Dolphins' safety and kicking competitions in focus for preseason finale

The Miami Dolphins will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason finale for both teams. Here are three things to watch from Miami's perspective:

1. Safety battle: The competition to replace injured starting safety Louis Delmas has not been decided with fewer than two weeks remaining until the regular-season opener. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas have played well this preseason since Delmas went down with a knee injury. At times, Miami played Aikens and Thomas together to get them more reps. The Dolphins appear to have two solid options to plug into the starting lineup. But the player who performs best Thursday against Tampa Bay has the inside track for the regular season.

2. Kicking competition: Miami already made its decision at punter, releasing veteran Brandon Fields in favor of undrafted rookie Matt Darr. Now, the Dolphins must make their call at kicker between incumbent Caleb Sturgis and rookie Andrew Franks. The competition has been very close. Both Sturgis and Franks have pushed and made each other better this summer. There will be pressure on both kickers in a game situation against the Buccaneers.

3. Staying healthy: Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was coy this week on playing-time designations for starters. But Philbin is aware that the risk of injury isn’t worth playing first-stringers for very long in this game. Miami’s No. 1 goal is getting out of this game healthy. The Dolphins will quickly shift their focus to the Washington Redskins once Thursday’s game is complete.