© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Open Regular Season Against Titans: What To Watch For

Alex Donno
September 06, 2018 - 10:01 am

After a long offseason, the Miami Dolphins will finally take the field on Sunday for a bonafide regular season football game. 

Miami opens at home, set to face the Tennessee Titans this Sunday at 1:00 from Hard Rock Stadium. 

For a team with low expectations, (Vegas only gives Miami an over-under of 6.5 wins) there are plenty of storylines for Phins fans to keep an eye on. 

Ryan Tannehill's return

It's been 21 months since Tannehill played in a regular season game. He's dealt with two injuries to his left knee, but has looked sharp and mobile throughout the preseason. 

"For me, I feel more ready for this year than I’ve ever felt before," Tannehill said. "It’s tough to say the excitement feels different. I feel more confident, I would say, in the guys that we have and the path that we’re on. Are we there yet? No. But the standards that we have established in training camp, throughout the offseason, how guys come to work each and every day pushing to get better, that’s what excites me more, I think more than I’ve ever been.”

Head coach Adam Gase thinks Tannehill's time away from football can actually benefit him on the field. Gase was asked why he's convinced that Tannehill will be a better quarterback now than he was in 2016. 

“Just the reps and the experience," noted Gase. "I know he said he missed last year but we went through the whole spring. We had a good amount of training camp practices. He’s stayed so engaged throughout that whole year, which is hard to do when you know you’re not going to play. I know everybody will say quarterbacks … Yes, it’s not as easy as you think. He really took last year and used it to his advantage and taking a step back and being able to watch everything, listen to everything and kind of see how guys react to certain things. And then also just listening constantly about when we’re talking about plays, concepts, progressions and why we’re doing things, he was able to really take it all in. Now it’s processing faster for him.”

Prior to his late-2016 injury, Tannehill was posting career highs in completion percentage (67.1%) and quarterback rating (93.5.) Can he pick up where he left off?

No DeVante Parker?

According to the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, the Dolphins will be without DeVante Parker for Sunday's opener. Parker has been nursing a broken finger since August 12th. 

While he's never missed more than three games in an NFL season, Parker's consistency has been affected by minor injuries throughout his career. As a former fourteenth overall draft pick (2015), his output has been especially frustrating for fans, who expected him to be in the upper echelon of NFL receivers by this point in his career. 

According to Salguero, it's unclear if Parker will be ready for Week 2. 

In the meantime, expect Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant to see an increased work-load during Parker's absence. 

New faces

A handful of Miami's rookies come in with high expectations.

At the top of that list is 11th overall pick Minkah Fitzpatrick - a two-time national champion, and Thorpe and Bedkarik award winner - at Alabama. His versatility will allow him to see plenty of playing time both at safety and slot corner. He's a proven playmaker, so it will be fun to see if his impact is felt immediately. 

Tight end Mike Gesicki, Miami's second round pick, has captured Phins fans' imagination. The Dolphins haven't had a real pass-catching threat at tight end since Charles Clay. Gesicki could fill that role, and likely offers a higher ceiling than Clay. 

Linebacker Jerome Baker fills a need at Miami's thinnest position from last season, and his rapport with former Ohio State teammate Raekwon McMillan should help both of them hit the ground running. McMillan is heading into his second year, but missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. Essentially, he and Baker are rookies together. 

And don't sleep on running back Kalen Ballage out of Arizona State, who flashed at times in the preseason. He'll be third on the pecking order at best, after Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore, but Adam Gase likes to use multiple backs in his system, so Ballage will get some chances to shine. 

One of Miami's most exciting additions this season could prove to be veteran pass-rusher Robert Quinn. The 28 year old defensive end has looked invigorated throughout the preseason, and should benefit from the respect that Cameron Wake gets on the other side of that D-Line. They make up one of the most exciting pass-rush tandems in the NFL this season. 

At wide receiver, former Patriot Danny Amendola should add stability in the slot. Hopefully, his winning mentality from New England will rub off on his teammates. Former Chief Albert Wilson brings incredible speed and playmaking potential. You'll see a lot of him this Sunday with DeVante Parker hurt. 

Tune in to Titans-Dolphins this Sunday, September 9th, on 560 WQAM. Our pregame coverage begins at 9:00am, with kickoff set for 1:00.