The last preseason game is usually reserved for finalizing the last few roster spots, but there are other purposes the contest can provide.
Certain first-rounders should use the time wisely to find a groove with their unit. Other fringe starters should give their coaches little choice except to include them in the starting 22.
And, of course, some players just need the opportunity to cement a job offer.
The obvious caveat of not playing a potential contributor too much for risk of injury is self-evident. That still shouldn't stop the squads from giving the following players a chance to make a statement.
Ryan Tannehill Needs to Find a Flow
Joe Philbin wasted little time gambling a head coaching gig on his quarterback of choice. It's a smart move if you are particularly smitten with your selection, and disastrous if you aren't. Philbin must keep Tannehill in this matchup as long as possible.
His preseason effort hasn't been horrendous, but there has been a steady decline since his debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-of-27, 167 yards, one touchdown). If the Miami Dolphins hope to show the fans (and the team) that they are building upon a proper foundation, Tannehill's immediate success will be the key. No time like the present to build his confidence and get him properly focused on the task at hand.
Bruce Carter Should be Given the Chance to Earn a Starting Spot
Carter has stuck to the team mantra this offseason. He is resolute that he's content with not starting because both he and Dan Connor will get plenty of playing time during the regular season.
That's all fine and dandy, but professional athletes are an incredibly competitive breed. They have to be to succeed in such a cutthroat environment. The Dallas Cowboys spent a second-round pick on him last season—let the kid show what he can do.
Legedu Naanee Must Play for the Same Reasons as His Quarterback
The Dolphins wide receivers have yet to help the offense this preseason. Drops have plagued a team that desperately needs to find some competency on the outside. For this reason, Naanee cannot leave the field too early tonight.
Tannehill needs to find some chemistry with a playmaker. Supposedly, Naanee was brought in to help out in this department, but he has failed to do so after only catching one of his five targets against the Atlanta Falcons. If Naanee can't do it, Miami may need to turn to somebody else in the season opener.
Jamize Olawale and Lance Dunbar Deserve a Shot at Sticking on the Final Roster
The Cowboys should have no problem adhering to this suggestion. Felix Jones has endured his share of injuries over the years, and Dallas certainly can't risk losing DeMarco Murray to injury. Thus, let these boys show why the franchise needs them on their final roster.
Olawale has been a pleasant surprise this preseason. He has demonstrated the ability to get the tough yards as well as make catches out of the backfield, with four receptions so far. At a minimum, he'd be a big body that can provide a breather while banging away at opposing defensive lines.
Conversely, Dunbar is more of a speedster who could probably find a role on special teams as well. Additionally, Jones is the resident scatback, but he cannot be relied upon to make it a full season since he's only done it once in four years. Having Dunbar around would give the Cowboys a little insurance.
Whether fighting to establish themselves as competent contributors or simply making a case for a roster spot, these guys need to be given a chance to get it done tonight.