The Miami Dolphins will take the field tonight at 7 p.m. against the Baltimore Ravens. This will be a battle of the two most injury plagued teams this preseason.
Smokin’ Jay Cutler will start at quarterback for the first time. While he will only play a series or two, this is an important step for Cutler and the Dolphins offense.
Despite only being a part of the roster for two weeks, Cutler is familiar with head coach Adam Gase’s system. This will help the offense move on from the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had reconstructive ACL surgery today and will be sidelined for the season.
Cutler had his best season in 2015 when he played for the Chicago Bears and Gase was the offensive coordinator. During that season the Bear’s were fifth in the league in rushing attempts. This should carry over to this season; Gase has stated he hopes to get running back Jay Ajayi 350 carries. Unfortunately, while Ajayi has cleared concussion protocol it is unlikely he will play today.
Injuries Pile On
The offense will also be without starting guard Ted Larsen (biceps), starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) and backup running back Kenyan Drake (concussion). Wide receivers Kenny Stills (hamstring) and Leonte Carroo (hamstring), tight end Julius Thomas(back), right tackle Ja’Wuan James (shoulder) and guard-center Kraig Urbik (back) are all questionable.
Despite these injuries, expect the offense to use running back Damien Williams to establish the run early against a stiff Ravens defense. Then they will work in some play-action to get Cutler comfortable. Once Cutler gets his feet wet, expect to see the same gunslinger mentality that has made him one of the most enigmatic quarterbacks of the past decade. Wide receiver Devantae Parker should have a career year with Cutler, whose more adept at taking shots down the field.
The ‘Fins coaching staff will be keeping their eyes on rookie fifth round pick Isaac Asiata and Anthony Steen as they battle for the starting left guard position, left vacant due to Ted Larsen’s torn biceps muscle. Undrafted rookie tackle Eric Smith, who received praise from Gase and the coaching staff, will look to build off a strong outing last week. He played more snaps than any other Dolphin and give up only one quarterback pressure.
On the outside, rookie receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow looks to make another good impression this week after he had two catches for 116 yards, including a game winning 99 yard touchdown, in week one.
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On the defensive side of the ball the Dolphins should look to take advantage of an injury-riddled Ravens offense that will be without franchise quarterback Joe Flacco. Ryan Mallett will take over the reins of the first team offense in his absence.
The Dolphins defense will be without starting linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Tony Lippett, who are both out for the season. Nate Allen(groin), the projected starter at safety while T.J. McDonald serves an eight game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and linebacker Neville Hewitt(shoulder) are questionable.
Linebacker Mike Hull will get a shot at winning the starting middle linebacker position following Raekwon McMillan’s injury. He will need to impress coaches in order to do so. If Hull struggles, Hewitt could press him for the position. The coaching staff have also considered moving outside linebackers Kiko Alonso or Lawrence Timmons inside. They also brought in former Bengal Rey Maualuga for a workout this past week.
First round pick Charles Harris will continue to push veteran Andre Branch for the starting defensive end position opposite Cameron Wake. Fellow rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux will be Mic’d up and look to continue his strong preseason thus far.
While the Dolphins should win this game, the final score is not truly important. If both teams get through this game without any more significant injuries, both teams will take that as a victory.