Hurricane Irma has us all on edge.
There are some things bigger than even the NFL. And the safety of the residents of South Florida is clearly one of them.
While we wait to see the exact track Irma takes, many Dolphins players, coaches and staff members have already landed in California to begin preparations for the Los Angeles Chargers. Here are seven Dolphins we can’t wait to see take the field at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., next weekend:
1) Jay Cutler – Cutler and coach Adam Gase felt they were ready for the season to open at home against the Tampa Bay Bucs. We suppose an extra week of studying and practice can’t hurt. Cutler has shown excellent arm strength and a willingness to take chances. How patient will he be when the lights are brighter? Cutler figures to see a fair share of 1-on-1 downfield opportunities against the Chargers.
2) DeVante Parker – Parker has been utterly dominant in organized team activities, training camp and the preseason. There is every reason to believe Parker will be Cutler’s favorite target. The Chargers have decent corners but nobody than should be able to beat Parker downfield 1-on-1. Parker led Miami with eight targets and 103 receiving yards at the Chargers last season. This season opener is an opportunity for Parker to set the tone for an entire season. Is he really ready to blossom into an NFL star?
3) Charles Harris – It was a quiet preseason for the rookie defensive end, after some impressive showings without pads. It may take some time for the underweight Harris to learn some of the savvy tricks that, for example, have allowed veteran Cam Wake to overcome his lack of size. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been under pressure pretty much most of the time, for years. After going the entire preseason with a sack, Harris should have a decent shot at his first career sack in his debut.
4) Lawrence Timmons – Timmons seems to have enough left in the tank to help Miami address some run defense shenanigans. Timmons plays tough and without fear and could also be a weapon for defensive coordinator Matt Burke on run and pass blitzes. The loss of rookie middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan for the season only amplifies the importance of Timmons, especially when facing a back as talented as Melvin Gordon. The Chargers turned it over a ton last season. And Miami has an emphasis on increased turnovers, something Timmons can impact.
5) Ja’Wuan James – Ja’Wuan, block Joey Bosa. James has been battling through a shoulder injury and as he manages the pain he hopes his performance against powerful speed rushers like Bosa (10.5 sacks as a rookie) is not diminished. The Chargers will bring Bosa and Melvin Ingram (one sack vs. Miami last season) from the edges, so how James and Laremy Tunsil handle those two will be critical. The Dolphins believe James has more to offer than he’s shown.
6) Jay Ajayi – Ajayi averaged 4.2 yards on 19 carries against the Chargers last season. The Dolphins want a more consistent overall rushing attack this season. Ajayi, who had an excellent camp, wants to be more involved in the passing game. Ajayi’ motivation would figure to be that three 200-yard rushing games last season were not a fluke. The presence of center Mike Pouncey in this game should be a big positive. Pouncey’s final game last season was against the Chargers.
7) Rey Maualuga – By the time Maualuga takes the field at Los Angeles, he will have had four weeks to prepare. If there was any question that Maualuga would be ready to play against Tampa, that concern should be alleviated by an extra week of conditioning. Expect Mike Hull and Rey Maualuga to split 30-40 reps at the start of the season. Miami is hoping Maualuga can provide a downhill, thumping presence and can be inserted into the game in those moments (they were all too common in 2016) when an opposing running back is trampling them behind a gashing offensive line.