Game preview: What to look for

The Dolphins will go ahead and play their preseason finale Friday night against New Orleans, but don't expect a spirited effort because, as Jay Williams put it this week, the players might be more concerned about rushing back home to be with their families as Hurricane Frances bears down on South Florida. The last preseason game might be a time to decide the remaining starting battles, but we're not so sure.

The way we see it, Coach Dave Wannstedt probably has his mind made up when it comes to who the starters will be at quarterback, running back and free safety.

For the record, we think those will be A.J. Feeley, Travis Minor and Antuan Edwards, respectively. And it probably doesn't matter what Jay Fiedler, Sammy Morris or Arturo Freeman do against the Saints.

The same probably holds true for the offensive line, although if Damion McIntosh shines in his brief playing time, maybe it will make Wannstedt think about starting him in place of struggling Wade Smith at left tackle against Tennessee.

What this game really is about is avoiding injuries, and maybe taking a look at the positions where the final roster spots are up for grabs.

For example, the Dolphins' young linebackers are all fairly equally talented, and Wannstedt faces a tough decision.

The Dolphins normally keep six linebackers, but they have eight guys right now worthy of making the 53-man roster. Beyond the three starters, you have rookie draft picks Derrick Pope and Tony Bua, as well as Eddie Moore, Corey Jenkins and Brendon Ayabandejo.

The way the Dolphins have raved about Pope, he's on the team.

And it's difficult to envision the Dolphins already giving up on their top pick last year, so that means Moore probably makes it as well.

That leaves Bua, Jenkins and Ayanbadejo to battle for one or two spots, unless Wannstedt decides to keep eight linebackers with an eye on the special teams.

There also could be a battle for the fifth wide receiver spot between the likes of Sam Simmons, J.R. Tolver, Ronald Bellamy and newcomer Bryan Gilmore, although we're thinking Simmons is a pretty good bet to join Chambers, Booker, Freeman and Thompson on the final roster.

Could the Dolphins keep six wideouts? Not likely, but anything is possible.

The Dolphins also have a decision to make when it comes to the final offensive lineman (or linemen). The Dolphins kept eight last season, and seven right now are pretty much locks -- the five current starters, along with McIntosh and first-round pick Vernon Carey.

That leaves Greg Jerman, Billy Yates, Rex Hadnot and Brad Bedell battling for one or two spots.

The other battle appears to be for the fifth cornerback spot behind Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, Reggie Howard and rookie Will Poole, and the combatants are Korey Banks, Eric Joyce, Jimmy Wyrick and Todd Howard. Maybe a big play against the Saints tonight makes the difference. Who knows?

One thing is for certain: If you're looking to see the starters Friday night, tune in early because they won't be in there very long.


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