Dolphins vs. Jaguars: Five Things To Watch

Coach Tony Sparano repeated last week his belief that he always wants to win, even in the preseason, but in the bigger picture, that's not what's most important about Monday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Avoiding key injuries, as always, is the biggest goal, followed closely by starting to get some answers about certain players. Here are five things we'll be watching.

1. What do the Dolphins have in Pat White?

Few players have drawn as much attention this summer at the Dolphins' training facility in Davie as the rookie quarterback from West Virginia, whose performance in practice has been uneven at best.

The feeling after White was picked in the second round was that his NFL career would begin as a utility player who would be used in the Wildcat, as well as in other ways. In camp, though, White has been strictly a quarterback, and his inconsistency throwing the ball has been troublesome.

Dolphins fans no doubt are anxious to see the Wildcat with White taking the snap instead of Ronnie Brown, but anyone expecting that to happen in the first preseason is going to be disappointed.

In fact, the feeling is that it won't happen at all in the preseason and that the Dolphins will unveil the "Wild-Pat" at some point in the regular season.

Despite that, it will be interesting to see if White can have some success throwing the ball against the Jaguars.

Sparano hasn't specified his quarterback plans for the game, but we would expect White to come in late in the third quarter or in the fourth, and it would be nice to see him have some success so some of his struggles in practice could be more easily forgotten.

2. How close to being ready is Donald Thomas?

The surprise story of the 2008 training camp clearly is the Dolphins' best option at right guard — with all due respect to second-year player Shawn Murphy — but the Dolphins have been taking it slowly with him after he sustained a torn pectoral muscle in offseason workouts.

Sparano said late last week he was hoping to see Thomas in action against the Jaguars, although Murphy probably will get the start.

One gets the feeling Thomas also will see time with the first-team O-line if he plays, and that might be the end for Murphy with the first team. But if the Dolphins have any doubts about Thomas' readiness, they will sit him out.

3. Is this really Ted Ginn Jr.'s breakout season?

We have heard for quite a while about how Ginn is looking so much better this year in both his route running and his confidence and his hands, etc.

But the big issue with Ginn always has been his — how shall we put this? — lack of physicality, and that question can only be answered in game settings.

Now, Ginn probably won't play much against Jacksonville, but it would be nice to see him catch a couple of passes — preferably over the middle — so we can see a clear difference in his play.

4. Just how good can Cameron Wake be in the NFL?

The former CFL stud has shown some flashes at camp, particularly of late, but now comes the real test.

This is a guy for whom the Dolphins have high hopes, and he should get a lot of playing time against Jacksonville. While it would be nice to see him do a good job covering a Jaguars tight end or back out of the backfield, that's not why the Dolphins signed him.

What the Dolphins and their fans really want to see is Wake get after the quarterback and get a sack or two — or at the very least apply some pressure.

5. Can Vontae Davis and/or Sean Smith separate himself/themselves in the preseason?

Smith moved up to the first team after getting an interception in the Dolphins' intrasquad scrimmage, while Davis has had some issues in coverage — most notably when he got beat by fellow rookie Brian Hartline with a double move in the scrimmage.

But Davis' biggest asset is his strength and his physicality, and practice isn't the place where he gets much of a chance to show that. So the preseason really is his chance to shine, provided he doesn't get caught peeking into the backfield while he's in coverage.

As for Smith, his forte has been coverage and making plays on the ball, and he'll get his chance again. It also will help the evaluation process if he winds up lining up opposite former Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt a couple of times.

Veteran free agent pick-up Eric Green also is in the mix for the right to land the starting job opposite Will Allen, but it's the two rookies who provide great hope for the future at the position. Because of that, it would be great for the Dolphins if one or both of them could start the preseason on a high note against Jacksonville.


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