The Miami Dolphins opened the Brian Flores era this past Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium versus the Atlanta Falcons, securing a close 34-27 victory. Preseason games, nonetheless, revolve around consistency and taking a closer look at specific key players who are seeking a spot on the fifty-three man roster when the regular season kicks into gear September 8.
Here are five key objectives to look for when the Dolphins take the field Friday night at Raymond James Stadium to battle Bruce Arians’ Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1. More Josh Rosen?
Concluding day one of joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday morning, head coach Brian Flores told reporters he expects Ryan Fitzpatrick to open under center Friday night. Fitzpatrick worked the first two series against Atlanta, finishing 2-for-5 with 20 yards passing.
Rosen is expected to work for most of the time, allowing Miami’s coaches to further evaluate Rosen’s progression, but the ultimate question remains as to whether Rosen will see more time with the first, second or third team offense.
2. Offensive Line
Stop if you have heard this before: the Dolphins offensive line has a lot of improving to do. Well, that is still the case. Miami’s offensive line was shattered against Atlanta this past Thursday night and it was mainly Atlanta’s backups performing the majority of the work.
Yes, it was the opening preseason contest, meaning Laremy Tunsil was absent from the left tackle spot. Rosen faced heavy pressure on a consistent basis, escaping the pocket a few times. This is an issue that has haunted the Dolphins since the Joe Philbin days and if this problem does not get cleaned up in a hurry, expect a disastrous season.
3. Preston Williams
Williams, an undrafted receiver out of Colorado State, shined Thursday night versus the Falcons, totaling 97 receiving yards on four receptions, a team-high. Williams’ 97 yards came at the hands of Rosen, so the two have presented great communication thus far.
Williams is shooting for a starting role in this offense, so each exhibition contest is crucial for Williams. Look to see how Williams adjusts Friday night against Tampa Bay, and if he gets an opportunity to work with Fitzpatrick.
4. No Kenyan Drake
Dealing with a foot issue, Drake is expected to sit out the remaining three exhibition games. Drake was spotted Wednesday morning in a walking boot, and with the regular season opening in less than a month, that spells trouble.
Drake’s absence will result in extra playing time for Kalen Ballage, a 2018 fourth-round draft choice and Mark Walton, who is listed as the third string running back on the depth chart. Both have shown full capability handling the running game thus far.
5. Containing Mike Evans
Evans, a former Texas Tech standout, is slated to play approximately 3-4 offensive series Friday night, so it will be interesting to see how Miami’s secondary not named Xavien Howard can slow down Evans, who presents great speed when getting off the line of scrimmage.
This story was written by Brandon Liguori. Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonRLiguori
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