Traditionally, the third preseason is considered the "dress rehearsal" for the season. Each team's starting lineups play for at least a half, perhaps more, as they attempt to work out the final kinks before games start counting. But this preseason, things are changing. Teams are forgoing tradition, instead choosing to sit several starters and treat this third preseason game as just another evaluation opportunity. The Miami Dolphins are no exception to this.
With several projected starters sitting, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil, the younger players have another opportunity to prove themselves. So here are the top three players (besides the quarterbacks) to keep a close eye on for this week.
Jaryd Jones-Smith, OT
The young offensive tackle got elevated on the unwritten depth chart (because the official one is undependable) and got to be the second team left tackle against the Buccaneers. At first glance, Jones-Smith struggled, but further analysis showed that other factors needed considering. He wasn't good, but he wasn't bad either. With Tunsil out, this could be a new chance to prove that he has what it takes to be an NFL left tackle.
The Jaguards have a strong pass rush and good depth, so he'll be challenged on Thursday. How he performs against Jacksonville could make or break his roster chances.
Preston Williams, WR
Here we are again, looking at Preston Williams. He's made so many lists this offseason, one would think he's a lock to make the roster. Maybe he is. Nevertheless, after he became an instant star, earning the nickname "the unicorn," he struggled against the Buccaneers in the second week of the preseason. Even if it was raining, three drops is not a good look.
He has a chance to bounce back after his less than ideal performance against Tampa Bay. If he takes it, he has a strong chance to unseat DeVante Parker (once again injured) from his roster spot. All he has to do is hang onto the ball when it's thrown to him.
Patrick Laird, RB
Not many saw this coming, but undrafted free agent Patrick Laird has come on strong in recent weeks. He made the top three list from last week's game, and should get a chance to move up the depth chart against Jacksonville. Brian Flores preaches execution above all else, and Laird executed to the highest degree in the second preseason week. Up until this point, Mark Walton and Myles Gaskin have been getting snaps ahead of Laird.
It's still possible the coaching staff forces Laird to work with the third team. But if he puts together another performance like he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the coaches will have to reconsider.