The Dolphins tonight celebrate their most important preseason game of 2010 and already they have good news on the horizon: The team will soon announce that it has surpassed the 50,000 season-ticket mark for the first time in the Bill Parcells era and the first time since 2007.
Although the club has not yet made it official, I'm told by several sources there is a sense of pride at the fact the local fans have seen fit to invest in season-tickets at a rate not seen in several years despite the tough economic times that plagues the nation and South Florida.
There is much work to do, however, for the Dolphins business side. While there has been a steady increase in the sale of tickets since they fell off the table following Nick Saban's departure, 50,000 to ,51,000 is not the goal. The club would like to be closer to 2006 levels and be in the 60,000s season tickets sold.
One supposes the success the team will have this year will go far toward determining that.
To that end, I present to you tonight's game.
Things to look for:
The secondary: Um, they've been pretty bad this preseason and now they're facing the best quarterback (Matt Ryan) they've seen so far and for a much longer period of time. The expectation is the Ryan will go at least one half tonight as will Miami's starting DBs.
[Update: Jason Allen is slated to start ahead of Sean Smith at RCB. Smith has been on notice all preseason that his job is at stake. Count this another strongly worded message that he needs to pull up and play better or he'll find himself coming off the bench when the season begins.]
To blitz or not to blitz: I've shared with you what the Dolphins' defense is going to be this year in previous posts. Attacking is the operative word. But this preseason the Dolphins have shown no blitzes with their first-team defense. Do they unwrap some of that package tonight? I do not know. But I'll be watching with interest to see how effetive Koa Misi and Jared Odrick can be when three or four of their teammates are also trying to bust down the offensive line wall along with them.
No injuries, please: That is a key goal. The coaching staff hasn't babied this team, but it has been cautious to avoid the physical, emotional, and psychological distress that a season-ending or other signifcant injury can have upon a team. Today the St. Louis Rams are sick at the loss of receiver Donnie Avery for the season. Teams that come out the third preseason game relatively healthy usually go into the regular season that way because the final preseason game is usually a passing excersize on the field. If Miami can escape this contest unscathed, that will bode wll for the opener.
Last minute news: Will Allen and Nate Garner are the only scratches for the Dolphins. That is interesting because it suggests Channing Crowder is dressed ... but he will not start. Tim Dobbins is starting for Crowder tonight. Jake Grove is starting at center.
So meet me at kickoff in the comments section for the live blog. It should be a hoot.