Some people think the preseason begins Thursday night for the Miami Dolphins. That’s only partly true.
Prove-it season begins Thursday night for the Miami Dolphins. Let’s start calling it that because it’s time to start, you know, putting up or shutting up.
As we count down to actual NFL games being played, there is a deep divide between the Dolphins and some of their fans that are expecting a stark and unproductive season. There certainly is a disagreement between the Dolphins and the so-called experts and pundits that believe the Dolphins are about to embark on an apocalypse of failure and buffoonery.
The two camps in this divide are easy to identify because on the one hand you have all the people in the Dolphins building who are convinced things are going to be pretty good once the games begin.
And then there’s everyone outside the building not privy to the magic coach Brian Flores is cooking. Those outsiders are generally skeptical anything good beyond five or six wins will happen.
This obvious divide has the Dolphins a little peeved.
“They don’t respect us right now and we don’t care,” safety Bobby McCain said this week. “At the end of the day, we don’t care. We’re just going to come out here and keep working and take it one day at a time and one game at a time throughout the year.
“We’ll tally it up at the end of the year and at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what they are saying.”
Actually, the fact McCain is aware of “what they are saying” shows it does matter to the Dolphins. So they’re out to prove a point, which has made players eager for any and all chances to make doubters eat their words.
“As a team, I would just say just, honestly, just being hungry,” safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “I think a lot of people are counting us out. We had a lot of things going on and stuff like that. A lot of people are just saying whatever about us, and I think a lot of us are real hungry. A lot of us are winners on this team and just ready to show everybody that.”
The opportunity begins at 7:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons.
And this is about that time when you counter, that’s not when it begins. It begins the second week of September against the Baltimore Ravens in games that actually count.
That would normally be the case. But this year isn’t normal. This year is different.
This year, Miami veterans are already on notice that they shouldn’t think the preseason is about getting five series and waiting until the regular season. “I think everyone has to be ready to play for an extended period of time,” Flores said.
Flores has an unproven roster. He knows it. So he needs to see as much from his players as he can as early as he can and that means the preseason takes on added significance.
Again, prove-it season.
(A stipulation: No, left tackle Laremy Tunsil doesn’t need to prove he can play in the preseason. No, cornerback Xavien Howard doesn’t need to prove he can cover in the preseason. But just about everyone else on this roster including the quarterbacks have to show something this preseason to make a case they deserve to start, or to back up, or to play on special teams — in short, to make the team.)
It could be argued that’s what practice is for. Except some players haven’t exactly stood out in practice since training camp opened two weeks ago. So they have to show something in preseason. And soon.
There are many players who could seriously help their causes with good preseason outings starting Thursday night. Reserve quarterback Josh Rosen won’t be considered starting material until he plays better than Ryan Fitzpatrick in a game, including a preseason game.
Kalen Ballage, in his second season, could solidify his hold on the starting running back job with a good outing against a defense that is, you know, trying to actually tackle him.
Both these players are going to be on the team and are vying for maximum playing time. But others are trying to carve a spot on the roster that is currently uncertain.
That list of players includes quarterback Jake Rudock, tight end Dwayne Allen, cornerback Tyler Patmon, cornerback Torry McTyer, safety Maurice Smith, receiver Brice Butler and receiver Allen Hurns.
This group of players have, frankly, some problems they need to overcome to make the team.
Some, such as Allen, have battled an injury.
Some, such as Rudock, are in a tough numbers battle.
Some, such as Hurns and perhaps Butler, are more expensive than younger players who are already ahead of them on the depth chart.
All of them need to make more plays and turn more heads.
All of them need to understand prove-it season has begun.