Five key storylines ahead of Dolphins and Falcons preseason showdown

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The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons will be squaring off this evening at Hard Rock Stadium, looking to gain further clarity on their respective rosters ahead of the next round of roster cuts. Miami and Atlanta must part with 5 more names off of their respective rosters before Tuesday afternoon — making this contest a high-stakes affair for fringe roster players.

But there may also be a chance to gather intel on potential starters, too. Miami hasn’t ruled out playing their starters for a significant portion of tonight’s contest after seeing the first unit take approximately one quarter of play versus the Bears.

Here are 5 key storylines for the Dolphins ahead of today’s game with the Falcons.

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle OT Liam Eichenberg, 74, pratices during OTA’s at training facility in Davie, Florida on May 26, 2021.

Is Liam Eichenberg taking snaps at left guard, right tackle (or both)?

Eichenberg started training camp at right tackle, only to be pushed over to the interior left guard spot as the team looked to find their “best five” up front. A shoulder injury against Chicago in joint practices kept Eichenberg out of the action last Saturday and elevated Solomon Kindley back into the top spot at guard — and now Eichenberg feels like he’s in between. Will he get a continued look at left guard or is he destined to be pushed back outside to right tackle, where he’ll face competition from veteran Jesse Davis?

Miami’s plan for tonight against Atlanta might provide some clues.

October 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Elandon Roberts (44) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We won’t see either of Dolphins’ recent activations off of the PUP list, right?

The Dolphins activated both wide receiver Preston Williams and linebacker Elandon Roberts off of the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List earlier this week. Roberts is returning from a knee injury, Williams from a foot. Both injuries were suffered last season and apparently both players are ready to start ramping up the intensity for another go in 2021.

Miami has intriguing depth at both positions, even amid the wave of injuries to hit the wide receiver room. So despite the return of both players, they’re still very new to 2021 activities and we’d expect we will not see them tonight versus Atlanta. Expect Miami to take their time weaning both into contact.

Sep 26, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange defensive back Trill Williams (6) against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

How big of an opportunity will UDFA DB Trill Williams get in his bid to make the active roster?

Williams certainly made some noise with his viral rep against the Bears — he redefined press coverage with his physicality against Chicago. And things are trending well for Williams beyond that, too. There was one point this past week at practice where Williams got some runs with mostly 1st-team defenders in a simulated setting against Atlanta in joint practices. The pathway to making Miami’s roster as a UDFA defensive back is imposing to say the least. But Williams feels like he has a legitimate chance.

He’ll need another strong preseason performance to get it — and our only question for tonight is how early will he get into the game?

Aug 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Will Tua Tagovailoa correct his red zone mistake?

Tua Tagovailoa was, for the first quarter of last weekend’s game against Chicago, about as good as you could have hoped for. And then came the interception in the red zone. Whether Tagovailoa got married to something he saw in the presnap or simply got cute with the ball, he was late working back to TE Adam Shaheen and got popped with an interception in the end zone.

There will be mistakes made. That’s fine. But can you avoid making the same mistake twice? That is the big question for everyone in Miami but especially for Tagovailoa. If the team gets down in the high red zone once again, let’s see how Tagovailoa handles the timing of his throws.

Aug 18, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Austin Jackson (73) and offensive tackle Robert Hunt (68) run drills during training camp at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Can left tackle Austin Jackson bounce back?

No Miami Dolphin played worse last weekend than Austin Jackson. The 2020 first round pick was overwhelmed in pass protection simply by not executing his fundamentals as a blocker. Too many plays ended with Jackson on the ground and Tagovailoa under pressure. And then Wednesday’s practice against Atlanta was reportedly just as bad before a rebound on Thursday against Atlanta in practice.

That’s great. Now bounce back in the game, too — or else the panic over Jackson at left tackle is going to reach new heights this upcoming week.