The Hall of Fame Game marks the first of five preseason contests for the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. It's all about shaking off the rust after a long offseason and getting an in-game look at players battling for starting and roster spots.
Even though the result of the game has little long-term significance, that doesn't mean coaching staffs can't learn a lot from exhibitions. They are watching to see which players rise to the occasion with the regular season on the horizon.
With that in mind, let's examine three players who will probably find themselves in the spotlight on Sunday night. Exactly how much they will play is unclear, but they should all be looking to make an early statement to start the preseason.
Dion Jordan (Miami Dolphins)
The Dolphins selected Jordan with the third overall pick because they hope he will be the missing piece who takes the team's pass rush to an elite level. He showed off plenty of potential at Oregon, and the preseason opener begins the process of translating that to the next level.
Jordan should benefit from playing opposite Cameron Wake, who's sure to attract the offensive line's attention after racking up 15 sacks last season. It will likely allow the rookie to face a lot of solo blockers, giving him a golden opportunity to make an instant impact.
The Hall of Fame game serves as his first taste of the speed at the NFL level. Getting used to that is vital during the preseason so he can hit the ground running once the games start to count. A strong debut would go a long way to calm any worries about his ability.
Mike Wallace (Miami Dolphins)
Miami needed a legitimate No. 1 receiver to aid in the development of Ryan Tannehill. It found one in Mike Wallace, who had four straight productive seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the process has only just begun.
Getting Tannehill and Wallace on the same page is a work in progress. The speedy wideout is quicker than anybody the second-year quarterback worked with on a regular basis last season, so it's going to take time for them to get on the same page.
Another issue slowing that chemistry-building process has been Wallace's lingering groin issue. Luckily for the Dolphins, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports it's not serious and the receiver is hoping to play on Sunday night.
Joseph Randle (Dallas Cowboys)
When the Cowboys drafted Randle in the fifth round, it seemed like great value. A very productive dual-threat running back at Oklahoma State, he had the look of a player capable of making his presence felt early in his rookie campaign.
Now, he'll need a strong preseason to make that reality after struggling to separate himself from a deep backfield. Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner are making strong pushes to serve as the chief backup to DeMarco Murray.
Randle has the talent to beat out both of those players. But if he doesn't show it starting with the Hall of Fame Game, he won't start at No. 2 on the depth chart. So the pressure is already on even though it's just the start of a long exhibition schedule.
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