Miami Dolphins Vs Jacksonville Jaguars: 10 Things Dolfans Should Watch
The Miami Dolphins will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for their second of four Preseason games on Saturday.
The Dolphins are coming off a very sub-par performance against their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Bucs. Fortunately, the Fins were able to squeeze out a win, thanks in large part to the play of the second team units.
Tyler Thigpen, Nate Ness, and Paul Soliai shined last Saturday, vastly improving their chances of landing spots on the final 53-man roster. So, who will shine this week and what are some story-lines to watch for heading into Jacksonville? Here's ten things to watch for, Dolfans.
Nate Ness' Standout Play
Prior to last Saturday's game against the Buccaneers, Nate Ness was quietly having a decent camp, trying to earn a roster spot as a backup safety / defensive back.
While Dolfans' eyes were glued to new starter Chris Clemons, Ness stole the show. In relief of Clemons and the first team defense, Ness racked up four tackles and three pass deflections, two of which saved late touchdowns.
Ness' play was obviously monumental in his push for a roster spot, but he will need to do more than post one great performance against one of the worst offenses in the league. If he can make another notable impact against the Jaguars, however, it will be hard for Miami to cut Ness loose regardless of what he does for the remainder of the Preseason.
Keep a close eye on Ness because he may be a role player for the defense come September.
Joe Berger and The First Team Offensive Line
One year after signing a lucrative 4 year, $28 million contract, Dolphins center Jake Grove has officially lost his starting job to former sixth round pick and journeyman Joe Berger.
Berger actually served a stint with the Dolphins in 2005, but was released in 2006 due to injury. He was picked up by the Cowboys in '06, and his former coach Tony Sparano brought him back to Miami in 2009.
Anyway, the offensive line struggled in the team's first Preseason game, perhaps due in part to the sloppy conditions on the field. That should serve as no excuse, however.
This unit is returning just two starters from last season, and looks like it may rely on Berger, rookie John Jerry, and free agent acquisition Richie Incognito to pave the way for the offense. There is still a good chance that the line will be shuffled around, and Grove could potentially win his job back. Regardless, this unit absolutely must show progress on Saturday, or Miami will have to answer some questions about its protection.
David Martin's Role In The Offense
The Dolphins re-signed tight end David Martin to bolster a tight end corps that has quickly become the weak-link to a rejuvenated Miami offense.
Martin played a big role for the Dolphins in 2007 and 2008 before suffering a season-ending injury early last season. Without him, Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos struggled mightily to muster up much production, and Miami's decision to bring Martin back into the fold shows they may hold some concern over their tight end corps.
Martin did not receive much playing time against the Bucs because he signed just a few days prior to the game. With some time to work with the team and accumulate himself to the offense, Martin may work his way into the first-team offense.
The Search For a Return-Man Narrows Down
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The Dolphins search for a return-man narrowed down this week after the team released candidate Ryan Grice-Mullen.
With Grice-Mullen out of the picture, it appears as though Nolan Carroll, Tristan Davis, and Patrick Cobbs will continue competing for return duties. Davis botched a kickoff last week, something that will certainly hamper his chances.
All three will likely have opportunities to return kicks on Saturday, and one of them needs to standout and establish themselves as a true touchdown threat.
Because the Dolphins gave Tyler Thigpen three quarters to showcase his skill, it is presumed that Pat White will get a similar chance this week against the Jaguars.
Tony Sparano already announced that Chad Henne will get an entire half of playing time, so White may take the reigns for the second half. There's huge pressure on White to show that he has made strides from his rookie season. If his play on Saturday is reminiscent of his play from last year, White could be in serious trouble.
Tyler Thigpen looked very good last week, and there's no doubt the Dolphins would love to keep him on as a backup quarterback. White controls his own destiny, and although it is merely a Preseason game, he needs to show us something.
The Battle For The Fifth Wide Receiver Spot
Last week, Patrick Turner reminded the Dolphins why they drafted him in the third round of the 2009 Draft. He caught two passes for 44 yards, including a beautiful 34 yard pass and catch from Tyler Thigpen.
Turner has been harshly criticized for his slacking play and lack of skill. He has reportedly struggled with a back injury, but appeared to put that aside on Saturday. Another big performance could earn him a roster spot, but Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, and Julius Pruitt are still in the hunt for Turner's roster spot, and all three are reportedly still in real contention.
Nolan Carroll's Push For a Big Role
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Nolan Carroll showed Dolfan Nation why he was making so many headlines during training camp last week. The fifth round pick out of Maryland had two tackles and a pass deflection in his NFL debut against the Bucs, and looked solid filling in for the injured Will Allen at nickel back.
Carroll is continuing to battle with Jason Allen for the nickel back role in Allen's absence, and whoever emerges as the better player during the Preseason will maintain a more significant role in the defense once Allen returns from his knee injury.
Carroll is giving the Dolphins something to be excited about, and he has another chance to shine this Saturday.
The Marshall-Henne Connection
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Needless to say, both Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall looked pretty awful against Tampa Bay.
Henne struggled with the rain and a wet ball, and finished the night with just five completions for 19 yards.
Meanwhile, Marshall dropped two passes including a wide open ball over the middle that hit him in the numbers. There is very little to be concerned about considering this is a Preseason game and Marshall has established himself as an elite receiver time and time again.
Still, it would be comforting to see both of these two step up their play this weekend, and show that they have developed chemistry that will be vital to the Dolphins success this season.
Vontae Davis and Sean Smith Trying To Make Up For Last Week
Vontae Davis and Sean Smith encountered both struggle and success during their rookie campaigns in 2009. Even though they are entering only their second season in the league, both have been pinned with huge expectations.
Last week served as a stern reminder that both are still very young players with much to learn and plenty of room to improve. Davis allowed an inexcusable 30 yard pass to rookie Mike Williams and Smith gave up an 18 yard touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter.
It was just one game, and these two have incredibly bright futures in the league, but considering they struggled against one of the worst passing games the NFL has to offer, they must redeem themselves this week before criticism starts raining down.
Greg Camarillo Is in Danger of Losing His Roster Spot
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Just one year removed from a 50 reception season in which he registered zero drops, Greg Camarillo looks to be in serious jeopardy of losing his job.
Camarillo no longer possesses the speed necessary for a slot receiver, and Brian Hartline has all but locked up the flanker spot opposite Brandon Marshall, leaving Camarillo on the outside looking in.
He is an irreplaceable locker room presence, and is he one of the longer tenured Dolphins on the roster. He is sure handed, but his injury struggles might persuade the Dolphins to go with any combination of Patrick Turner, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and Julius Pruitt, who all bring undeniably brighter upside.
Camarillo may not play against the Jaguars on Saturday but if he does, he must show that he is still capable, valuable, and worth a roster spot.