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Positives, Negatives Heading Into Miami Dolphins’ Preseason Game Against Falcons

NFL: Miami Dolphins-Minicamp

The Miami Dolphins entered training camp with a number of questions about their offensive line, play at the quarterback position and defense. While the team still has a few questions to answer, there are a lot of positives heading into their preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan Tannehill has been impressive in camp; the third year quarterback is having his best camp to date. In Saturday’s scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium, Tannehill was splendid from start to finish. He finished 15 for 27 with 139 yards and threw two touchdowns.

Despite learning a new offense, Tannehill seems to have a good grasp of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system.

“Yeah. The first few days, you’re just trying to get back into rhythm,” Tannehill said on Saturday. “You’re fighting through timing not being exactly right, not seeing things fast enough. It’s not fun to go through those tough days, but you learn from it. You file those away and when the play comes up again you know exactly what to do. I’m finally getting to the point now where I know exactly what to do versus every coverage and we’ll continue to fine tune that.”

If Tannehill continues to look as good as he has during training camp, the Dolphins have a realistic chance to contend for a playoff spot in 2014.

Lamar Miller is seizing his opportunity: The Dolphins signed running back Knowshon Moreno over the offseason in attempts to improve their rushing game which finished 25th in the league a year ago. Moreno underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left knee in late June. While he is still recovering from surgery, last year’s starting running back Lamar Miller has thrived during training camp.

The former Miami Hurricanes running back looks like a perfect fit in Lazor’s offense. Miller is not only playing with more explosiveness, he has become more of a well-rounded running back.

In Saturday’s scrimmage, Miller finished with six carries for 36 yards and two catches for 27 yards. After the scrimmage, head coach Joe Philbin spoke about Miller’s play.

“He broke some tackles. You’re always looking for a running back, you certainly want to create space for your backs, but you also need to have a back that can make some yards on his own and it seemed like he did that a little bit today.”

The defensive line is definitely one of the biggest strengths of the team:  The Dolphins arguably have one of the deepest defensive lines in all of the AFC. Everyone knows about three-time Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, but there are other playmakers on the defensive line.

Defensive tackle Randy Starks is having one of the best camps of any Dolphins player. He has been unblockable during practices and scrimmages. If he remains at this level, he could have another Pro Bowl type season.

Olivier Vernon is having a good camp as well. The third year defensive end was the Dolphins biggest breakout star last season as he lead the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks.

Miami also has an excellent rotation of defensive lineman with Jared Odrick, Earl Mitchell, backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. It is easy to see why this is one of most talented groups in the league.

The offensive line is still a work in progress:

Despite the Dolphins offensive line playing relatively well in the scrimmage, the team decided to sign center Samson Satele over the weekend. While starting center Mike Pouncey says he is making progress and hopes to return in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, the team expects him to miss at least the first four weeks of the regular season with a torn labrum.

The Dolphins have had a lot of issues with botched snaps and protection at the center position, which is why the team signed Satele.

On Monday, the Dolphins released their first depth chart and it has Branden Albert at left tackle, Daryn Colledge at left guard, Mike Pouncey at center, Dallas Thomas at right guard and rookie first round pick Ju’Wuan James at right tackle. It will be interesting to see how this group, minus Pouncey, plays against the Falcons on Friday night.

The injuries are adding up:

Before practice begun on Monday, the Dolphins announced quarterback Pat Devlin (hamstring), tight end Charles Clay (knee), receiver Stephen Williams (ankle), kicker Caleb Sturgis (groin), and  cornerback Jalil Brown (knee) will miss multiple practices. Also tight end Michael Egnew left practice Monday prematurely. We will find out the severity of each player’s injury as we get closer to Friday’s preseason opener.

Winning Friday’s game isn’t as important as the Dolphins playing well. It will be interesting to see the Dolphins offense and defense against their first opponent this season.

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