The preseason is quickly coming to a close, and with the third preseason game coming very soon, there's going to be a lot of starters action to be seen as the third game is infamously known as the "dress rehearsal" game for the regular season.
So while it is still a good time to be evaluating backups and seeing what young players are made of, there will be an increased focus on the starting units as they prepare themselves for the long road ahead of a brand new season. Here are the top 5 things to watch for against the Falcons.
1. Anthony Steen at center
Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't even be something to bat an eyelash at. Steen worked his way up the depth chart and turned into the backup center to Mike Pouncey. Good for him. But unfortunately, the circumstances are anything but normal.
Pouncey suffered a hip injury against the Dallas Cowboys, and it could be more serious than the Dolphins initially thought. So now, Miami is calling on Anthony Steen to step up until Pouncey recovers, whenever that is. It will be important to watch how he does snapping the ball, making the calls at the line of scrimmage and blocking up front.
2. Run blocking
This is the biggest problem in the Dolphins offense at this point. The pass protection has shown major improvement with the insertion of Laremy Tunsil into the starting lineup, but there is still a major concern with the run blocking.
The only running backs who have been productive in the preseason so far are Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas, and the majority of the latter's stats came near the end of the game when the Dolphins are just trying to get it all over with. As for the starting three, Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster and Damien Williams, they have been largely ineffective and it's because there just haven't been any holes to run through.
The Falcons defense has question marks all over it, if there was ever an opportunity to test the running game, it's this one. They need to focus on running the ball.
3. Defense, all three phases
Every aspect of the defense needs to get better, and I do mean every aspect. Tackling, pass rush, coverage in the passing game, all of it was bad against the Dallas Cowboys. Granted, the Cowboys offensive line is the best in the NFL, so there can be some benefit of the doubt, but not much.
Kiko Alonso at middle linebacker can handle being in coverage, but he struggled to hit the proper gaps and couldn't make tackles when necessary. Tony Lippett found himself getting beat in the passing game and in the wrong position in run defense, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh were unable to get pressure on Tony Romo or Dak Prescott.
Things need to start looking up against the Falcons, or it could very well be a long season.
4. Cameron Wake, in or out
Adam Gase has said that it will be a game time decision whether or not Cameron Wake will play in the third preseason game. Wake has been protected by the coaching and medical staff all offseason as the star pass rusher recovers from a torn achilles tendon, and as good as he's looked in practice, he needs some game action.
5. Laremy Tunsil's continued development
As time has gone on, it's become more and more clear that Tunsil is the superior pass protector, but he needs to work on the run blocking part of playing left guard. He'll have a chance to work on that with a Falcons defense that has question marks on it.
Granted, this falls under the umbrella of the second thing to watch, but Tunsil in particular warrants continued observation.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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