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Miami Dolphins Vs. Tampa Bay Bucs Need To Know Guide

The Miami Dolphins are about to embark on their first adventure of the 2010 journey. It all starts here with the first pre-season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, after a little over two weeks of nothing but training camp practices and over-anxiety due to injuries and disappointing practices, we will finally get to see our team suit up and watch some of the camp battles that we have been hearing about, but have not gotten the luxury of seeing.

With the first game comes certain developments to strain your eye for, and pay special attention too.

Since it is the first pre-season game, and in the National Football League all teams are obligated to play four of these games, the starters will not be present on the gridiron for long, only a couple of series tops.

While you may have some certain players or formations that you will be looking out for, here are some of the happenings that I will be keeping an eye out for:

  • “Special Formations”: The Dolphins have reportedly been using the Wildcat formation a lot in camp so far, and have been unveiling some of their blitzing packages as well in practices. What I will be curious to see is exactly how much the team will use the Wildcat, and how much the Dolphins will use their exotic blitzes against the Bucs in only the first pre-season game. The fact that the team has a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, and will be incorporating a new hybrid defense to go along with their base 3-4 defense will make situations interesting as well. The Dolphins staff is smart, and I do not think that they want to give teams anything to watch in order to prepare for them come Week 1 against Buffalo.
  • Increased Reps: Due to certain injuries to certain players, some of the backups on the team will be seeing increased reps during the game, and likely all pre-season. Players that come to the top of my mind are rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll, who has been impressing all training camp long. With the injury of Will Allen, Carroll will be seeing a lot of time as the nickel corner all throughout the exhibition games. This is where Carroll will show whether he is a true gamer, or simply a practice player. Another player that I will be watching for is veteran center Joe Berger. Berger is currently in a camp battle with Jake Grove for the starting center job, and while Grove is suffering from some minor injuries, Berger is getting increased reps in practice, and getting more shots at showing the coaching staff that he should be the guy. The pre-season will be most important to Berger to prove that he is strong enough to handle some of the true nose tackles of the NFL.
  • Offensive Line Play: One of the biggest inconsistencies so far in camp is the play of the offensive line. Part of this can be attributed to the numerous mixing and matching combinations that head coach Tony Sparano has dealt the team so far. It is hard to build up chemistry within a unit in such a short time like the off-season so as it is. When you have a coach plugging in different players left and right every practice, it is going to be hard to compete as a unit at the high level that you want to when you are unsure about the guy lining up next to you. This is what the pre-season games are for after all. Building chemistry and getting the game day situations down pat for the real deal. So I will be watching the overall play of the line all game long, and looking for how well certain combos work, and which ones are not pulling their weight.
  • Head Coaching/Time-Management: Last year the Dolphins lost a couple of games due to poor time management at the end of the halves. This is also what the pre-season is for. We all have to remember that Sparano is only in his third year of being a head coach, so this is the judgement year for him. By the time the regular season rolls around, Sparano and the rest of the coaching staff should have all of their game scenarios and time management skills down pat, and should be raring to go for the season.
  • Rookie Performances: While the rookies I am talking about will likely not get the majority of the reps at their positions, Dolphins top picks Jared Odrick and Koa Misi should be looking to impress the fans in their first time out on the same field as the pros. While Odrick is opening eyes, Misi is flying under the radar, and is not impressing the media, or the coaches like expected when drafted. Misi is going to have to prove in these practice games that he belongs in the NFL, and can hold up as a starter in the league. After all, he is competing for a starting job at outside linebacker.
  • Pat White: White should see plenty of playing time against the Bucs. This is the time to show everyone that he deserves a roster spot on the Fins, and is not a bust after all. White has had a rough go around so far in the NFL, and worked his tail off during the off-season to get stronger. The games are where the Fins will evaluate him to see if he is the X-Factor that they were looking for when they spent a 2nd round pick on him in the 2009 NFL Draft.

With that are some of the things I will be watching out for in the Dolphins pre-season opener. Like I mentioned above, the game is almost meaningless for the starters, and is simply about repitition and getting used to the pace and speed of a NFL game. For some it is about performing your best so you can secure a roster spot on the team. Look out for Marlon Moore, Austin Spitler, Jason Allen, and Pat White to show their stuff, as some of the guys that have the inside track on beating out the rest of the training camp invitees for a spot on the team.

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