- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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All eyes nationally will be on the high-profile Cowboys and stars such as quarterback Tony Romo and Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. But for Miami, this team is focused on taking another important step forward before its Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the AFC East rival New England Patriots.
Saturday could be the final time key starters play in the exhibition season. Most coaches prefer to use the fourth preseason game to let the backups determine the final roster spots.
"It’s the most game-like," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of the third preseason game. "It’s the game where the starters will get the most playing time out of the entire preseason. It doesn’t really count, but it matters, it matters to us and the progression we make as a team as far as getting better. It’s our last chance before we play for real."
Tannehill has made steady progress throughout training camp and the preseason, which is good news for the Dolphins. He started training camp with a rocky start, including one stretch early where he threw six interceptions in two practices. It was part of the growing pains of learning a new offense under Bill Lazor.
However, Tannehill has been solid in the second half of training camp and the preseason. He completed all six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons and was 9-of-14 passing last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tannehill is completing 75 percent of his passes during the preseason and playing faster and more decisive.
Tannehill and the offense are showing early signs of growth compared to last season. This unit was 27th in the NFL in 2013. If Miami’s offense can rise to the middle of the pack, the Dolphins could be dangerous when paired with a talented defense.
"I’m excited about this team," Tannehill said. "I’m excited about the players we have first and foremost, I’m excited about the offense we have and the meshing of the two. I think it’s a good fit, the personnel we have is a good fit for this offense."