The starting squad for your Miami Dolphins has not been able to catch a break with the all the rain during the first two pre-season games. Against the Buccaneers two weeks ago, a rainstorm created a quagmire in Sun Life Stadium. Last week, the foul weather followed them up to Jacksonville where a lightning storm delayed the game for almost two hours. But the first-teamers should catch a break from the rain tonight when they host the Atlanta Falcons for their third pre-season game at Sun Life. What's that Weather.com? Ah c'mon! Stop being such a dick, rain!
Generally, the third pre-season is seen as the final dress rehearsal for the starters before the regular season kicks off. So, rain or no rain (most likely RAIN), we're expected to see the starters play until at least the middle of the third quarter. Here's what to watch for:
1. The Starting Center: The offense looked pretty badass last week. Chad Henne was sharp, tight end Anthony Fasano was a touchdown scoring machine, and the addition of Brandon Marshall proved to be a genius move. But we still don't know who the starting center will be. Three pre-season games in, and Jake Grove and Joe Berger are still trying to earn that job. They both need to step it up tonight if they want the starting center job. Someone should tell these guys the starting center job is made out of bacon.
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2. The Receivers: With Greg Camarillo off to Minnesota, opportunities have opened for Marlon Moore, Patrick Turner, and Roberto Wallace. Two of these guys will make the final 53-man roster. The third will be thrown into a shark tank with slabs of raw sirloin cutlets tied around his neck. The Dolphins coaching staff is tough, but fair.
3. The Secondary: It's been a fantastic pre-season so far for second-year cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. And by "fantastic" we mean "a bucket full of fail." They've allowed some big plays to mediocre quarterbacks the last two weeks. Also, Davis suffered a chest injury against the Jaguars. Earlier this week, the Dolphins traded for veteran corner Benny Sapp while Nolan Carroll, Jason Allen, and Nate Ness are battling it out for roster spots. There's little doubt the starting cornerback jobs are Davis and Smith's to lose. But they need to step up their game starting tonight. It would also help if the defensive line stopped standing around during the game and actually put some pressure on the quarterback.
4. The Special Teams: Two games, two block punts allowed. When punts haven't been blocked, the coverage team has been porous, allowing Jacksonville to return kickoffs to the 40-yard line twice last week. Plus, no one player has emerged to take the kick-returner job. It's been reported that Tony Sparano spent extra time with the special teams during practice this week. He probably challenged each member of the special teams to a bear-knuckle boxing match to straighten them out. Because he strikes us as the kind of guy that would do that rather than, say, throw a hissy fit.
Game time is 7 p.m. and will broadcast live on WFOR Channel 4.