The final countdown
The final game of the preseason is finally here. The dress rehearsals and nervous jitters are long gone. Week 1 against Tampa Bay is just around the corner. The Dolphins are currently sitting at 1-2 and if they pick up another loss tonight against the Vikings fans will certainly have reason to worry.
Pundits may disregard preseason win-loss records, but there is no doubt that only winning one game out of four may cause concern for the Miami fan base. If Miami can bring everything together and pull out a win tonight that would ease the concerns a bit.
However, wins and losses aren’t the main themes of the night. Tonight is all about who can provide one last reason as to why they deserve to be a Miami Dolphin. The roster cuts are coming soon and only 53 men will be standing tall in aqua and orange on upcoming Sundays. So, the real question is who is going to have a field day tonight in order to make their dreams a reality?
The position groups that are of most interest would be the receiving corps and the linebackers. The reason that the receiving corps is interesting is because of the abundance of talent that Miami possesses in this department.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins do not have room for everybody. Expect the young and hungry receiving corps to show out tonight. Wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow has had an excellent preseason thus far. Be on the lookout for him to add one final exclamation point to top it off. Although a 99-yard touchdown reception against Atlanta in the preseason opener will be hard to top.
Quarterbacks Brandon Doughty and David Fales are also battling for a roster spot. Expect them to air it out tonight in order to make their case for one of the precious spots. This should enable the receivers to make bigger plays, as nothing will be left on the table.
The linebacker unit is interesting due to the fact that there are questions in the middle. The Dolphins recently signed veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga. However, he has not seen any time in the preseason. The coaches and fans have been observing Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt and Chase Allen instead.
Game of the Week: Seahawks vs Raiders, Week 5 preseason game preview
Around the NFL: Packers sign former 49ers’ LB, Ahmad Brooks, to five-year deal
What’s Trending: Steelers sign recently released CB, Joe Haden
Fantasy Focus: Taking a look at DFS cash-game strategy
The linebackers have a tough assignment in trying to contain Minnesota’s Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. However, it is worth noting that the Vikings’ offensive line is subpar.
This should allow for Miami’s defensive line to take control and can potentially lead to some big stops by the Dolphins’ linebackers. This is relevant due to the fact that Miami had a porous rush defense last season (ranked 30th in the league). Coaches and fans will be sure to note if things do not change in that department soon.
One last sneak peek
This is the last time that the starters on both sides will be seen before the games actually matter. Expect about two series’ for the starters, so don’t blink.
Minnesota’s quarterback, Sam Bradford, is known for his game-manager style of play. He regularly selects safe, high-percentage throws. Miami has the ability to track down bubble screens, slip screens, slants and hitches. So, it is possible that Bradford may work on some offensive wrinkles such as taking a few shots downfield.
Miami’s defensive backs had trouble with Philadelphia’s passing attack last week, so it should be interesting to see how longer throws are handled this time around.
On the flip side, Miami’s passing attack will be of some interest as well. This is due to the fact that the Dolphins will be facing star cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Will Rhodes be covering wide receiver DeVante Parker?
This would be an intriguing matchup due to the fact that Rhodes is physical and gives opposing receivers trouble. Not only that, Parker is quarterback Jay Cutler’s go-to guy. Will Cutler attack Rhodes anyway or will he adjust and get the ball out to Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills at an increased rate? Cutler is known for his affinity for jump-balls, so expect him to test Rhodes at least once.
Lastly, all eyes will be on fan-favorite running back Jay Ajayi. Minnesota finished with the 20th ranked rushing defense last season—so that’s not a concern. What is interesting though is the Vikings finished 9th in the league in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed.
It will be interesting to see if Ajayi can break a tackle or two and power into the endzone. Ajayi is one of the hardest backs to take down in the game— though not due to his elusiveness. Instead, Ajayi is a punisher. He averaged over three yards after contact (YAC) last season—a high mark in the league.
This game will be all about heart and playmaking ability for those on the bubble and will be full of interesting match-ups for those who are not.