Finally, Dolphins fans, your time has come. Tonight the Fins take the field at [stadium redacted] against Jacksonville to play some actual, live, bonecrushing football -- in front of cameras and everything! (We bet Marc Anthony has so many butterflies!)
Of course, the game doesn't count, unless you're trying to cement a place on the depth chart -- in which case we can only say "good luck walking when you're 45" and suggest you write your name on all your clothing now while you can remember it. But for the rest of us, it's a chance to play armchair talent evaluator and take a look at a few questions remaining from training camp.
1. How will Chad Henne do in game situations? The future/backup QB has struggled in the red zone especially during camp, but should get the majority of snaps tonight after Chad Pennington opens the game. He's not exactly pushing for the starting job, but coaches will want to see exactly how soon Henne's time might come. He'll need a solid performance to prove he's ready in case Pennington can't stay healthy.
2. Will Sean Smith prove he's the right choice to start at corner? The Fins' oversized third-round pick has surpassed presumed starter Eric Green and first-rounder Vontae Davis on the summer depth chart, but camp is one thing and games are another. Lining Smith up against 7-time Pro Bowler Torry Holt ought to indicate one way or another if Smith is really capable of taking over the spot opposite entrenched veteran Will Allen. In our dreams, the matchup looks like this.
3. How good is the offensive line? It's impossible to tell in camp how well the pricey big boys are doing, since Tony Sparano limits the physical contact and they rarely finish blocks -- but Jacksonville, with one of the more physical defensive lines in the league, will be a good measuring tool. Sparano has already stated the right guard spot is Shawn Murphy's to lose, but Donald Thomas returns tonight after 11 months off with injury. Thomas may not see as many snaps as he eases his way back into contact, but if Murphy struggles? Nothing's set in stone. The game is also the first chance to see freshly-swapped Jake Grove at center.
There's also a number of smaller questions: can rookie receiver Brian Hartline really fight his way through the chart to contribute? Can CFL star outside linebacker Cameron Wake make a difference in the NFL? Does Jason Taylor glow in the dark like an angel? How much improved are Ted Ginn's routes? Can DE Phillip Merling play well enough to make up for his lax practice habits? How red, exactly, can Tony Sparano get without exploding?
And, ultimately: does Miami have a chance at defending their AFC East title? We'll see, starting tonight.
Janie Campbell is wondering how J. Lo could stand to spend training camp on a yacht in Italy. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the Internet.