that comes to mind is Mike Gesicki.
The tight end out of Penn State was selected in the second round and so far he’s justified his draft position.
His athleticism and playmaking ability has been apparent, especially in the red zone. However, his blocking has been downright awful at times and needs to steadily improve as the team works through the preseason.
“It’s definitely something that I need to continue to focus on,” Gesicki said. “Knowing our coaches, [Tight Ends] Coach [Shane] Day and [Head] Coach [Adam] Gase and everybody that is there for me, they’re not going to let up on me and they’re going to help me become the best complete tight end that I can be.”
First round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick hasn’t had the same kind of attention-grabbing camp that Gesicki is enjoying.
Transitioning from college speed to NFL speed is not easy, especially at a position like safety where you have to evaluate so much at once.
Other rookies to keep an eye on are line backers Jerome Baker and Quinton Polling, cornerbacks Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis, running back Kallen Ballage and a couple other specials teams guys that we’ll address now.
That’s right, Miami’s battle for one of the most clutch positions in football is currently between a pair of rookies.
Seventh round pick Jason Sanders and undrafted Greg Joseph are fighting it out to see if either is worthy of a spot on the Dolphins final 53-man roster.
After nearly a dozen practices, neither has set himself apart.
Performance during preseason games could very well end up being the deciding factor for special teams coach Darren Rizzi.
One thing that has been noticed about Joseph is the dynamite that he holds in his right leg. He’s also coming off a practice on Monday in which he went 6-for-6 on field goals, including one from 61 yards away that had leg to spare.MORE NEWS: 4 Miami Beach Police Officers Relieved Of Duty Over Use Of Force Following Arrest
Joseph is also a local product, playing his college ball at Florida Atlantic University.