Miami Dolphins Game Preview: Atlanta Falcons

Preseason game number three is just hours away for the Miami Dolphins as they will host the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams are an unimpressive 0-2, but the starters for the Falcons have shown significantly more promise than the Miami crew. Let’s take a glance at a few things to look for in this game.

The obvious place to start is Ryan Tannehill. For me, this is his first start. Yes, he did start vs the Carolina Panthers, but at that time the thought was Matt Moore would start against the Falcons and then the best QB would start the final preseason game and beyond. Head coach Joe Philbin put an end to that earlier this week by announcing that Tannehill would in fact be the number one guy going forward. This will be Tannehill’s first time in front of the home fans as the official starting QB #17 since Dan Marino retired.

Tannehill will face the starters for Hotlanta and word out of Falcons camp is that they are game-planning different ways to confuse and attack the rookie. Atlanta’s head coach, Mike Smith, will not want to show too much of his defenses strategy, but they are preparing a few things for Tannehill.

Can we get a Legedu Naanee sighting on Friday night? He is slated to be a starting WR, but his numbers in preseason are virtually non-existent. His fellow starter is Davone Bess and these two have combined for a measly 4 catches/35 yards (just one catch for Naanee…yikes). The Falcons secondary is better than the ‘Phins WR-group on paper. Heck, most groups are. The ‘Phins are desperately wanting one of the young WRs to step their game up and separate themselves from the pack. That has yet to happen–not even glimpses–and as this is preseason game number three of four, there’s no time like the present to get going. Roberto Wallace? Marlon Moore? Julius Pruitt? Jeff Fuller? Somebody needs to step up. The Falcons have yielded seven preseason TDs, six of them through the air, so we will see if Miami can ignite their scoring through the passing game. Miami has just 24 preseason points–zero in the first quarter vs the starters.

I would look for both teams to try to get a better performance from the running game. Dolphins RBs have a combined 60 yards in the first two games. Yikes. Reggie Bush has looked good in extremely limited action, but the rest of the group has been blah. We can expect the Falcons to have a game plan for Bush, but when Lamar Miller, Steve Slaton and Daniel Thomas get their carries, they need to be significantly better than they have been. We will watch the offensive line, in particular the right side, to see if they have improved at opening some running lanes. The right side of the o-line is in flux, and should be watched closely.

The Falcons are sure to feature their running game more than they have been. It has been Jacquizz Rogers getting more action than starter Michael Turner, but we are likely to see more from Turner in this game. The Falcons will be focused on their offensive line play, and rotation. The ‘Phins defensive line is likely to face fresh o-lineman all game.

So far Miami averages a brutal three yards per carry, but is yielding just 3.3 yards per carry.

A major issue for the 2012 Dolphins is creating INTs. New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has a history of getting INTs from his defensive-backs, but the 2012 ‘Phins are at a grand total of zero so far. Yes, the INT Sean Smith had vs Cam Newton was legit, but the ref called a penalty, so the actual result was a 39-yard Panthers gain. The Falcons starters have been awesome as far as the passing game goes. I expect QB Matt Ryan to be a monster this season and I cannot wait to see the 2012 that WR Julio Jones puts together. Roddy White is awesome and Tony Gonzalez is Tony Gonzalez. The secondary will have its hands full on Friday night. Even the back-up QBs on Hotlanta are playing well.

On the Miami defense, we will need to see a pass-rush. In the first two preseason games, the pass-rush has been bad–only Derrick Shelby and Isaako Aaitui have sacks. Both of those guys were undrafted, so it is high-time that some of the guys who are expected to produce make some plays.

Atlanta figures to be a legit playoff contender, so 0-3 may be worrisome for them. For the Dolphins, a win is not imperative, but we absolutely need to see steps forward in several areas. There’s only one game after this one to get things where they need to be for the 2012 NFL season.

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