When: Tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Cowboys Stadium- Arlington, Texas
TV: Local only, NFL Network replay Friday night at 7
Weather: 89 degrees and clear
From the team's prospective, this is it. One last chance to to build a little momentum for the starters heading into the regular season. One last chance to get what has been a dismal running game going. One last chance for Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall to establish a little chemistry before it becomes crucial.
At the end of the day, though, the outcome of this game isn't going to be held against them. It's just another meaningless preseason game that is really only relevant, in the starter's case anyway, in the present. Next week, when the Dolphins are preparing for for their yearly trip up to Buffalo, is anybody really going to be thinking about what happened in Dallas last week? Unless there is a serious injury that actually impacts Week 1, I say they shouldn't.
However, for those roster fringe players, this game means everything. And even though those players that we expect to be in the thick of things are probably good enough to warrant another chance down the road somewhere, nothing is a given in this league, and the fact of the matter is their best opportunity awaits them tonight. Who will rise to the occasion and achieve their childhood dream of becoming an NFL player?
Will the first-team offense satisfy Sparano?
Sparano mentioned earlier in the week that he's going to play his starting offense until he's satisfied at what he sees. Considering, the Cowboys probably won't play many starters tonight, that better come sooner rather than later. I think the Dolphins make it a point to try and get the ground game going a little bit after last week's miserable performance. If they succeed in doing so, that should take loads of pressure off Henne and the passing attack. Still though, even if they don't get much help, Henne and company should be able feast on a second and third string defense. Even though I love watching the starters play, we have plenty of time for that in real games. Let's hope they march right down the field on their first drive and get out of there to avoid any injuries.
How long will first-team defense play?
Sparano was obviously not too happy with how the defense played last week, either. But will they also see extended time tonight? I expect maybe a couple series tonight out of that first-team defense. Stephen McGee is scheduled to start at quarterback for the Cowboys, so the pressure will be on for the Dolphins' starters to come away with a couple three and outs. If the Cowboys backups come out and throw all over a struggling secondary, fans will have plenty to worry about heading into the regular season, regardless of Nolan's aggressive scheme coming into play. We need to see Sean Smith come out with something to prove, Chris Clemons be in good position in coverage and come up and make tackles if he has to, a pass rush show some life against a struggling Cowboy's offensive line- yes, even with only a three and four man rush, and the outside linebackers (mainly Koa Misi) set the edge against the run.
Will coverage units finally get it together?
We saw a little bit of improvement last week, but if it wasn't for Dan Carpenter shaking the "kicker's aren't football players" label by coming up and making a touchdown saving tackle, it may have been time to start considering squib kicks. Some of the guys on the coverage units won't be on the team this time next week, but seeing players in the right position would give fans a little peace of mind heading into the regular season. Considering, this is those roster fringe players' last chance to make the team and that special-teams typically serves as the best avenue to find a home, you would think we would see some deseperate guys flying down field looking to light someone up.
3 Players to Watch
Roberto Wallace: If the season began today, it's hard to argue that Marlon Moore and Patrick Turner wouldn't be the last two receivers on the roster. Each week that passes, though, I'm more impressed with Roberto Wallace. He's been more productive than Turner through three games, and because Turner is a non-factor on special-teams, he's vulnerable if Wallace were to put together a huge game tonight. What could end up hurting Wallace's bid to make the 53, though, is that he's practice squad eligible and Turner is not. Nevertheless, multiple catches for big yardage and a touchdown, would make Wallace hard to cut.
Micah Johnson: So far, the undrafted free agent is second on the team for the preseason with 10 tackles, and has out-shined Austin Spitler and J.D. Folsom pretty handily. His below average speed projects him as mediocre special-teams player, but because Channing Crowder may miss the first few games of the season, I think the Dolphins face no choice but to keep the most productive linebacker, not the best special-teams contributor. Another four or five tackle game from Johnson tonight, and I would be shocked if Miami let him go.
Cory Procter: Nate Garner going on the IR did wonders for Procter's roster chances. Now that it looks like the Dolphins will probably only keep three tackles, keeping four guards is more realistic. Will Procter help his cause tonight by providing good push for Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard to work with, and help finally get some sort of running game going?