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Sunday, August 4, 2013
Dolphins Hall of Fame Game preview

By James Walker

CANTON, Ohio – The Miami Dolphins will have their first preseason game Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET against the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame Game. There have been a lot of interesting developments during the first two weeks of training camp, and now we get to see Miami in a game scenario.

The AFC East blog will be live in attendance for the first preseason game of the NFL season. Here are five things to keep an eye on from Miami’s perspective:

No. 1: Offensive line

Analysis: This has been Miami’s weakness unit through two weeks of training camp. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been pushed around for the most part and lacks depth. An injury to starting guard John Jerry has caused the coaching staff to scramble. The Dolphins have tried out multiple replacements such as Josh Samuda, Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas. Right now there are more questions than answers. But Sunday’s game will be a good opportunity for this much-maligned unit to show improvement.

No. 2: Miami’s passing game

Analysis: Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a lot of new weapons, and this will be the first chance to show them off in a national game. Starting receivers Mike Wallace (groin) and Brian Hartline (calf) are nursing injuries this week and will be game-time decisions. But Tannehill, at the very least, will throw to new tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Brandon Gibson. All of these players need to be on the same page by Week 1. Playing against another team for the first time presents a good challenge.

No. 3: Second starting cornerback

Analysis: Veteran corners Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall have battled back and forth with the starters. This competition won’t be settled until there are preseason games. Patterson currently has the hot hand and has shown good quickness and athleticism. Both players could get a lot of playing time in sub-packages, but only one can start opposite Brent Grimes. This is the time for one of these veteran corners to step forward.

No. 4: Kicking battle

Analysis: Miami’s kicking competition between rookie Caleb Sturgis and veteran incumbent Dan Carpenter is about even after two weeks of camp. It will probably take several preseason games to determine this one. Sturgis is the favorite because he’s a fifth-round pick scheduled to make just $405,000 this season. Carpenter is on Miami’s books for $2.68 million if he makes the team. Therefore, if the competition is close, the edge goes to the rookie.

No. 5: Which unknowns will step up?

Analysis: With five preseason games for Miami this year, look for many of the Dolphins’ backups to get extended playing time Sunday. That means this is a golden opportunity for lesser-known players to shine and make a push for roster spots. Several players who come to mind are tight end Michael Egnew, receiver Jeff Fuller, tight end Kyle Miller and rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins. These are the kind of bubble players who must show up in preseason games to make the 53-man roster.

There will be a full report from the game later tonight in the AFC East blog. You can also follow me on Twitter for live updates from Canton before, during and after the game.