What to watch: Dolphins-Texans

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
2:30
PM ET
The Miami Dolphins will travel to play their third preseason game Saturday at 8 p.m. ET against the Houston Texans. Miami split its first two preseason games.

Here are three things to watch in Saturday's exhibition game for Miami:

1. Fast start for offense: It's only the preseason, but it's clear that Miami head coach Joe Philbin is getting annoyed by the notoriously slow starts on offense. The Dolphins' first offensive play in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys was a lost fumble, and Miami’s first play last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars was a sack on starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It has taken Miami's offense several series in both games to get warmed up. Philbin wants Tannehill and the Dolphins offense to hit the ground running and put together a strong drive right away against a solid Texans defense. The offensive line for Miami will be key.

2. Running back competition: Lamar Miller is Miami's projected starting tailback. But after Miller, things are getting very interesting at running back. Daniel Thomas, Jonas Gray and rookie Mike Gillislee are all battling for roles. Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said this week that it’s possible the team will keep four tailbacks, but that’s usually not the norm. Someone from this trio needs to create separation. A strong rushing performance against a talented Houston team could go a long way to helping the coaching staff make a decision.

3. Find depth on defense: Miami's first-team defense is pretty much set. But this group is still looking for backups and role players who can make an impact this season. This will be a particularly big game for backups at linebacker. There have not been many flashes outside of the starters in the preseason. Reserves like Jason Trusnik, Austin Spitler, and rookie Jelani Jenkins must show they're ready to fill in if needed. That also goes for backups in the secondary and on the defensive line.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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