Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Camping World Stadium- Orlando, FL
Announcers: Mike Tirico and Chris Collinsworth
We have reached the pinnacle of the preseason. Week 3. This game is a tune up game for the starters and one of the final chances to make an impression. While many will not focus on this game, I, for one will be very intrigued. This is technically a home game (Hard Rock Stadium is not 100% ready for this game, but will be on September 1st vs Titans). There are many things to watch for in tonight’s game, so let’s get you primed with things to watch for:
1) Starting offense getting off to a fast start– we have witnessed slow starts in both weeks on offense. The Giants started off leading 10-0, Cowboys 14-0. The Falcons have arguably the best WR in the league in Julio Jones and he will be tough to handle. I expect the Dolphins to start as they did last week (3-5 yard play on first down) to ease into the game and get the offense going. A first down is critical tonight, points on their opening drive is critical tonight as well. The defense playing from behind last week didn’t look good. In fact, it looked like the same defense as last season. The offense needs to put up more points than the defense allows. NFL 101.
2) Starting defense needs to make stops/plays– in the first two weeks, the starting defensive unit has not been very good. They have given up over 300 yards rushing in the first two preseason games. If you cannot stop the run, you will not be very good. I get it, vanilla schemes, not prepared for opponent, but tackling doesn’t need schemes, it is technique. This unit lacks that. If the guys can wrap up their tackles, the defense will indeed get off the field. Force the issue tonight, make plays and we may get a glimpse of what this defense really can do. But it starts with the basics.
3) Laremy Tunsil– I will be the first to admit, I wasn’t thrilled when the pick was announced. Over time, I liked the move more. Now, I LOVE IT. Tunsil has played 90 snaps in the preseason, more than any other player on the team. He struggled at Guard throughout camp and was second team until a promotion last week, which FINALLY bumped Dallas Thomas off the starting unit. From those 90 snaps, Tunsil has not given up a SINGLE QB PRESSURE. Tannehill was upright last week, and he had a clean pocket, albeit for 2 plays. Watch for Tunsil to continue to develop.
4) Linebackers– This has been a sore subject for me on the podcast weekly. The starting unit of Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi just flat out hasn’t worked in either preseason game. they cannot get off their blocks and they cannot tackle. These 3 need to step it up. Their play is vital for the wide 9 defense to work, and it will not work if the play of these guys doesn’t get going. A whiff tonight so to speak may lead to changes, as cuts are on the horizon this week. Let’s see how this unit works tonight and if a week of tackling drills helped.
I am looking forward to the prime time game tonight. Miami needs to show the NFL, the fan base and a national audience that this is a team that can be on the rise. Tackling opposing players and putting up points with the first unit is a great way to start.
Make sure you look for me on Periscope at halftime and after the game for brief analysis and opinion of how things went down this evening.