What to watch for in Fins preseason opener
Dolphins open up in Chicago
MIAMI – Dolphins football is finally here! First, a few things before we get into what I'll be watching tonight:
The final score doesn't matter. The number of injuries do.
It'll be great to see Ndamukong Suh run onto the field in a Fins uniform for the first time. It'll be even better to see him run off completely healthy.
Ryan Tannehill's day will be done very quickly and his play will mean very little. People will still overreact to the good and the bad.
With that said, there are some very important battles still brewing. It's also a chance to separate the "camp beasts," guys who only look good going against their teammates in a controlled environment, from the true "gamers." Here's what I'm watching as the Fins take on the Bears.
1. Guard play: far and away the biggest question facing this team right now. This unit has struggled in camp, but is it because they're facing Ndamukong Suh and company every day? Or is there real cause for concern? Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas are listed as the starters, but Jamil Douglas and Jeff Linkenbach will get every chance to push for those spots. If the Fins can't find two clear-cut starters soon, could they be on the phone with Drew Rosenhaus to work out a deal with pro bowler Evan Mathis before week one?
2. Young WRs: with DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills out with injuries, the door has opened for young guys to step up and make plays with the first unit. Early in camp, it was 6-5 Michael Preston raising eyebrows with some circus catches. Lately, though, Rishard Matthews has been, as Tannehill put it, "turning heads every day." With Parker's week one status still in question, guys like Preston, Matthews and Matt Hazel will be in the spotlight to see who can win those spots behind Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry and Stills. Special teams play will also likely play a key role for these guys.
3. The Rookies
Even with Parker out, there are plenty of Freshmen who will get their first NFL game action in Chi-Town. 6-5, 330-pound defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is an athletic freak, as we saw when the 2nd-round pick out of Oklahoma fielded a punt with ease in practice on Tuesday. He's also been Suh's protege throughout camp and will get his first shot to show what he's learned. It's also a chance for a couple first-year DBs, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett, to see how they fare in game-action after flashing some nice ability at times in camp.
Regardless of the final score, as long as the injury tally is zero, or very close to it, it'll be a win for the Fins. Happy football!
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