THE DOLPHINS DISCUSSION

The Dolphins Discussion offers our opinion on a pertinent topic involving the Dolphins. Today we look at the goals for Friday night's game at Jacksonville.

Preseason games don't mean much. That's no big secret.

But there are a couple of key issues for the Dolphins that will come into better focus following Friday night's game at Jacksonville.

First and foremost is the left tackle position. Most specifically, the question is whether rookie Wade Smith can be trusted to protect Jay Fiedler's blind side until Mark Dixon returns from ankle surgery.

Smith will be going up against Hugh Douglas on Friday night, and that should provide a good gauge as to where the rookie is in terms of his development.

If Smith can't handle Douglas, then the Dolphins have to seriously consider alternatives at the position, whether it be shuffling the players they already have or see if there's someone available who would represent an upgrade.

The Dolphins also want to see their entire first unit perform better than it did in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. That performance was brutal, both on offense and defense, and things need to get better.

Second-year player Seth McKinney will get some snaps at center with the first unit, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the assignment.

The feeling here is he'll do just fine. McKinney, in fact, just might be too good to keep out of the starting lineup.

Another area to watch is punter, where free agent Kevin Stemke has a shot at unseating veteran Mark Royals.

Stemke was very impressive against Tampa Bay; what he needs to show now is consistency.

As for Royals, it's still not been determined whether he will punt against the Jaguars, but it might not matter anyway. Having been around so long, it's not a matter of seeing what he does, but rather of thoroughly evaluating Stemke.


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