With the regular season now right in front of us, let’s take a look back at the 10 questions that were posed in this column about three weeks ago and how in each case they’ve been resolved.
1 - Will it be Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen?
It took us until the final night of the preseason to find out, the job going to Fitzpatrick after a summer long competition that often appeared very close. So Fitzpatrick gets to start for his eighth different team, an NFL record, and Rosen must wait for his chance, hoping to better refine his skills and his knowledge of the offense during this time. I fully expect Rosen to get his shot this season. For now, though, this is Fitzpatrick’s offense.
2 - Kalen Ballage or Kenyan Drake?
The answer is both. Drake has now recovered from a foot injury that sidelined him most of the preseason. Ballage had a strong summer. I imagine the starter on Sunday will depend on the offensive formation employed on that play. I expect Ballage to get the majority of the carries with Drake utilized more in open space. These are two talented players, each with a variety of skills.
3 - What kind of impact will this draft class have?
The answer: Big.
All six draft picks made the team and here’s what I expect from each of the six:
- Christian Wilkins: He’ll be starting at defensive tackle, but could shift around on the defensive line. Looks like a long-term keeper and a first round pick clearly worthy of that status.
- Michael Deiter: Will start at left guard and has been there since early in camp. He is still raw in many respects, but his overall talent was enough to earn him this early starting shot.
- Andrew Van Ginkel: Injuries have slowed his progress far too much this summer, and he still isn’t 100 percent. But when healthy, I expect to see Van Ginkel as an outside rusher in passing situations. He’ll also be a big contributor on special teams.
- Isaiah Prince: With the trade of Laremy Tunsil, Prince may get a long look before many of us had envisioned. He showed some good things in the preseason, but right now he’s more about providing depth.
- Chandler Cox: You can be sure there will be a package of offensive plays designed especially with this fullback in mind. Cox can help this offense both as a blocker and a receiver. He’s also solid on special teams.
- Myles Gaskin: Showed plenty of promise in the preseason, but he shouldn’t expect many carries with Ballage and Drake in front of him. Like some of the others, his ticket to playing time is on special teams.
4 - Will we see two rookie guards in the starting lineup?
Barring a last minute change, all signs indicate yes. Undrafted rookie Shaq Calhoun will be on the right side, Deiter on the left side. How long they stay there is completely up to them.
5 - Where’s the pass rush coming from?
Well, we have a better idea than we did a month ago, though with the recent roster movements this situation remains fluid. Keep in mind you should expect the pass rush to some degree predicated on blitzes from linebackers and defensive backs. Having said that, former No. 1 pick Charles Harris and undrafted rookie Jonathan Ledbetter should get plenty of opportunities. Would also keep an eye on defensive end Avery Moss, recently claimed off waivers.
6 - Will Albert Wilson be a factor right away?
We weren’t sure, but now we are. Wilson played in the fourth preseason game getting three touches in one series and certainly appears ready to go full throttle in the regular season. He remains the most dynamic player on this offense and I imagine he’ll get no less than a half dozen touches each game.
7 - Where are they going to play Minkah Fitzpatrick?
It appears as if he will be the No. 1 slot cornerback, but I expect this unique talent to play a variety of positions depending on the opponent and the circumstance. One thing’s for sure: He’ll be on the field an awful lot.
8 - Is Preston Williams going to remain the story of this summer?
As it turned out, he shared top billing with linebacker Sam Equavoen and Calhoun in the surprise department. But Williams clearly showed that he deserves to be on this team and he deserves to play. We’ll find out Sunday against Baltimore exactly what this staff has in mind for this physical 6-foot-5, 218-pound receiver.
9 - Will we get some clarity at tight end?
We have. Veterans Dwayne Allen and Clive Walford were never healthy enough to seriously challenge, so the tight end room now consists of the same three players as a season ago: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary. I’m especially interested to see how far Gesicki, a former No. 2 pick, takes his game in his second season.
10 - Who’s going to start at cornerback opposite Xavien Howard?
While nothing official has been announced, it sure looks like former Patriot Eric Rowe has won the job. Rowe had an excellent preseason. He has the trust of this coaching staff. But keep in mind this defense is built around playing multiple cornerbacks, in some situations the Dolphins using as many as four. That’s why depth here is so important.