MIAMI – With the Dolphins set to kick off the 2018 preseason on Thursday night, here are five things to watch for in the game vs. Tampa Bay.
1. RYAN'S RETURN
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will play in a game at Hard Rock Stadium for the first time since 2016. While Tannehill isn’t expected to play more than series, it will be the first opportunity for him to get hit in his surgically-repaired knee some game action. After last Saturday’s scrimmage, Tannehill said that getting hit is something that he’s looking forward to.
2. NEW TARGET
Thursday will mark the first game at Hard Rock Stadium for tight end Mike Gesicki. The second round pick out of Penn State has proven himself to be a force, especially in the red zone. With the loss of Jarvis Landry and his 112 catches, the Dolphins are in need of a playmaker. So far in camp, Gesicki has proven to be that guy. Will it translate to a game?
3. FIRST-ROUND PICK
Another Rookie to watch will be first round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. How quickly will the Fitzpatrick become a leader on the Dolphins defense? Fitzpatrick was thought of as one of the safest picks in the draft because of the maturity he showed at Alabama. The defense is trying to fill a leadership void left by the departure of Ndamukong Suh.
4. OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
The Dolphins season will ride in large part on their ability to protect Tannehill and establish the run. The offensive line needs to gel and fast. Last season, the line was a problem for the Fins in both the running and passing games. If Kenyan Drake is going to be able to establish himself as a true number one running back, he’s going to need help.
5. PLAY CLEAN
The Dolphins scrimmage was marred by pre-snap penalties. Can the Fins clean it up against a tough defense from Tampa Bay? Miami's ability to beat other teams based on talent alone is not there. This is a team that will need to show discipline. This is another problem that the Dolphins carry over from last season.