Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) is chased by Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Open Preseason Action Against Bucs

The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears kicked off the NFL preseason with the Hall of Fame Game, but the real action begins this Thursday. Thursday will feature 12 football games, including an in-state matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins.

This will be the 17th time since the 2000-2001 season that the two teams have faced off in the preseason. Tampa Bay has a 9-7 record against Miami during that span.

Although winning is somewhat important, there are some big storylines to lookout for in this matchup. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

How Much of Tannehill and Winston Will We See?

It has been less than a year since Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill had surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee. Tannehill is expected to play in his first NFL game since December 2016 when Miami takes on Tampa Bay.

From recent training camp footage, Tannehill still has a brace around his surgically repaired knee. According to Tannehill, the brace is there in order to prevent his knee from receiving too much contact:

While he does not appear to be hobbled by his recent injury, it remains to be seen how many snaps Tannehill will receive on Thursday. Head coach Adam Gase is also evaluating who will be his backup quarterback for this upcoming year, which may play a factor in how long he is out on the field.

On the other hand, Tampa Bay is in a unique situation with the looming suspension of quarterback Jameis Winston. In June, the former Heisman Trophy winner was suspended for three games to start the regular season.

Although Winston is eligible to play in the preseason, Buccaneers’ head coach Dirk Koetter has to decide how much he will play before he misses time. Koetter will also have to figure out the number of series he will allocate to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is expected to start during Winston’s absence.

Battle in the Trenches

One of Tampa Bay’s biggest offseason moves occurred when they traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in March. Pierre-Paul, who is a two-time Pro Bowl Selection, will join elite defensive tackle Gerald McCoy along the Buccaneers’ defensive line.

Here is footage of the two going through practice on Tuesday:

Despite the Dolphins losing Ndamukong Suh in free agency, the team revamped their defensive line with the addition of Robert Quinn. The former Los Angeles Ram has 62.5 sacks since entering the league in 2011. Opposite of Quinn is the durable Cameron Wake, who has only missed 12 games in his ten-year career.

On their offensive line, the Dolphins added four-time Pro Bowler Josh Sitton to go along with former first-round pick Laremy Tunsil. The group’s chemistry under new offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn will be another thing to pay attention to.

Details for the Game

The Buccaneers and Dolphins will play at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.

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