Are the Dolphins good?
They probably don’t know for sure.
But they should get a good idea Thursday night.
They’ll play the Eagles here in their third preseason game, capping a week of joint work in which the offenses on both sides outperformed the defenses.
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A glass half-full type would say that’s a good thing, because Jay Cutler is starting to get his groove back.
But a glass half-empty type would say, why in the heck were Eagles receivers constantly running free?
“It’s fun to compete against another team,” said Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, who was Cutler’s preferred target Tuesday. “It’s a little bit different because you never know how much they’re going to show being that we’re going to play them on Thursday, so I’m more excited about the game on Thursday and getting more reps and preparing ourselves for the first week of the season.”
The Dolphins starters are going to play a lot Thursday — maybe a full half, maybe more, maybe less.
And that’s a good thing, because they need it.
The defense’s warts were exposed by Carson Wentz.
And while the offense looked good in practice, it hasn’t in the first two exhibition games.
The first string has been on the field for exactly 12 snaps and has produced a whopping 5 yards of offense, while getting flagged three times for 25.
Cutler, who was still retired this time three weeks ago, is basically four months behind his teammates (and every other starting quarterback in the league). He’s tried to acclimate himself at warp speed, and Stills praised Cutler’s diligence in communicating with his receivers.
“Any time something happens, good or bad, he’ll come and talk to us,” Stills said. “Just having that open line of communication for us, that’s the biggest thing. That’s how we get on the same page and that’s how we pick up the slack that we missed out on from OTAs and the beginning of training camp.”
Cutler added: “I feel really comfortable with these guys. I think the situations like [the joint practices] are really good for me. The receivers, the [offensive] line, just knowing how we’re going to kind of react in game-type situations.”
Hopefully, he’ll have a second or two more to react now that he’ll have what looks to be his Week 1 offensive line in front of him.
Both center Mike Pouncey (hip) and tackle Ja’Wuan James (shoulder) are on track to start. And Jesse Davis seems to be Miami’s Plan C at left guard, with Ted Larsen (torn biceps) and Kraig Urbik (knee) both out for the foreseeable future.
Davis is this year’s out-of-nowhere success story. He spent part of last season on Miami’s practice squad, then really began impressing coaches back in the spring.
“I just wake up every day and try to do what I can do to help move the team forward,” Davis said. “I don’t think of it as, ‘Oh yes. It’s awesome.’ It’s a great opportunity. I hope I can hold onto it and really help this team out.”
For Pouncey, Thursday will be the realization of a dream that even he had doubts about coming true. He missed all but five games of the 2016 with recurring hip issues, and in his lowest moments, wondered if he’d play again.
He’ll play Thursday for the first time since November, and should be an immediate boon for Miami’s offense. Gase regularly calls him the best center in football. Will he have some rust? Probably. But Pouncey at 90 percent is still far better than anyone else Miami has on the interior.
“I feel great,” Pouncey said. “I feel really good. Better than what I expected at this point, obviously, because of the extent of the injury; but it feels great to be back out there playing football.”