On the last episode of the pod, Sam mentioned this being the hottest Dolphins blog on the internet. He quickly provided a disclaimer that the content didn’t reflect my personal appearance. To disprove his utter non-sense, I had some professional glamour shots done – enjoy.
Now that games are on the horizon this blog will take on an altered format. My plan is still to produce two pieces per week but with very specific structure. Game PREVIEWS will include film study of the opponent, how we match-up with them and what to expect from the game. The game REVIEW will cover the aftermath using film-study, some advanced statistics and an overall feeling about the team’s standing.
The title of this piece is fitting for Dolphins fans. This is the last opportunity to buy into homer-based theories on why this year will be different from the nearly two decades that precluded it. Now the team is putting hard physical evidence on tape of why we should or shouldn’t buy in.
Now it’s time for my disclaimer. Whether the team plays great or gets annihilated, you shouldn’t change your preconceived notions about this team. Pre-season is coaches putting players in situations where they can see how well their talent shines through. These glorified scrimmages are hardly a glimpse of what is to be expected when the games count.
Pre-season Week 1: Miami Dolphins @ New York Giants – 7:00 (EST) MetLife Stadium
The depth charts have been released and there are a few somewhat puzzling decisions. Adam Gase said himself, this one doesn’t matter. The one the team releases prior to the Seattle game will be the important depth chart. This is how you wind up with Dallas Thomas (who somehow got onto the field for 1,034 snaps last season) as a starting guard. The team put an emphasis on clean slates and Thomas’ high snap count a year ago is the only reason he gets that nod.
These pre-season games are unique in the fact that they are, well, unique. Each game takes on a different alignment with the first game barring some similarities with baseball’s opening day. Coaches will make their best effort to get everyone some playing time. Most established vets won’t play a snap, the quarterback might get one series, and the fourth quarter will have 21 future grocery baggers and maybe one guy that sticks on the field at a given time.
As you look at the match-ups, you have to consider the things that Miami wants to accomplish vs. what the Giants want to achieve.
For the Dolphins there are a few obvious keys to watch for:
– Sort out the guard situation
– See if these rookie WR’s practice success can translate to game day
– Find out just how dire this cornerback situation is
– Play around with different sub packages on the front seven and see who wants playing time
The Giants have a few of their own clear ideas in mind:
– Who will start on the right side of the offensive line?
– A good tailback will get cut from this team, but which one?
– How does this young secondary play early on?
Speaking of the Giants tailback situation, I would not have a problem with any of their top five finding their way to the Miami roster. They aren’t going to be able to keep Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins. The smart money is on Darkwa being cut, but in the event that he beats out Williams, I’ll take either/or over our third back as it stands.
Specific things to keep an eye on.
1.) Sterling Shepard vs. Tony Lippett/Bobby McCain/Michael Thomas
Bobby McCain is one of my favorite young players on this team. I have him entrenched in pen as the team’s nickel corner (who will play 75-80% of the defense’s snaps – 30% more than the team’s third linebacker.) He is fending off Michael Thomas who has bounced around from corner and safety in his career while always maintaining his prowess on special teams.
Sterling Sheppard has been the talk of Giants camp and he offers a lot of the traits that are highly regarded for slot receivers throughout the league. This is his first game opportunity and the Giants will want to take a good look at him. I expect McCain and Thomas both to get extended snaps against him. These match-ups will be man on man, let’s see what you can do type of coverages so it could be telling of the skill level between these two guys.
Shepard will play all three X, Y and Z positions in this Giants offense. This just means Tony Lippett will get a much needed test out there as well.
2.) Can we finally get decent guard play? –
Dallas Thomas is set to roll with the 1’s when the Dolphins kickoff Friday, but I have to imagine he’ll share series with rookie Phenom, Laremy Tunsil. This is Tunsil’s job, and while I like making the rookie earn his job, I expect Tunsil to play with the same chip on his shoulder we’re going to see throughout his career. Remember, this is the first time he gets to hit someone in a different color jersey since the draft debacle.
