The third week of the preseason is upon us, which means the game will act as a regular season “dress rehearsal,” and (gasp) we will actually see starters play at some capacity. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins square off in a nationally televised game on FOX at 8 p.m. EST.
I reached out to Kevin Nogle, managing editor of The Phinsider — SB Nation’s Miami Dolphins community, and one of my personal favorite SB Nation team site names.
Here is what he had to say:
1. Obviously, quarterback is a big question mark for the Dolphins (Jaguars fans have been far too familiar with this dilemma the past several seasons). Would you say Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick has the leg up on the starting job, and who do you expect to see more on Thursday night?
Kevin: They have been about even, with Rosen looking better in the first two preseason games, but Fitzpatrick being more consistent over the entire offseason and training camp. It seems like Fitzpatrick will be starting on Thursday, but, and this is me speculating as if I were making these decisions, I would expect to see Rosen in the first half with the rest of the starters. I would give Fitzpatrick the first quarter, then Rosen the second quarter - that way they both have a chance to find a rhythm rather than swapping every other series, but you still get a chance to see them out there with the starters, and more importantly, against the Jaguars’ starting (for the most part) defense.
As for the season, there is thought that the Dolphins should go ahead and start Rosen in Week 1 if he and Fitzpatrick remain close. Head coach Brian Flores discussed that idea this week, saying, “That case could be made. A case could be made that playing the older guy – a case could also be made that the younger guy is not ready. I think a lot of times – I understand that thought process but I’m the one dealing with the individual player, and sometimes guys just aren’t ready. The whole sink or swim mentality, it’s easy for somebody on the outside to say; but for that individual player and the best interests of that individual person, that might not be the case. For those who aren’t in the trenches and dealing with the day to day, they wouldn’t understand that. If a guy is ready, we’ll put him out there. If he’s not, we won’t put him out there. I think that’s the right way to approach it.”
That makes it seem like it is Fitzpatrick’s job for now and Rosen’s whenever the coaches decide he is ready.
2. With the third preseason game typically acting as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, how long do you expect to see Miami’s starters play and what will you be watching for?
Kevin: For the offense, I would expect the starting offensive line to see the entire first half, minus maybe Laremy Tunsil. I would rotate Kenny Stills out of the game, maybe after a quarter or so, simply because he is the most likely top target among the receivers. I already talked the quarterbacks, but basically everyone else I would expect to see the entire first half, and maybe into the third quarter. The caveat I would have is the injury to Kenyan Drake’s foot could make me pull Kalen Ballage pretty quickly if I were the coach. Drake’s injury is not considered serious, but there is not a lot of details surrounding it. If everything is precautionary, you can play Ballage like the rest of the starters. If you are concerned that Drake’s injury, which is expected to keep him out the remainder of the preseason, will last into the regular season, you pull Ballage to protect your run game.
On defense, I would pull Xavien Howard and Jerome Baker pretty early. No reason to risk injury there. The rest of the starters I would push into the third quarter.
3. Are there any under-the-radar players or roster bubble guys for the Dolphins that Jaguars fans should know about?
Kevin: Preston Williams will be a fun player to watch. The undrafted free agent has the potential to become a “number one” wide receiver, and he has shown flashes all spring and summer. He had an off game last week, so he will likely be looking to prove he is ready to be a bigger part of the offense this week.
On defense, Charles Harris may be a name people know, but he is someone who needs to show that last week’s 1.5-sack, 4 quarterback-hit performance was the first step into a breakout season. The Dolphins do not have a lot of pass rush, with Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, and Andre Branch all off the roster from last year, so Harris needs to step up and show he can be that guy for Miami.
Linebacker Sam Eguavoen is another player to watch. The former CFL player is suddenly looking not just like he is going to make the roster, but that he could be a starter. He is making plays and has impressed the fans, analysts, and, it appears, the coaches.
4. So far through training camp and the first couple of preseason games, what are your initial thoughts on first-year head coach Brian Flores and his coaching staff? Do you see Flores as a long-term answer at head coach?
Kevin: I do. After having been through the Adam Gase era, the Joe Philbin era, the Tony Sparano era, etc., etc., there is always a honeymoon period where it seems like the head coach is THE head coach for the team. Sparano rebounded a 1-15 team from the year before he was hired and turned it into an 11-5, AFC East champion team. Then back to mediocrity. The same kind of playoff appearance then nothing happened with Gase. So, there is some hesitation to say Flores is the guy, but he really does feel like it.
He is not coming in trying to make the Dolphins a winner overnight. He is not trying to show he is the boss. He is simply doing his job — not to sound like a New England Patriots ad — and he is getting the players to do the same. He has them playing out of position if it is better for the team - like Minkah Fitzpatrick playing as a strong safety, in-the-box type the last couple of weeks because of injuries to Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald. He has made changes that make sense - like moving practice from 8 a.m. to 9:30 or 10, getting the team more conditioned to the heat to use it to their advantage early in the season. He has the players buying into the accountability efforts he is instilling and he is making this team feel like his.
It may not be a great year for the Dolphins, but it feels like Flores has them moving in the right direction, even if that first initial step is backwards.
5. What is your season outlook for the Dolphins (record, playoff chances, division standing, etc.)?
Kevin: It will not be a great season, and there is not really talk or expectations of the playoffs. I think this team is a little better than people realize, even if it is just because a lot of key players were injured last year and are coming back healthy now. I think 6-10 is about right, so better than the number one overall pick team some expect, but not a team that will be making an impact this year.
Bonus: Not that preseason scores matter at all, but with the starters expected to play meaningful snap counts this week, do you have a score prediction?
Kevin: Honestly, I have no idea. Sometimes it appears the offense can put up points and sometimes they cannot. Sometimes the defense can step up ad get a stop, while other times I am not sure there are 11 players on the field. The Jaguars are a better team, and the starters will be out there more, so I will take a wild guess of 38-17.
Thank you to Kevin for providing such thorough thoughts and insights on the Dolphins. Follow his work on Twitter, and follow The Phinsider to keep up with the fellow Florida team.