The early battle for top NFL team in Florida kicks off on Friday night as the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field in preseason action.
Under quarterback Ryan Tannehill the Dolphins improved their record by one game for a 7-9 mark and second place finish in the AFC East last year. Building on that success might prove difficult after losing leading rusher Reggie Bush via free agency.
However Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin will turn the starting tailback spot over to second-year player Lamar Miller. The Miami native actually led the team with 4.9 yards a carry last season, and in limited action totaled 250 rushing yards and one touchdown.
The rising Dolphins are also expecting a huge payoff in the $60 million contract they handed to new wide receiver Mike Wallace in the spring. The 27-year-old speedster spent the first four years of his career with Pittsburgh, totaling 4,042 yards and 32 touchdowns. He should step in and boost a Miami passing game that was ranked 26th in the league last year.
The Dolphins have had some time to mull over their 24-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in last week’s Hall of Fame game. Based off a report from the Miami Herald, Miami hopes to avoid the 17-0 hole they fell into against Dallas, and their two turnovers.
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Tannehill only threw five passes against Dallas, and most of the starters will barely see more playing time than they did against the Cowboys.
Jacksonville has far more to improve after a harrowing 2-14 season, but they did pick up a high first round pick in the process. In need of help across the board, they selected the most praised offensive lineman in Luke Joeckel to help make holes for Maurice Jones-Drew, and took safety Johnathan Cyprien with the first pick of the second round to shore up their 22nd ranked pass defense.
Jones-Drew still won’t get much time against Miami, but the addition of Joeckel should at least help him improve on his career-worst 414 rushing yards from last season.
Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert, coming off a forearm injury from late last season, hasn’t done much to protect his starting position. He might have to beat out veteran back-up Chad Henne throughout the preseason to keep his job.
The game kicks-off at 7:30 p.m. ET and a live online stream is available by subscription on the NFL’s official site here.
Jags fans can find their team on WTEV-TV, and Miami fans on WFOR-TV.
Betting Odds: Jacksonville is favored by 1.5 points.
Over/Under: 35.5 points
Prediction: Miami 20, Jacksonville 10