The first real step for the Miami Dolphins is in week one against the New England Patriots when the regular season starts. However, this week the Dolphins have joint practices to go along with their 1st preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This might seem like a big deal to the casual fan, but the Dolphins have been training the last two weeks against themselves, and it’s time to get a taste of how they are against someone else. The players are probably eager to practice against another team because everybody is tired of going up against themselves. The goal for this week is to show progress and come away unscathed from an injury standpoint. Injuries will happen, but I don’t want severe season-ending injuries. 

It’s a good test for the offense going up against a quality defense in the Buccaneers. They are very talented, especially in the front seven, and it will be interesting to see how the offensive line plays against them. The offensive line has had changes, but they have kept guys in positions they have put them in and not moving them around constantly so far; the line has done well in camp. However, the real test comes next. It also is a good test for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and sees if he can carry over his good consistent practices from the last two weeks into another solid step in the right direction. Most importantly, know how the new skill position guys do against another team. It might not be smooth because everyone is still learning the offense, but it’s a chance to see it develop and grow. 

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For the defense, everybody is practically back. I’m curious how our second-year players, Jalen Phillips and Jevon Holland, have grown and if they are ready to take the next step. The start of camp has been positive for these guys, but like the offense, I’d like to see them against someone other than their own team. I don’t need to see Xavien Howard or Byron Jones because I know what the Dolphins see in them. Besides, Jones is still on the PUP list, and Howard will probably be used sparingly to get him ready for the season, which is smart. I want to see how second-year corner Trill Williams and 3rd-year corner Noah Igbinoghene. It’s especially big for Igbinoghene because it’s his 3rd year, and he was a first-round pick back in 2020 and wasn’t on the field much. The Dolphins need to see him step up, especially with Jones nursing himself back from off-season surgery. Williams, I know, is a talented corner; having watched him up here at Syracuse, and if he develops and plays well, it makes the secondary much deeper. 

I know it’s not the regular season, but as a fan, I enjoy the process leading up to the season—the off-season moves and training camp to see how things come together. Nothing is going to go according to plan, but you get a feel for what the team’s strengths are and what their weaknesses are. You also get a feel for how the team is with a new coach, and they appear much looser and having fun. Not as tight as they were under former coach Brian Flores. I’m curious to see how that translates on the field. There are so many fascinating things about this team. They got a revamped skills position, a new coach with a direction on offense, and a quarterback in Tagovailoa, who appears to be ready to take the next step in his development. It’s time to watch this team crawl before they are prepared to walk into the regular season. It’s an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the team does against another team.