Falcons, Dolphins lead off tonight

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A look at Thursday night's preseason matchups (all times EDT):

Atlanta vs. Miami at Orlando, Florida, 8 p.m.

No NFL games have been played in the Citrus Bowl in nearly two decades. But with the Pro Bowl scheduled there in late January, the Dolphins moved this one from South Florida to the central part of the Sunshine State and the newly renovated Camping World Stadium.

The City of Orlando and Orange County put $207 million into updating the aging stadium in hopes of being able to lure NFL action back to Orlando. It's the first time since 1997 the NFL has played a preseason game in Orlando.

"It's a very strong tie to the Pro Bowl," said Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events. "It provides us an opportunity to test the game presentation, the game operations and the stadium operations in the tremendously renovated Camping World Stadium."

Moving the game from Miami allows the Dolphins another week to prepare their stadium, which is in the final phase of a $500 million renovation that includes a canopy. The first game there will now be the preseason finale Sept. 1.

The Falcons' substitution plan may not follow the usual flow for the third week of preseasons, which are considered the most important for starters. Coach Dan Quinn is still hoping to give full quarters to backups competing for spots at wide receiver, running back, offensive guard, and linebacker, among other spots.

"I wish there were more quarters to play, because we want to take a look at a number of guys," Quinn said.

Expect such established starters as quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman to see less time than others, as Quinn plans to substitute individuals instead of full units.

Backup running back Terron Ward will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury, opening the way for Cyrus Gray, Brandon Wilds and Gus Johnson to make gains in bids for a roster spot.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said it will be a game-time decision whether four-time Pro Bowl DE Cameron Wake plays for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon last season.

Wake was asked if he thinks he needs the work Thursday.

"I always need work," he said. "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. Then you need to retire."

Also coming off Achilles tendon surgery is veteran RB Arian Foster, who carried twice for minus-5 yards last week.

"We didn't have much to evaluate," Gase said. "The couple of carries that he had, there wasn't much there. He tried to create a couple things on his own. Hopefully we can get him going a little bit this week. Obviously I don't want to overdo it with him, but I'm pretty sure his resume speaks for itself."

Gase wants to see better tackling from his defense and special teamers.

"It's a race to see who becomes the best tackling teams in football as you go throughout the season, because the only live work you really get nowadays are in games. Unless we want to start doing live out here and taking a chance of somebody getting hurt in practice, I mean it's really not something that's going to happen. We have to make sure we're great on technique. We have to get tight to them. We got to run our feet. Those are some things that we have to do a better job of."

First-round draft pick Laremy Tunsil will likely start and get a lot of work at left guard. Second-year CB Tony Lippett, who is trying to secure a starting job, will also get a long look.

Backup QB Matt Moore is out with a concussion, which may mean lots of playing time for rookie Brandon Doughty.

Dallas at Seattle, 10 p.m.

Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott is expected to make his preseason debut and get quite the initial test against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Most of the attention will be on Elliott and another rookie, promising young quarterback Dak Prescott. While Elliott is the presumed starter at running back in Dallas, he has veteran help in Alfred Morris, who is having a strong preseason. Prescott could wind up as Tony Romo's backup for the regular season.

The Cowboys will be minus wide receiver Dez Bryant due to a concussion suffered in practice.

Seattle's focus will be on the offensive line and trying to settle on a group of five up front heading into the season. Game 3 of the preseason schedule always is the most significant dress rehearsal for the real stuff.

So the Cowboys game will also be the most extensive playing time of the preseason for Russell Wilson.

However, the Seahawks will hold out running back Thomas Rawls for another week as he recovers from last year's broken ankle.


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