Miami Dolphins

Dolphins to face long-time tormentor as pivotal decisions loom. Will Frank Gore play?

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, left, rushes past Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills for a touchdown after intercepting a pass attempt in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 40-0. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, left, rushes past Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills for a touchdown after intercepting a pass attempt in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 40-0. (AP Photo/Gail Burton) AP

While the New England Patriots are the team the rest of the teams in the AFC and especially the East division is striving to overtake, another conference rival has been a nuisance to the Dolphins in recent years.

So as roster decisions loom as we approach the Sept. 1 cut down to 53 players deadline, Miami knows it will have to step up the intensity and physicality on Saturday night when the Baltimore Ravens arrive to play the Dolphins in the preseason game that will most resemble the feel of a regular season contest.

“We’re focusing on ourselves,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “If nobody realizes who we’re playing and the type of team we’re playing, then they don’t know the NFL. Guys are aware that they’ve played these guys enough times, even if they’ve come from a different team, that those guys have a reputation of being physical. Everybody knows they’ve got to bring it this week.”

While Gase says the team is keeping its focus internal, surely he and everyone else that remains on this year’s roster and coaching staff that endured the 40-0 drubbing the Ravens delivered the Dolphins in Baltimore on Oct. 26 last season, hasn’t forgotten that hideous performance.

The Ravens have defeated the Dolphins six of the past seven times they’ve played in the regular season and postseason going back to 2008, and beat Miami last year in the preseason as well.

Baltimore has also eliminated the Dolphins two of the past three times they’ve made the playoffs (2002, 2008).

With the Dolphins expected to play quarterback Ryan Tannehill and their first team offense and defense into the second half, the game can serve as an early measuring stick as well as a solid gauge to evaluate players still battling for starting spots.

“Yes, we’ve struggled against them the last couple of years, for whatever reason,” Gase said. “It’s hard for me to say this is exactly the one reason that’s happened. Every team in the league would really like to play well in the third preseason game. Well, there’s a lot of teams saying that and you know half of them are going to be angry and half of them are going to be like, ‘Alright, I feel good going into the season.’ I just never feel like you can be too high, be too low.”

So being the most realistic simulation of a game that counts, will veteran running back Frank Gore carry the ball for the first time this preseason?

205 Buccaneers v Dolphins DS.JPG
Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore #21 looks on during second quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday, August. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

At 35, Gore is entering his 14th season in the NFL and is on track to be the league’s oldest running back when he suits up in week 1.

While Gase hasn’t wanted to expose Gore to live action in preseason games yet, Gore has been hounding him to play Saturday. But Gase hasn’t indicated if that will be the case.

“He’s wearing me out right now about playing this week, but we’ll be smart with that,” Gase said. “That was a pretty severe hamstring [injury] he had. That was one of the longer ones that I’ve been around.”

OTHER STORYLINES

Aside from the ongoing position battle between Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux, Saturday’s game is another chance for the Dolphins’ struggling defensive tackles to prove they can be better that what’s been on display during the first two preseason contests.

Miami has allowed 5.1 yards per rush — ranked 31st in the NFL during the preseason — and this has to improve if the Dolphins are to have any success in stopping some of the high-powered offenses they will face this season.

With Kalen Ballage still in concussion protocol, the game is another chance for Senorise Perry to impress the Dolphins in the hopes they keep four running backs.

The same goes for receiver Isaiah Ford with Leonte Carrroo out with a groin injury should Miami feel inclined to keep six wideouts.

After Tannehill and the first teamers get their significant amount of work, the backup quarterback battle between David Fales and Brock Osweiler will likely continue. Osweiler is 20 of 34 for 151 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (69.6 passer rating) and Fales is 9 of 17 for 121 yards with no touchdowns and one interception (51.3 rating).

And what’s been a solid kicking battle between Jason Sanders and Greg Joseph will continue. Sanders is 5 of 6 with a long of 42 yards, but missed his lone attempt from beyond 50. Joseph is 2 for 2, connecting from 54 and 48 yards out.

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