The Miami Dolphins will host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday in the fourth and final week of the preseason. The game also takes place exactly one week from the start of the 2013 NFL regular season.
Seeing as this is the final preseason game, and fifth exhibition tilt for the Dolphins, the starters will see very little action, if any at all. With four preseason games already in the books for Miami, the first team offense and defense don't need any additional reps. However, this contest will be crucial for the coaching staff to continue to evaluate players on the roster bubble ahead of final cuts and the formation of the 53 man roster on Saturday.
These are the Dolphins that I will be paying close attention to against the Saints:
1) Jonas Gray, RB
Despite a poor performance last week against Tampa Bay which included a costly fumble, Gray survived the first round of cuts and will get one last chance to fight for his roster spot. The Dolphins are not expected to keep all four running backs on the final squad, therefore Gray remains a long shot to make the team with Miller, Thomas and likely Gillislee all guaranteed to be on the Week 1 roster. However, Gray will see a lot of playing time against the Saints and can make the Dolphins' decision on him a difficult one, if Gray makes a significant impact in the game.
2) Jamar Taylor, CB
The Dolphins are counting on production this season out of their two rookie corner backs after the release of Richard Marshall. Taylor has been working his way back from a hernia injury and has appeared in the last two preseason games. Against Tampa Bay, Taylor was on the field for 24 defensive snaps where he broke up an attempted pass from Josh Freeman to Mike Williams. His play in limited action has been solid and I would like to see that continue in a larger sample size. Considering he missed significant time, the extra reps will benefit the second round pick and further prepare him for the regular season.
3) Charles Clay/Dion Sims/Michael Egnew, TE
Even though Ryan Tannehill likely won't play, it will be important to get the tight ends involved after they totalled a disappointing three receptions a week ago. In regards to Charles Clay, the issue isn't his chemistry with Tannehill but its the transition from H-back to starting tight end. Out of the three touchdowns that Dolphins receivers recorded last year, Clay caught two of them. Rookie Dion Sims has not disappointed as he has proved himself as the blocking tight end Miami needs although it would be comforting to see more out of him as a pass catcher in the final tune up. Due to the lack of depth at the position, Egnew's roster spot is likely safe, however he has yet to step up and justify his draft postion. If none of these players impress against the Saints, it could force the Dolphins to take desperate measures and trade for a tight end.
4) Rishard Matthews/Chad Bumphis/Marvin McNutt/Brian Tyms, WR
Will this be the week one of the depth receivers on this team steps up? With the Dolphins' top three pass catchers unlikely to play, this will be a good stage for the battle for the 4th and 5th WR spots to unfold. All of these receivers on the roster bubble have their strengths and glaring weaknesses which makes this a tough decision. The competition will be fierce as it is expected that only two of the four candidates will be kept, therefore it is definitely worth watching. If their struggles continue, the Dolphins will be active on the waiver wire.
5) Pat Devlin, QB
Tannehill and Moore are expected to get the day off meaning that Devlin will see considerable playing time. Similar to the receivers he will be throwing to, Devlin is also fighting for a roster spot and could use an impressive performance to help state his case. Miami will have to decide if its worth keeping a third quarterback or if they are better off retaining depth at a position of need.