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Dolphins enter crucial week for quarterback Jay Cutler

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Stephen A. over the moon about Cutler (2:01)

Stephen A. Smith mocks the excitement surrounding QB Jay Cutler's Dolphins debut against the Ravens. (2:01)

Last week was all about firsts for new Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Jay Cutler.

The formerly semi-retired Cutler played his first preseason game, completed his first passes and even took his first big hit on his surgically repaired shoulder after a botched screen play against the Baltimore Ravens.

"I was kind of glad to get that one out of the way," Cutler said.

Now that the training wheels are off, the Dolphins enter a crucial week to get Cutler ready for the regular season.

Miami travels to Philadelphia several days early to hold joint practices with the Eagles on Monday and Tuesday. After a day off Wednesday, the Dolphins will play their third -- and most critical -- preseason game, against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday. These are all important opportunities for Cutler to speed up his progression.

Cutler signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Miami just two weeks ago after a season-ending knee injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The expectation is Cutler will be prepared to take over the offense by Miami’s Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I feel really good with where we’re at right now,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of Cutler and the offense. “This next week will be really good for us, because [we're] going against another team and playing that third preseason game. We’ll just keep trying to improve and get in that game flow. I liked what I saw [this past Thursday]. I’m ready to get this going [this] week.”

Cutler played two series last week in his Dolphins debut and went 3-of-6 for 24 yards. Look for Cutler to see significantly more playing time Thursday in what might be his final action of the preseason. Veteran starting quarterbacks often skip the fourth preseason game, but much of that will depend on how sharp Cutler is this week.

According to the 12-year veteran, the biggest challenge at this stage is getting to know the nuances of his skill players, such as Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Julius Thomas, running back Jay Ajayi and receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker.

“You have to immerse yourself as best you can, be around these guys constantly, ask a lot of questions, see what they like, what they dislike,” Cutler said. “It takes a little bit of time, but I think with this group, they make it a little easier, because it is a younger team. But they’re really good guys that want to win, and they’re good football players.”