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Falcons Vs. Dolphins, NFL Preseason: What Miami Expects To Learn

The Atlanta Falcons open their 2011 preseason schedule Aug. 12 against the Miami Dolphins in the Georgia Dome; please click here for Falcons vs. Dolphins TV and radio schedule.

We have a pretty decent handle on what the Falcons are looking for in their opener Friday evening, but what of their opponent? To get an idea of what the Dolphins hope to learn from Friday's contest, we checked The Phinsider.

Kevin Nogle explains how tonight's combatants are linked despite playing in different leagues: in 2008, the Dolphins used the first overall pick on Jake Long, who developed into an All-Pro left tackle. Atlanta, in turn, selected quarterback Matt Ryan, who's led his club to a 33-13 record as a starter and made his first Pro Bowl appearance last season. "I will never complain about the draft choice," Nogle writes, citing Long's brilliance at left tackle. "However [...] one can't help but wonder where this team would be if the 2008 draft had gone differently."

Of note: Long will not play against the Falcons due to a left leg injury; t team has placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Miami coach Tony Sparano doesn't expect too much excitement from Friday's game, writes Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post:

Because the NFL lockout wiped out the off-season program, Sparano needs the four pre-season games more than ever to evaluate young players and sort out the few position battles.

Volin says the Dolphins' core of youngsters, which includes a whopping 18 rookies, "will do most of the hitting" against Atlanta.

At the Dolphins' official website, Andy Kent writes Sparano will pay extra close attention to first-round pick Mike Pouncey, a center, as he battles "a speedy Atlanta defensive front."

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.