Dolphins Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2021

Dolphins Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins will get their first official game situation reps in their preseason opener on Saturday against the Chicago Bears

    While some may shrug at the beginning of the preseason due to limited snaps for the starting 11 on both sides of the ball, the action is crucial for the organization in setting up its depth chart and figuring out who will make the back end of the roster. 

    For fans, it will provide an opportunity to see some of the work that's going on at training camp put into action. 

    So, while these games might not mean much to experienced veterans on the roster such as Xavien Howard, Emmanuel Ogbah or Jerome Baker, they are incredibly important for the younger players. 

    Here are three specifically who will be worth keeping an eye on Saturday. 

WR Jaylen Waddle

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    The Dolphins provided one of the first surprises in the draft this spring when they took Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick.

    The upside for the Alabama receiver is apparent. His game-changing speed is seen as comparable to Tyreek Hill, and he has ready-made chemistry with fellow former Crimson Tide product Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. 

    The 22-year-old doesn't come without some risk, though. He suffered a severe ankle injury in his final campaign at Alabama and missed seven games before coming back to make a cameo against Ohio State in the National Championship Game. 

    There's been some debate over whether the receiver is still walking with a limp. Regardless of the perceived hitch in his gait, he has been a full participant in practice at camp. 

    Fans will get a firsthand look at what he can do against a Bears secondary that has a lot of questions heading into the first preseason game. 

WR Lynn Bowden Jr.

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Waddle is obviously the receiver Dolphins fans are going to be most excited to see Saturday. After Miami used the sixth pick to take the speedy Alabama receiver, they will want to see what he can do. 

    But his roster spot is secure. Coming off a major ankle injury at Alabama, it wouldn't be surprising to see his reps limited in the first preseason contest. 

    The Dolphins' pecking order at the top of the receiver depth chart is where things will get interesting. Will Fuller V, DeVante Parker and Waddle figure to be the top three receivers. Albert Wilson is listed as the team's starting slot receiver in the first depth chart from camp ahead of Waddle. 

    That doesn't mean much, though. It could simply be head coach Brian Flores insisting the rookie earn his role. 

    The picture gets muddied after that, which spells uncertainty for 2020 third-rounder Lynn Bowden Jr. The Dolphins traded for the Kentucky product after the draft last year, and he showed some potential with 28 catches for 211 yards in 10 games last season. 

    He knows he's going to have to step it up in camp to secure a roster spot, though. 

    "I probably have to step up a little bit and be that playmaker that everybody thinks I am, that I know I am," Bowden said, per Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post.

    With Jakeem Grant, Wilson, Preston Williams and Isaiah Ford all fighting for snaps and roster spots toward the back of the depth chart, Bowden is running out of time to impress. 

S Jevon Holland

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    Unlike Bowden, Jevon Holland is not fighting for a roster spot, but he could be auditioning to be a starter in these preseason games. 

    The 21-year-old will likely be the backup free safety when the team kicks off against the Bears, but there's an opportunity for upward movement on the depth chart. 

    The Dolphins cut Bobby McCain before camp started and 13-year veteran Jason McCourty has been taking most of the first-team reps in camp. However, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel noted the team has moved McCourty to corner and given Holland reps at safety with the first team at times. 

    The Oregon product has reportedly done well in those situations, logging multiple interceptions. 

    Starting at the position means understanding the defense and getting the secondary in the right calls. That's a tall task for a rookie, especially one who hasn't played a game since January 2020 before opting out of his final season with the Ducks. 

    While fans will be eager to see all the rookies, Holland has some stakes to these games as they are auditions for a starting role.