Miami Dolphins football is back! And although it's a meaningless preseason game where the starters will see less than five minutes of playing time, it's still football. And you will watch it because you love it. And you will pick some random anonymous bench player who has a great game against other random anonymous bench players and tell everyone he's going to be the next breakout star so you can impress your friends. And you'll be dead wrong. But who cares? It's football! Let's do this!
Here are four things to watch for tomorrow:
1. The New Guys!: Tomorrow night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is all about the Dolphins' new acquisitions. Miami signed the best linebacker on the market in Karlos Dansby, then traded for the best wide receiver available in Brandon Marshall. Both are uber-studs who will make an immediate impact. Dansby comes to Miami with 444 career tackles, 25 and a half career sacks and 10 interceptions. The Fins are going to need him to be the ball-crushing catalyst for a defense that's without a proven pass-rusher and has a very young secondary. Marshall, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back-to-back 100-catch seasons with Denver, and gives Chad Henne a 6-4, 229 pound target of complete awesomeness to throw to. The Robot to The Beast. Get used to it.
2. The Quarterbacks!: When we last saw the Dolphins, they were mounting a comeback against the Pittsburgh Steelers with their third-sting quarterback. Chad Henne had left the game after being poked in the eye, and Pat White was literally knocked out, leaving Tyler Thigpen to help salvage the ruins of a 7-9 season. Needless to say, the Fins lost. The team failed to make the playoffs. And we still don't know if Pat White is dead or alive* (*he's alive, probably). Thigpen and White are both vying for the third-string quarterback position behind Henne and Chad Pennington. And while you may think third-string is meaningless, please refer back to that Steelers game, because our quarterbacks apparently play football like the Three Stooges, so all hands must be on deck.
White is Miami's second round pick from a year ago. He's athletic, fast and had a very good career at West Virginia. But he's so far been a bust. Mainly because he looks and plays like you and I would if we suddenly found ourselves on the field with 300-pound behemoths that wanted to dislodge our pancreas. He has a big arm, but a big arm does you no good when you chuck the football into the 400 level just to avoid getting hit. Because Miami has a lot invested in him, look for White to get a lot of playing time. He'll be the guy that looks like a skinny 12-year old boy, so he won't be hard to miss.
Thigpen, meanwhile, brings some veteran savvy to the position. He too is athletic. He can make plays with his feet and throws a helluva deep ball. Unfortunately, Thigpen is a gunslinger, which is footballspeak for "he throws a shitload of interceptions that come at the worst possible moments in a game." It's both exciting and infuriating to watch.
3. The Young Guys!: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been known to work magic (with defenses, not with coins, although that would be kinda cool). And he has his work cut out for him with his young defense. The biggest question mark probably lies at the outside linebacker position. We know Cameron Wake can maul an opposing quarterback like a Liger on steroids. But can he cover the run, or drop back in pass coverage? There are even bigger questions about second-round pick rookie Koa Misi. Misi remains an enigma because his training camp performances have been so-so, leaving us to wonder why the front office was so enamored with him to the point of spending an early draft pick on him. Maybe he's a game-time guy. Misi is also basically being called to make us all forget that the front office let Jason Taylor go to the Jets. Good luck, kid, we're all counting on you!
4. Gametime!: Preseason games are a lot like ordering shitty appetizers in a busy restaurant when you're really hungry. The food arrives and at first, it tastes great because you're starving. But then you realize the nachos are stale and the topping soggy and you hate your life because the main course isn't getting here for a long while. But you do what you can to pass the time. Namely, DRINK! So, here's a fun game: take a shot every time Bob Griese or Nat Moore fuck up a player's name. You'll be trashed by the second commercial break.
Kickoff is at 7:00 and will be broadcast live on WFOR (CBS) as well as NFL Network