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Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams: Dolphins Preseason Week 4 Preview

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIAugust 27, 2014

Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams: Dolphins Preseason Week 4 Preview

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The 2-1 Miami Dolphins will play their final game of the 2014 preseason Thursday night at home against the St. Louis Rams

    Miami is coming off two consecutive victories where the respective performances showed that this team has a long ways to go in terms of proving any consistency. 

    In its second preseason game against Tampa Bay, we saw a team that could pass the ball well but couldn't find a running game while on defense it couldn't seem to record a tackle.

    The following week against Dallas saw a Miami team that could run the ball like Eric Dickerson in his prime and a defense that could limit even the toughest offenses. However, its passing game was uneven and uninspiring in its play. 

    Now come the Rams in a game where you won't see the starters play too much, as it's more of a final audition for the players looking to crack the final 53-man roster or prove themselves to be good enough to crack another team's roster. 

    Here's a preview of this week's game between the Dolphins and Rams. 

Miami Dolphins Preseason Week 3 Recap

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The Dolphins bested the Dallas Cowboys 25-20 in a wild game that saw very little offense in the first half but an explosion in the fourth quarter. 

    The respective first-team offenses of the Dolphins and Cowboys accounted for nine points last Saturday night, with the Dolphins defense dominating the Cowboys' high-powered offense while the Dolphins offense stalled at the wrong time. 

    Despite the problems on offense, Miami was able to move the ball, with Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller combining for 98 yards on 17 carries.

    As a whole, the Dolphins ran for 200 yards, with Orleans Darkwa leading the way with 70 yards, including a 53-yard scamper in the fourth quarter that helped set up a Miami touchdown. 

    Darkwa is on the bubble of making the team, and he will compete with Daniel Thomas for snaps against St. Louis Thursday.

    Other players who will likely factor in big against the Rams will be quarterback Seth Lobato (likely to see his first action since Week 1 of the preseason against Atlanta), tight end Gator Hoskins and defensive linemen Terrence Fede and Anthony Johnson. 

News and Notes

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Dan Marino Joins Dolphins as Special Advisor

    Let's start with the good news:

    It’s official! I am excited about the future of this great organization! @MiamiDolphins #StrongerTogether

    — Dan Marino (@DanMarino) August 24, 2014

    As Dan the Man himself stated on Twitter, Marino is back with the Dolphins. The story was originally reported last Saturday night by WTVJ NBC6 then confirmed the following day by both Marino himself in the tweet above as well as by a press release by the Dolphins

    According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Marino will be a special advisor to owner Stephen Ross. 

    This is a move that means more long term to the Dolphins than today. But does Marino want to slide into the John Elway role at the end of the season if the Dolphins falter? Is he willing to put in the work needed to do it? He wasn't in 2004, so what has changed in the last 10 years?

     

    Dolphins Seem Hopeful Mike Pouncey Will Return Soon

    Earlier this week, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel reported that Mike Pouncey went in for an evaluation of his surgically repaired hip with the hopes of being medically cleared to return this week. 

    Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reported that he wasn't cleared. However, the Dolphins "are encouraged by his progress from hip surgery." 

    Jackson also reports that no decision has been made yet on whether to put Pouncey on the PUP list, which tells me that the Dolphins are hopeful that their Pro Bowl center will return soon. 

    This preseason, we've seen Miami's offensive line progress by leaps and bounds into a somewhat decent unit. Adding Pouncey to the mix pushes them over the top toward the territory of being good. 

    Some Within Dolphins Organization are Concerned About Ryan Tannehill

    Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported earlier this week that some within the Dolphins organization are concerned with Ryan Tannehill's advancement, with Cole stating

    In talking to people within the organization, they view him very uncomfortably, because they know he's got the athletic ability, and they believe it will eventually come out, they're just getting a little impatient with when that's going to happen. 

    This comes after what was perhaps Tannehill's worst game of the preseason against the Cowboys, a game where I gave him a D due to his poor performance. 

    Of course, just because I said his performance was bad for one game doesn't mean I'm ready to give up on the idea of Tannehill as starting quarterback. As I've stated many times, he is the best quarterback on the roster, and he gives the Dolphins the best chance of making the playoffs. 

    In the same way, just because some within the Dolphins organization are concerned doesn't mean it's time to write him off either. It is possible to be concerned with Tannehill's play and not write him off forever. 

    This is a make-or-break season for Tannehill, as well as head coach Joe Philbin. The two will forever be intertwined in Miami (unless Tannehill has an excellent season while the rest of the Dolphins falter, which I actually see being a great possibility).

    Odds are whoever is concerned with Tannehill at this point is someone whose job is on the line this season, but that doesn't mean it's wrong to be concerned. 

X-Factor and Matchups to Watch

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Dolphins Offensive Line vs. Rams Defensive Line

    Even though the first teams of the Dolphins and Rams will have extremely limited playing time (with extremely limited playbooks), this will be a matchup to watch. 

    St. Louis possesses one of the top defensive lines in the NFL, as well as one of the more aggressive units in the league.

    While there has been progress made this preseason, Miami's offensive line is still a large work in progress, especially at the guard spots where they are still adding some new ingredients in order to figure out a formula that works just right. 

    One of those new ingredients is former Ram Shelley Smith, who performed well against the Cowboys, as the offense moved the ball better when he was in the game. 

    Ja'Wuan James will be examined closely as well, as you will see in the next paragraph. 

     

    Ja'Wuan James vs. Robert Quinn

    James has had a decent preseason competing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well as two of the weaker pass-rushing teams in the NFL. 

    This time, for perhaps as little as a play or a series, he has the assignment of containing Robert Quinn, the NFC's sack leader in 2013, who was also the Pro Football Writers of America's Defensive Player of The Year. 

    James' pass protection has been great this preseason, as he has yet to allow a sack, but he hasn't faced a challenge as daunting as Quinn, which should prepare him well for the coming season. 

     

    X-Factors: Orleans Darkwa, Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas

    Why three X-Factors? Because these are the three players competing for a job.

    Odds are two of them will make it through (Damien Williams is just about guaranteed after a fine training camp and preseason), but there's still a battle between Daniel Thomas and Orleans Darkwa for that final spot. 

    Thomas has yet to play in the preseason, but he has practiced all week and, according to James Walker of ESPN.com, will be ready to play Thursday. 

    Darkwa is coming off a great performance against the Cowboys, but other than that game, he hasn't impressed too much in training camp or in the preseason. 

    This will be a fun battle to watch Thursday.

Prediction

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    We all know that the results really don't matter in the preseason. It matters even less during the fourth and final preseason game. 

    While you will see Miami's starters, it will be for less than a quarter, perhaps as few as two series. The same thing goes for the defense. 

    For the rest of the game, you will see the final test for players looking to keep or take their jobs in the regular season. You won't even see Matt Moore for long Thursday, as instead at quarterback you will get a healthy helping of Seth Lobato. 

    It's because of Lobato's playing time that the Dolphins will likely lose this game. St. Louis will likely play their new starting quarterback, Shaun Hill, a lot more than it would play a starting quarterback due to the injury to Sam Bradford. Against Miami's second- and third-team defense, this should be a mismatch. 

    Seth Lobato showed against the Falcons that him competing against any team is a mismatch, especially one as deep defensively as St. Louis. 

    Despite a Dolphins loss, you should come away from the game feeling good about the team. The first-team offense should perform well despite the daunting challenge posed by the Rams' first-team defense, and a performance similar to their game against Atlanta isn't out of the realm of possibility. 

    Rams 16, Dolphins 10

     

    Statistics courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted. 

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