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CHARLOTTE (CBSMiami) – With training camp in the rearview mirror, the Miami Dolphins will look to take a few steps forward when they take the field Friday night for preseason game number two.
The Dolphins defense will be under the microscope and they’ll certainly be tested by a talented Carolina Panthers offense.
While Carolina’s offensive strength has come on the ground, the focus will surely be on Miami’s passing defense.
Last week Tampa Bay’s offense carved up the Dolphins secondary to the tune of 326 yards and a touchdown, a 103.5 passer rating.
That’s significantly worse than the 94.3 passer rating Miami defense allowed last season, which is still a poor number.
On the other hand, Miami did a great job stopping the run, holding the Buccaneers to just 73 yards on 28 rushing attempts, a meager 2.6 yards per carry.
If they can continue that trend against the Panthers, the Dolphins may be on to something when it comes to stopping the run.
STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
A.J. Derby – After missing most of training camp, tight end A.J. Derby is expected to suit up for his first preseason game. It will be interesting to see how many snaps he receives and how much the coaches want to see him in live action.
Starting Offense – This goes mostly for Ryan Tannehill, but we’ll group all the starters together because progress needs to be seen from the whole group. The first teamers are likely to play two or three series, depending on the amount of plays. Somewhere in the 20-play range sounds about right, which will give the unit plenty of opportunities to put some flow together.
Cornerback Battle – Torry McTyer, Tony Lippett and Cordrea Tankersley have been fighting for a possible starting spot, though it’s become clear that the coaching staff isn’t getting what it wants out of any of them. Aside from showing interesting in possible free agent pickups (Bashaud Breeland was in for a visit last week), coaches have also moved nickel corner Bobby McCain to the boundary in recent days. Additionally, Jalen Davis, Cornell Armstrong and Taveze Calhoun are all fighting for possible bubble spot and its been a very fun battle to watch.
Bubble Wideouts- There are five wide receivers on Miami’s roster that are virtual locks to make the team: DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. If Miami decides to keep six wideouts, and that’s a big if, there are a handful of players fighting for one spot and preseason games are the best opportunity for them to separate themselves from the pack. Those receivers are Isaiah Ford, Rashawn Scott, Malcom Lewis and Leonte Carroo.
Backup Quarterback- The battle between Brock Osweiler and David Fales started out pretty even, but Fales has seemingly pulled ahead over the past 7-10 days.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Tight end Mike Gesicki – has been running with starters, likely will only play the first quarter. Blocking has been his main problem, so look for him in the backfield and see how he fares during live action.
Linebacker Jerome Baker – Has been impressing since the first preseason game, earning reps with the first and second team. If he continues trending upward, Baker could be in line for a starting outside linebacker spot.
Minkah Fitzpatrick – High expectations surround being a first round pick, but the Dolphins coaching staff has been wise in not putting a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick. He has seen time with the starters and backups, showing the physical attributes that have many believing he’ll be a star in the NFL in the not-too-distant future.
Kalen Ballage – Competing with Senorise Perry for third RB job.