The Miami Dolphins will wrap up their roller-coaster preseason Thursday night when they travel to play at 8 p.m. ET against the Minnesota Vikings. For Miami, the exhibition season cannot end soon enough.
During a summer when Miami lost its starting quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), starting middle linebacker (Raekwon McMillan), starting left guard (Ted Larsen) and last season's interception leader (Tony Lippett) to major injuries, the team is hoping to simply get out of Minnesota healthy with its regular-season opener looming in 10 days against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Don't expect many key players for the Dolphins to suit up against the Vikings. Miami had a spirited practice on Tuesday to give its starters quality work for this week.
Here are three things to watch in the preseason finale for the Dolphins:
No. 1: Rey Maualuga
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said he'd like to get Maualuga some reps against the Vikings. But that's going to be determined by how the nine-year middle linebacker feels heading into the game. Maualuga signed last week and needed to drop some weight and get back in football shape. He had one full practice on Monday but was limited on Sunday and Tuesday. The Dolphins eventually expect Maualuga to supplant current starter Mike Hull, who replaced McMillan after his injury. Playing Thursday would be a good step for Maualuga.
No. 2: Final position battles
There are still a couple roles up for grabs entering the final preseason game. The biggest competition is at defensive tackle between 2015 second-round pick Jordan Phillips and rookie fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux. Phillips began as the incumbent until a week into the preseason when Godchaux took over first-team reps. However, Phillips had a strong third preseason game, which included an athletic interception, and is making a final push for the starting job. Both will get reps this season, but this game could determine who will be on the field first in Week 1. Another position to keep an eye on is the battle at left guard involving Anthony Steen and Jesse Davis.
No. 3: Back end of the roster
The Dolphins will make a lot of tough choices Saturday when they cut the roster from 90 to 53 players. There are probably about a six spots on the back end of the roster still to be determined. Keep a particularly close eye on special-teams play. In addition, Miami will be scanning the waiver wire to see what players become available at positions of need. The Dolphins can use depth at guard, offensive tackle and linebacker.