JACKSONVILLE (CBSMiami) – After a dismal performance against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game, the Miami Dolphins will return to the preseason field Friday night with a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
*The Game Can Be Seen Exclusively On CBS4; Kickoff Set For 7:30 p.m.*
The Fins' starting offense was one of the biggest concerns after the Cowboys game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller botched a handoff on the Fins' first offensive play and turned the ball over to the Cowboys deep in Dolphins territory.
Miami's offense stagnated with the first team offense on the field and couldn't get the ball deep out of its own end. But, the team was also without both starting wide receivers, Brian Hartline, and new free agent acquisition Mike Wallace.
Both Wallace and Hartline are expected to play in the Jaguars game and that should give the coaching staff a better feel for where the offense is after two weeks of training camp.
Another area of concern in the first game was the offensive line. While three of the positions are solidified with left guard Richie Incognito, center Mike Pouncey, and right tackle Tyson Clabo; the left tackle position will be closely watched with Jonathan Martin starting.
Martin has been under intense scrutiny during training camp, but has held up well during training camp and the preseason games. Martin's success at protecting Tannehill's blindside could be the biggest key to having an explosive offense this year.
One thing that has become clear in practice and during the preseason is that rookie Dallas Thomas has a very long way to go before he can be trusted to play left tackle. He saw success at left tackle in college, but had more success at guard, which may be where he ends up in the NFL.
Speaking of guard, the Fins have a hole at right guard with several players vying for the starting job. Last year's starter, John Jerry, has been injured and unable to get into the lineup. The Fins also brought in Lance Louis as a free agent and he's just now getting back on the field after a serious knee injury last year.
But, the man who may end up earning the starting job is second-year pro Josh Samuda. He stunned onlookers last year when he made the roster as an undrafted free agent. He had been playing backup to Pouncey until injuries opened the door for him at right guard.
If Samuda can solidify the right guard position in the preseason, the Dolphins, for the first time in recent memory, could have a solid offensive line from tackle to tackle.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins defensive line is expected to be the strength of the team. The line will feature defensive ends Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, and the tackle position will have Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and Kheeston Randall to clog the middle.
But, in the Cowboys game, Dallas was able to smack the D-line in the mouth as they rushed for 170 yards in the game. Now, with Odrick, Vernon, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe likely playing, the line needs to show more of the run stopping dominance it has in the past.
On the outside, watching the improvement of rookie Dion Jordan will be something fans do throughout the season. Much is expected of the freakish athlete and he's been making noise during training camp. If he can develop into a pass rush threat opposite Cameron Wake, opposing offenses will be in deep trouble.
In the end, the main thing the Dolphins have to be able to do is win the turnover battle. It's been the primary focus during training camp and the coaches want to see all of that work transfer onto the field for the first time this year.
It would also help if the Fins could get out to a fast start, which would prevent the defense from having to play from behind and allow the Fins to control the clock during the game.
But remember, this is a bad Jacksonville Jaguars team. The Jags finished last season with the second worst record in the NFL. In addition, the team will be playing without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, which could cripple the running game.
The Jaguars will be looking at its offensive line, which added number two overall pick Luke Joeckel in April. Joeckel will step in at right tackle and anchor the line opposite Eugene Monroe. Both should be capable of handling a pass rush, but will need to gel quickly.
The interior of Jacksonville's line could be the most vulnerable spot with the team not having a true star at either the guard or center positions. Going up against a defensive line with the interior push the Dolphins should generate, should prove problematic for the Jaguars offense.
At quarterback, Blaine Gabbert will once again try to get his career on the right track. He's been bad through his first two seasons, but at times flashed some talent. He's also battled injuries and is in a quarterback battle with former Miami Dolphins starter Chad Henne, which should tell Dolphins fans a lot about Jacksonville's QB situation.
One area Miami will have to be sound is against the Jaguars will be against trick plays. The Jags have speedster Ace Sanders, who can run reverses, sweeps, etc, and former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson, who can be deployed anywhere across the field.
Miami and Jacksonville will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. and the game can only be seen on CBS4.
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