As the Miami Dolphins prepare to face off against the Chicago Bears for their first real game action of the year, there are plenty of players to keep an eye on. But considering the circumstances, there are a few players who deserve more attention than others. Here are five of those players.
1. Larnel Coleman – OT
Larnel Coleman is intriguing for a few reasons. First and foremost, the Miami Dolphins offensive line is – once again – in flux. Liam Eichenberg did not immediately take to right tackle like so many hoped. His left guard ambitions did not go much better. However, in limited snaps in practice, Coleman has shown a certain level of promise. Against the Chicago Bears, Coleman will have a big test ahead of him.
As a 7th round pick, Coleman is undoubtedly a project. But he has talent and he’s already shown he can hold his own against his teammates. Raw speed seems to be a weakness of his, as evidenced by Vince Biegel figuring him out in practice last week. If Coleman develops quickly, Miami may dodge a bullet if Eichenberg doesn’t catch on first. All due respect to veteran Jesse Davis, a long term starter he is not. Miami needs an upgrade.
2. Noah Igbinoghene – CB
To say that Noah Igbinoghene has been disappointing so far in practice would be an understatement. Even the coaching staff briefly demoted him to third string due to his struggles in practice. In one practice he was beaten not once, but twice on deep passes to Isaiah Ford. That is not a ringing endorsement for the 1st round pick out of Auburn. However, once again, patience is required for Igbinoghene.
Have to keep certain things in mind w/ Noah Igbinoghene. He played 12 games total at corner in his Auburn career.
Xavien Howard played DB all 3 years at Baylor. Was not a great rookie.
Jeffrey Okudah played DB all 3 years at Ohio State. Not a great rookie.
Huge learning curve.
— Luis D. Sung (@LuisDSung) August 4, 2021
He’s a physical freak, a one of a kind athlete. But his experience at corner is so limited compared to other players in his draft class, it’s no surprise he’s a step or two behind. Will Miami get to reap the benefits of his drafting? That remains to be seen. Fortunately, the Dolphins worked things out with Xavien Howard, so Igbinoghene’s bought at least one more season to train as an NFL cornerback.
3. Brennan Scarlett – LB
When Jaelen Phillips went down with an injury, the first player to make an instant impact was none other than Brennan Scarlett. The veteran linebacker went undrafted in 2016 and signed with the Houston Texans, only to land on injured reserve over and over again with various injuries. It’s clear that his career has been derailed by these injuries. Ever since training camp opened, Scarlett has made plays against the first team offense and is a regular contributor on the special teams unit.
So why look at Scarlett instead of rookie Jaelen Phillips? Well, if Phillips plays, then by all means, watch him too. After all, he returned to practice during the joint sessions with the Bears and was immediately placed with the first team. But Scarlett has been given more time to stand out than Phillips, and he’s taken advantage of that time. If Scarlett performs, that could give Phillips more time to heal and develop. No need to rush things along if someone can provide an instant impact already.
4. Gerrid Doaks – RB
If it feels like the choices are a little obscure, there is a reason for that. Remember, preseason is essentially an extended tryout. There’s no question that Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed are the favorites to make the roster as the team’s running back stable. But the Miami Dolphins opted to draft Gerrid Doaks with their final draft pick in 2021, so they must have felt he was worth something to not let him test the market.
Doaks hasn’t necessarily stood out. If he had, he would have pushed for more playing time with the starting unit. But the rotation at running back in practice is so fluid that literally everyone has gotten a chance to take handoffs from Tua Tagovailoa at this point. Doaks will likely receive a lot of snaps, since Gaskin is the clear starter. Brown and Ahmed both suffered injuries in practice recently, and are also expected to make the team anyway.
So keeping the reality of preseason in mind, Doaks will receive more of a chance to stand out than anyone else as the game drags on. His main niche is as a power back, and has a reputation for being a good blocker out of the backfield. Everyone knows how much Miami loves running backs that can block. Doaks has a chance to make his presence felt against the Chicago Bears.
5. Tua Tagovailoa – QB
The one that everyone’s been waiting for. The time has come to finally see Tua Tagovailoa throw the football against an NFL team that isn’t his own. So why, with all the hype surrounding him, is he so low on this list? Simply put, he likely won’t be in for very long. This is not the dress rehearsal. There may not even be a dress rehearsal with the way the NFL has changed the structure of preseason. He’ll get in a few drives, maybe even play a quarter. But it’s unlikely he stays any longer than that before Jacoby Brissett and Reid Sinnett take over from there.
Make no mistake, as with any NFL team, the season hinges on the performance of the quarterback. Tagovailoa seems to have taken a huge step forward so far, so if he can follow up his camp performance with an amazing showing in limited time against Chicago, then Miami Dolphins fans everywhere have a massive reason to be excited for the upcoming season.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung