The Falcons and Dolphins find themselves facing off in the preseason's third game tonight, the game typically targeted for starters to get the majority of their playing time before the regular season begins. It's considered a dress rehearsal and head coach Mike Smith has said the starters will play into the second half. There is a game plan in place for Miami and much of it will revolve around stopping rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Reggie Bush on offense and stopping a tough Miami front line on defense.
Dolphins LB Cameron Wake vs. Falcons OT Sam Baker
Wake is easily the Dolphins best pass rusher and will likely line up against Sam Baker most of the night. Baker says he's 100 percent healthy this year for the first time in a long time and his health is particularly crucial to the protection of QB Matt Ryan and the overall success of the Falcons offensive line. If Baker can hold up the left side of the line, the remainder of the O-line looks solid. Wake has 28 sacks in the past three seasons and will look to terrorize Ryan with his pass rush all night long.
Dolphins OT Jake Long vs. Falcons DEs John Abraham and Ray Edwards
Most Falcons fan will remember Abraham running through Long, one of the best left tackles in football, in 2009 to sack Dolphins QB Chad Pennington. Long will be charged with protecting the Dolphins investment in first-round QB Ryan Tannehill on Friday and Abraham and defensive end mate Ray Edwards hope to make Tannehill's first start a miserable one. Edwards and Abraham will rotate ends on the line so they'll both face off against Long. So far this preseason Edwards appears healthy and ready to bounce back from a less-than-stellar 2011 season. Abraham is still one of the best and he's shown some of his best pass-rushing moments against rookie QBs.
Falcons interior O-line vs. Dolphins DT Paul Soliali
The Falcons haven't run the ball a lot this preseason, choosing to work on different aspects of the passing game. With a game plan in place and the benefit of the starters playing for a while, the Falcons may choose to unveil a more balanced attack on offense against Miami. Soliali is one of the best run-stopping DTs in the NFL and the interior of the Falcons offensive line will need to generate a significant push against him to get RBs like Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers going. Starting guards Justin Blalock and Garrett Reynolds will work with centers Todd McClure and Joe Hawley to keep Soliali occupied and out of the rushing lanes. Rookie RG Peter Konz could get some work against Soliali as well.
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush vs. Falcons LBs
Reggie Bush reached 1,000 rushing yards last season for the first time in his career. While he's not a traditional running back capable of carrying the run game on his own, he's dangerous with the carries he does get. Stronger as a between-the-tackles runner than he's ever been, Bush is also dangerous as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Atlanta's starting linebackers Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas will be the primary players to stop Bush. Weatherspoon and Nicholas are very familiar with Bush dating back to his days with division-rival New Orleans. They're both athletic outside linebackers and will relish the chance to fly all over the field to keep Bush from doing the same.