Week 2 of the Dallas Cowboys preseason schedule takes place on Friday night, and their opponent will be the Miami Dolphins. To get a better clue as to what is going on with the Dolphins, we asked five questions of Miami site The Phinsider. Check out the results.
Blogging The Boys: Laremy Tunsil was certainly a story on draft night. What did you think when the Dolphins drafted him, and how has he performed so far?
The Phinsider: I think Tunsil falling to the Dolphins was absolutely more than the Dolphins could have hoped for - given that it was a horrible situation for Tunsil himself. I think Tunsil being on the board settled an internal debate within the Dolphins between taking someone like Ronnie Stanely, Ezekiel Elliott, or one of the top cornerbacks, depending on who fell down the board to the 13th overall pick. I think the only debate that would have still been there would have been if Elliott somehow feel past the Cowboys and all the way to Miami. The Tunsil pick, however, was absolutely perfect for Miami. It gives them the heir apparent for Branden Albert whenever he retires, and Tunsil should be able to fill the left guard position between now and then. The coaches are deliberately bringing Tunsil along slowly this summer, having him work primarily with the second string up until this week. Now, he is starting to see more and more of the first team reps in practice, and I suspect he will be starting at left guard Friday night. He has had some rookie struggles, especially given he is also having to learn a new position while going up against players like Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, and Mario Williams, but he has held his own at times and should be a great addition to an offensive line that needs a great addition.
BTB: Every year people are asking if Ryan Tannehill is the man or not. Is he? Can he be the guy to lead the Dolphins to success?
TP: This should (finally) be the year we get the answer to that question. The Dolphins have done everything they can to set Tannehill up, including building a corps of young, talented receivers headlines by Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, and a new head coach that should (a) trust Tannehill and (b) actually run the ball more than 12 times a game. Both of those issues were, inexplicably, characteristics of the Joe Philbin era in Miami, where Philbin wanted to draft Derek Carr two years after drafting Tannehill, refused to allow Tannehill to audible, and underutilized Lamar Miller to the point that even a coaching change could not convince Miller he would be used correctly in South Florida. I think Tannehill is a very talented quarterback who should flourish under Gase's offensive system. The problem is, five years into his career, there are still question marks that - whether it is Tannehill's issue or something else including the coaching, offensive line, and wide receivers with whom chemistry could not be built - need to be answered this year.
BTB: Seems like the Dolphins strength is their defensive line. Talk about that unit. How much of them will we see on Friday night?
TP: We did not see any of the starting defensive line last week, but they should be out there Friday night. Head coach Adam Gase said this week that, even if he wanted to hold them out, they were not having any of it this week. They want the challenge of playing against the Cowboys' offensive line, getting a true measure of just how good they will be this year. So far, they have looked dominant. Cameron Wake, coming off an Achilles tear at 34 years old, has been explosive already in training camp, which is good because he makes his money coming off the snap so fast he appears to be offsides. Ndamukong Suh should be more comfortable in a system that allows him to attack and use his strength to his advantage. Mario Williams seems more comfortable being back at defensive end with his hand in the dirt rather than being an outside linebacker like he was with the Bills. Andre Branch is a question mark, but has actually looked pretty decent so far. Chris McCain and Terrence Fede are two young players that can have great stretches, and could force themselves into more playing time this year, if they can do it consistently. The defensive line should absolutely be the team's strength this year, but we thought that last year as well and it all fell apart. I would expect to see them for a couple of possessions Friday night, probably just enough to get them a few hits and then get them to the bench where they can rest - and give us more time to see McCain and Fede.
BTB: Out of your rookie class, what players have been a surprise? Who are some guys who could make the roster and have an impact?
TP: Tunsil will obviously make an impact as the starting left guard (assuming he does claim the spot). Xavien Howard was activated from the PUP list on Thursday, so we have not seen him yet, but he is expected to earn the starting cornerback position opposite Byron Maxwell. Leonte Carroo seems to be on track to be the fourth wide receiver behind Landry, Parker, and Kenny Stills. The rookie who has been the biggest surprise, and should have an impact on games this year, is wide receiver Jakeem Grant. At 5-foot-7, he fell in the Draft because no one knew what to think of his size. He has blinding speed, however, and, maybe more importantly, he accelerates incredibly, getting up to full speed after just a couple of steps, and holding that speed as he cuts. He is working to be the main punt and kick returner, and the team seems to be trying to find a way to get him involved in the offense as well. He is someone Dolphins fans are excited about seeing more of the rest of the preseason, and he should have at least a couple of moments on Friday that stand out.
BTB: What are the most important position battles you are looking at for the Dolphins on Friday night?
TP: Cornerback will continue to be an area to watch, especially knowing Howard will enter the position battle next week when practices resume. That is probably the biggest question mark on the team right now, and an area that absolutely worries Dolphins fans and analysts. Maxwell has looked solid on one side, but no one has claimed the other side yet. Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain seem to be the front-runners, with McCain and safety Michael Thomas battling for the nickel position as well. The defense will be centered on the pass rush, but if they cannot get to the quarterback, Miami appears to be weak at cornerback right now, and that is a major concern.
The guard battle will also continue, both at left guard and right guard. By the time the season starts, Tunsil should be in the left guard spot and, as of right now, it appears Billy Turner will have the right side. Dallas Thomas and Jermon Bushrod appear to have a shot at claiming that right guard position.
Finally, running back will be interesting to watch, maybe not in the sense that it is likely to matter who is named the starter and who is coming off the bench, but Arian Foster will be making his debut for Miami Friday, so it will be noteworthy to see if Foster or Jay Ajayi come out as the starter. During the season, I would expect the two to split carries, and they may be relatively even in terms of touches, but Foster has looked good in practice, so he could have a shot at overtaking Ajayi for the starter title.
Thanks to the The Phinsider for the knowledge.