It’s been an eventful week for the Miami Dolphins in the “City of Brotherly Love.” In addition to a pair of joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles, both teams face off in the third and most important preseason game Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Miami has several things to sort out before the regular season, and the game should provide answers.
Here are some things to watch from the Dolphins’ perspective:
Round 2 of Jay Cutler
It has been 19 days since Miami signed Cutler to a one-year, $10 million contract to replace injured starter Ryan Tannehill, who is out of the year with a left knee injury. The time is now for the Dolphins to ramp up the reps for Cutler in the third preseason game. Cutler took 12 snaps in two series during his Dolphins debut against the Baltimore Ravens. Cutler showed flashes during that small sample size, going 3-of-6 passing for 24 yards, but certainly not enough to prove the offense is regular-season ready. This might be the last time you see Cutler during the preseason. Therefore, expect at least a half of work for Cutler and the first-team offense.
Mike Pouncey’s preseason debut
Pouncey will reach an important landmark Thursday by getting game reps against the Eagles. The initial timeline was to have Pouncey ready for the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he’s done very well in rehab from his surgically-repaired hip and is weeks ahead of that initial schedule. Pouncey and Cutler have worked together in practice on their communication and center-to-quarterback exchanges, but it will be good for both to work during live game action. Pouncey one of the best centers in the AFC and can be a difference-maker on the offensive line when healthy. It is also possible starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James will play, which will give Cutler and Miami’s offense a preview of what the offensive line looks like when healthy. This could be the only time the Dolphins’ starting offensive line plays together in the preseason.
Picture gets clearer at left guard
Speaking of the offensive line, who will take over at left guard? Ted Larsen suffered a torn biceps early in training camp and will be out for most of the season. That opened the door for someone to step up and fill the position. Currently the two leaders are Jesse Davis, a converted tackle, and Anthony Steen, a converted center. Davis has the inside track after impressing coaches so far this preseason. A good third preseason game for Davis could help make the decision easy for Miami’s coaching staff.
Will Mike Hull create separation at MLB?
Hull is the favorite to replace injured middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan (knee) in Week 1. But the Dolphins brought in competition last week by signing veteran middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. However, Maualuga is not game-ready and will not play Thursday, which offers an opportunity for Hull to create separation in the race to become a starter. Hull has been solid in the preseason. He recorded five tackles, a tackle for loss and pass defensed against the Ravens and could earn more confidence with the coaching staff with another good game against Philadelphia. Maualuga is more proven, but still has ground to make up.