The Miami Dolphins officially kicked off the 2022-23 NFL season Saturday with their first preseason game, but all their biggest stars are still waiting to make their debuts.
The long list of players not expected to play in the Dolphins’ preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was headlined by Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, meaning Miami fans will have to wait a little bit longer to get a real glimpse of Mike McDaniel’s revamped offense.
Tight end Mike Gesicki and offensive linemen Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt — the Dolphins’ three returning starters on the offensive line — were the only projected offensive starters set to play Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. Running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert — the Dolphins’ top two running backs — were both not expected to play, and neither were tight end Adam Shaheen, offensive lineman Connor Williams, tackles Terron Armstead and Greg Little, or fullbacks Alec Ingold and John Lovett.
Gesicki’s spot in the lineup, while so many of his top offensive teammates are out of it, continues a curious preseason for the receiver. Gesicki, who is playing for $10.9 million on a franchise tag this season, has seen a seemingly diminished role throughout training camp after he finished second on the team with 780 receiving yards last year. He and those three linemen, along with Tagovailoa and Waddle, are the most high-profile holdovers from the last regime, still trying to prove themselves to a new coach this preseason.
“It’s an extension of practice to a degree,” McDaniel said of his decisions about who to play in preseason games. “There are elements of it that feel a little game-like, but really you’re just trying to make sure that you’re your best self before the regular season begins, so whatever that takes to get there I think that’s something that’s important for the head coach to ultimately decide, but to utilize all of his resources and all the information there to see how to best do that as it relates to preseason games.”
Although Tagovailoa was not slated to play this weekend, McDaniel said he’d be “surprised” if the quarterback doesn’t play at some point in one of the three preseason games.
Offensive lineman Michael Deiter, who started eight games last year before a season-ending foot injury, got the starting nod at center with Williams sitting out. Tackle Larnel Coleman, who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve last year, started at left tackle with Armstead sitting. Running backs Myles Gaskin and Sony Michel, a graduate of American Heritage School in Plantation fighting for a roster spot, were also in good position to make a strong impression with Edmonds and Mostert out.
On defense, star cornerback Xavien Howard was not expected to play and neither were safety Jevon Holland, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, cornerback Kader Kohou, safety Sheldrick Redwine, defensive tackles Zach Sieler and Christian Wilkins, or linebackers Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker.
The only projected defensive starters set to play were defensive end Jaelan Phillips, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, cornerback Nik Needham and safety Brandon Jones. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, a top reserve, was also expected to play.
Lovett, Kohou and Redwine were all recently sidelined with unspecified injuries. Shaheen was part of a trade earlier this week, but was returned to Miami after he failed his physical with the Houston Texans.
The Dolphins’ defense didn’t get a full test from the Buccaneers’ offense, either: Superstar quarterback Tom Brady remains away from the team for personal reasons.
Dolphins start rookie Skylar Thompson
Although Teddy Bridgewater was available, Miami started fellow quarterback Skylar Thompson and expected to give the rookie nearly all — if not all — the snaps in his NFL debut.
Thompson, who was a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is listed as the third-string quarterback on the depth chart, but Bridgewater, the likely backup, is an eighth-year veteran with 63 starts on his resume and little to prove in a reserve role.
Thompson had a good week in Tampa, too. The 25-year-old saw extensive action in the Dolphins’ joint practice with Tampa Bay on Thursday and threw multiple touchdowns.
Williams carted off with injury
Miami’s already thin cornerback depth may have taken another hit Saturday.
Trill Williams, who’s competing to be the Dolphins’ No. 4 cornerback, went down with an apparent left knee injury in the fourth quarter of Miami’s preseason opener and did not return after being carted back into the locker room.
After the game, Williams was seen using crutches. Coach Mike McDaniel said “there was some concern” about Williams, although he didn’t delve into specifics about the injury.
Cornerback Tino Ellis also went down with an apparent left knee injury and the third quarter and did not return, either.