Players Know Bubble May Burst On Thursday Night

Posted Aug 28, 2013

Saints game is last chance for some players before the final cutdown day.

If the next-to-last preseason game is considered the most important for starters, the finale can be downright crucial for players still fighting to secure their spot on the 53-man roster.

“This is the last chance to go out there on the field and just show the coaches what you can do, show the rest of the league what you can do, everybody,” said linebacker Jonathan Freeny. “It’s just important anytime you take the field, but especially this last time since it’s the last time you’ll be seen on the field before they make the final cut.”

That final cut, for the Dolphins and the other 31 teams around the NFL, must be made before Saturday at 6 p.m., Eastern time.

Between now and then, the Dolphins will take on the New Orleans Saints Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium in their fifth preseason game of the summer. Head Coach Joe Philbin told the media on Tuesday that plans had not yet been finalized in terms of player participation or playing time, but we can use last year’s preseason finale as a point of reference.

When the Dolphins faced the Dallas Cowboys in the last preseason game of 2012, seven of the offensive players who would start the regular season opener at Houston sat out. Nine of the defensive starters did play against Dallas, but their night of work was done after only nine snaps.

It meant a lot of playing time for young players, and it means the young players on this year’s team have reason to expect they’ll get their most extensive action of the preseason.

“I’m thankful for even being able to be here on Thursday,” said linebacker Lee Robinson, who signed with the Dolphins in February after playing last season in the Canadian Football League. “I’m going to have fun. I’m going to go out and do my best, prepare myself to my very best and just go out and play.

“Every one of (the preseason games), I was excited because it was another opportunity to get better, another opportunity to showcase what I have and then with five games, it worked out perfect. The more I get on the field, the better it is for me.”

For tight end Kyle Miller, the game represents an opportunity to try to make up for lost time.

He was inactive for the final six games of the 2012 regular season after being claimed off waivers from Indianapolis and had hoped to impress the coaches throughout the preseason. He scored a late touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game against Dallas, but on the play sustained an injury that kept him out of the games against Jacksonville and Houston.

While he’s excited about the prospect of getting more playing time, Miller says he also doesn’t over-emphasize the preseason finale.

“I just approach it the same,” Miller said. “If you don’t have the same sense of urgency in the first three that you do here, then you’re probably not going to be around very long anyway. … It’ll be nice to kind of know how much playing time we’re going to get going into it, get a little more than the last couple of games.”

There appears to be a fierce competition at wide receiver behind the three established veterans — Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson — and it’s not impossible that what happens Thursday night could play a role in determining who will earn the final roster spots at the position.

The five young wide receivers involved in that competition are Rishard Matthews, Brian Tyms, Chad Bumphis, and former University of Iowa teammates Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis.

“When you first start (a game),” Tyms said, “you’ve got the jitters, you’re in the tunnel and everybody is hyping and you’re like, whew, OK, this might be the last one, I gotta do this, I gotta do that. But once you get out there and get around your teammates and after that first play, you kind of just settle in and just go, just play ball. You revert back to what you’ve been taught to do.”

Davis, for his part, has a different perspective on the significance of preseason games.

“To me it’s not really the games that are important, it’s practicing and just coming out every day and trying to do my job as best I can,” Davis said. “I’m just going to control what I control and not really worry about it, just go out here and have fun and play football and whatever happens, happens.”

Whatever happens Thursday night, a lot of players’ lives will be affected by the decisions that are made on Saturday.

It can make for a nerve-racking week for anyone.

“When anything is about to change your life, it’s always tough,” said Robinson, who before playing in the CFL had stints with the Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals. “Within a day’s time, your whole life can change. It can get better or you can go into a whole other field. I’m pretty much used to it. I just prepare myself. Years ago I was panicked and nervous, went into the game all tight. Now I’m just going to play. My skill will speak for itself, (and) hopefully someone will love it.”

Said Freeny: “Yeah, I guess it’s a little nerve-racking, but you just go in with the peace of mind knowing that you did everything that you could and chips are going to fall where they’re going to fall. At the end of the day, you can’t really worry about it. You just do your best.”
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