I love Billy Turner. He’s a physical freak with great feet and a clever and calculated mean streak. He’s a quintessential Adam Gase lineman and he’s going to thrive in this scheme. His competition, at least early on, is Jermon Bushrod who is also playing a new position. Expect Turner to get plenty of snaps while Bushrod gets the veteran treatment.
The Giants have Damon “Snacks” Harrison on the inside and I’d be shocked if he played. Jonathan Hankins is the other starter and should see a series or two because he’s still young and then it’s Jay Bromley on PUP and a bunch of unproven youngsters. Expect the Miami guards to look good in this game – if they don’t, pre-order your panic button at www.welcometoperfectville.com.
3.) Is Mighty Mouse for real? –
Jarvis Landry might get a series, I doubt Devante Parker will play, this means a ton of time for Leonte Carroo and everybody’s camp favorite, Jakeem Grant. The depth of this receiving corps relies heavily on players that haven’t played an NFL down and this will be their best chance to shine.
The Giants figure to give Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall very slim work-loads which means first round rookie, Eli Apple and rookie safety Darian Thompson will get plenty of snaps. The rest of the Giants cornerback depth is unproven miscasts from other clubs and undeveloped home-grown products.
As I said earlier, these match-ups tend to be very man to man oriented and allow guys to win with skill. It would be ideal to see some success in the passing game in the second and third quarter of this game.
4.) The defensive line rotation –
Cam Wake is listed as the starter, but that’s really just a formality. Jason Jones defends the run off the strong side edge well but will probably only get a series. Wake should be held out as should Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams.
Andre Branch, Chris McCain and Terrance Fede are fighting for playing time. Expect this trio to see plenty of first half action before turning it over to the rookies and Cleyon Laing. I’m really pulling for the former CFL star, but he’s got a massive hill to overcome on the depth chart.
I’ll be curious to see what gaps and techniques these guys play. The Giants depth rests on the left side of the line, so it could be more fortuitous for those guys that rush off the left side of the defense. I’m also itching to see Jordan Phillips play good ball so he can displace Earl Mitchell. Mitchell probably won’t play, but Phillips can get some valuable snaps against the 1’s.
5.) Sub-package linebackers –
Kiko Alonso is the guy they’re all in on but, with his injury history, I hope they don’t plan on playing him. I want to see what Neville Hewitt can do in base packages and if he can win some dime and nickel sub-package playing time alongside Alonso. He and Jelani Jenkins are in competition for playing time and I favor the former.
Much like the defensive line, it’s imperative that this group tackles well. There are some shifty backs behind Eli Manning (or Ryan Nassib, in this case) and they will make defenders miss.
Those are the five primary focuses that will correlate to direct impact on this football team’s success in 2016. Again, know that this is the time for mistakes and coaching lessons. Don’t expect perfection or for the team to look good in all five facets.
Like a legendary rock band coming back for an encore, here are some bonus things to watch for:
6.) Backup quarterback battle –
I think fans tend to be partial to Brandon Doughty because of his fandom of this team and the fact that he’s a fresh face. As bad as Matt Moore has looked the last couple of off-seasons, don’t expect this to be an easy win for Doughty.
I’d love to see the rookie displace the veteran clip-board holder so we can cut Moore’s hefty salary for a position that has seen only a handful of snaps the last four years. With that said, Doughty seems to wing it in practice and hasn’t really grasped the concept of reads.
7.) Just make the damn field goals –
I don’t talk about kickers and my patience for missed kicks is even shorter. I want Marshall Koehn to win the battle over Andrew Franks – to be perfectly, frank.
That’s 1700 plus words on a week one pre-season game. If you stuck with me the whole way, kudos, you’re an equally sadistic Dolphins fan that needs more hobbies. Then again, we’ve stood by this franchise this long, we’re probably not going anywhere.
Friday is the first look at the new Adam Gase led Dolphins. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’m very excited about that. Mostly, I’m excited football is back.
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