Two teams with high expectations for this season square off in Florida on Saturday as the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers get their preseason schedule kicked off. Both franchises have been in the news a lot this offseason, and an interesting subplot to this game is the recent tampering charges the NFL has handed down against Miami for impermissibly trying to recruit Tom Brady over the course of the last three years.
New head coach Mike McDaniel will get a chance to get his prized weapons on the field next to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The third-year quarterback has been one of the most scrutinized and analyzed players in the NFL this season. This is the year that he will have to live up to his draft status coming out of the University of Alabama, or potentially make way for another option in Miami if he cannot play consistently sound football.
While all eyes will be on Tagovailoa any time he is out on the field this preseason, McDaniel’s playcalling has the ability to help his young quarterback succeed. As a key offensive assistant in San Francisco, his main focus was establishing an effective ground game. It will be interesting to see what Miami’s running back rotation is against Tampa Bay, and whether they use speedy wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill on sweeps in the backfield. Of interest will also be the performance of Miami’s revamped offensive line, which has not done a great job of providing Tagovailoa with time to throw in the last couple of years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even though it is natural to think that 45 year old quarterback Tom Brady might sit out of preseason, he will likely play against the Dolphins. There are very few players who are as competitive as the seven-time Super Bowl winning champion, and he likes to establish a rhythm with his teammates during live game action, even if it won’t count in the final standings.
Especially early on in the regular season, Brady will need to familiarize himself with a few new faces. Favored target Rob Gronkowski has said that he is retired from football, and star wide receiver Chris Godwin may not be ready to play once the regular season starts due to his recovery from an ACL tear suffered late last season.
As a result, look for veteran players like Julio Jones, Russell Gage and Kyle Rudolph to help fill the void. All three players have joined the team during the offseason, and will be looked upon to help Brady keep the passing attack on schedule. Since he has battled lingering hamstring issues in the past, it might not be surprising if the Bucs held Jones out of the action against Miami in order to keep him fresh. However, Gage and Rudolph likely figure to be in the mix for preseason snaps as they get on the same page with the future Hall of Famer under center.