Game provides teams one last look before final cuts

The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints will put Hurricane Andrew behind them and the preseason into perspective tonight at 8 when they meet at Memorial Stadium in a final tuneup for the regular season.

The Dolphins (3-1) are trying to win four games in the preseason for the first time since 1981, a year they went to the playoffs with an 11-4-1 record.


The Saints (2-1) are trying to expunge the memory of a 33-3 loss to the Houston Oilers on Saturday in New Orleans, a defeat that coach Jim Mora said "has to go down as the worst I've ever seen."

Miami leads the preseason series against the Saints, 8-3, including a 28-24 victory last year at Joe Robbie Stadium. The Dolphins won that game when Bryan Cox blocked a punt and Paul Lankford recovered it in the end zone.


What's at stake this time? Jobs.

With the regular season just 10 days away, this is the last chance for borderline rookies and veterans to impress before final roster cuts Monday.

In Miami, coach Don Shula's toughest cuts appear to be at wide receiver, running back and linebacker. Among the Dolphins veterans who may be fighting for jobs are defensive end Pat Swoopes, linebacker E.J. Junior, newly signed tight ends Orson Mobley and Chris Dressel and wide receiver Fred Banks.

Four of the Dolphins' top five draft picks have made the team, although the top pick, cornerback Troy Vincent, won't make the trip to Baltimore because of a hamstring strain. Outside linebacker Marco Coleman is probable despite a hip flexor injury. Defensive end Larry Webster, from Maryland, and linebacker Dwight Hollier also have been impressive in preseason.

Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino will play the first half before giving way to Doug Pederson. Neither of the team's two holdover backup quarterbacks, Scott Mitchell (broken finger) and Scott Secules (chest), will play, however, because of injuries. Wide receiver Mark Clayton (neck) will not play, either.

The Saints, meanwhile, face some tough decisions at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back. They also must resolve the status of kicker Morten Andersen, who has missed most of the preseason with tendinitis in his knee. His only field-goal attempt was good from 22 yards.

In Andersen's absence, free agent Cary Blanchard is 6-for-6, hitting twice from 48 yards. Mora must decide whether Andersen's knee is healthy enough to withstand the rigors of kicking. If not, Blanchard figures to win a job.

The Saints' secondary is another position Mora will watch closely. In the space of 72 hours this week, the Saints signed three holdout defensive backs: strong safety Brett Maxie, free safety Gene Atkins and cornerback Toi Cook. With no more practice runs left, Mora will want all three to play tonight.


The Saints will be playing short-handed at wide receiver, where three regulars -- Floyd Turner (hamstring), Quinn Early (knee) and Wesley Carroll (hip) -- are expected to be held out of action.

Mora will play his regulars, including quarterback Bobby Hebert, for at least a half. Fred McAfee is the starting tailback, although first-round draft choice Vaughn Dunbar is pressing him. At fullback, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward and Cedric Smith may make Buford Jordan expendable.