by Chris Shashaty, Columnist

Click Here To Contact Chris


"; echo "Printer-Friendly Version"; echo "\n"; ?>

Share This Article:
Bookmark and Share Fan Shop  


Now the hard part begins.


After four weeks of practices, scrimmages, and preseason games, Tony Sparano has a pretty good handle on his players. So much so, in fact, that he has already trimmed the roster down to 70, well below the first cut down level of 75. In fact, getting from 70 down to 60 won’t be particularly hard; he could probably make those decisions now, but wants to look a bit longer to re-confirm his thinking.


Getting from 60 to 53? That will be a much tougher affair. Some good players are going to be looking for work, and some of the names we see on the cut list will be surprising.


“(It’s) probably not going to come till next week at some positions”, explained Sparano in reference to the number of players he will keep at each position.


“Every night I go home and lay my head on the pillow, it changes. I mean it really does. There are a few different scenarios right now in my head. We kind of have to see how it will play out."


What Sparano means by this is that there are some bubble players who still need to make their case. They are probably:

More than half won’t get past the Turk.


Meanwhile, Sparano and his staff are shifting increasing focus towards getting the active roster ready for the regular season. To that end, some pretty important questions need to be answered. Some of them are:


Sparano hopes that he can gain more clarity in the all-important third preseason game on Thursday at Tampa Bay (FOX, 8:00pm ET). The third game is usually the most important because the coaches come closest to formulating a regular season game plan; this tests the mental and physical abilities of the players against an opponent equally prepared. It also serves to improve timing and chemistry. This is why it’s a pretty good bet that whomever we see start this game will likely start the season opener.


Unfortunately for the Dolphins, it’s a short week (Thursday night game). This could hinder the extent of what the coaches can install, and the amount of information that can be gleaned towards solving some of the above questions.


“It’s a short week, so (the game planning is) going to be very, very minimal”, said Sparano. “But, to be honest with you, with this kind of turn-around, in-season, when you’re not dealing with training camp, you would prepare the week before. Here in training camp, because you’re dealing with another practice, another practice, another practice, that’s not the way you can handle that. So, the game planning part of this thing will be minimal.”


Sparano indicated that he will play his starting offense well into the third quarter. Back-up QB Chad Henne will get some reps with the starters before working with the reserves to finish off the game. Defensively, key starters like NT Jason Ferguson probably won’t go more than a half. On an individual basis, bubble players (listed above) will likely see extensive action.


While we still don’t know how good these Dolphins will be, what we’ve seen thus far is encouraging. Still, an awful lot of work remains to be done before this team will be ready to play a real game.


We’ve seen enough to know that the Dolphins will be able to run the ball pretty well. But were they successful in improving the explosiveness of the offense?


We’ve seen enough to know that the Dolphins appear to have improved the personnel in the secondary. But will it be good enough, soon enough for the defense to save games?


We’ve seen enough to know that problems from last year on special teams are yet to be solved. Is it too late to fix the coverage and return units?


Sparano and friends have about two weeks to make the right calls.