Dolphins rookies Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake will finally see game action Thursday

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The fourth preseason game often is a throwaway game for several key starters. However, two Miami Dolphins rookies are expected to get their first NFL action Thursday against the Tennessee Titans.

Miami second-round pick Xavien Howard and third-round pick Kenyan Drake will debut Thursday.

“We’re going to play them both,” head coach Adam Gase said after Sunday’s practice. “Really, right now, we’re going to go through the next couple days of practice just to see where they’re at and as far as a conditioning standpoint. They’re in good shape but obviously it’s not dynamic football shape right now. We’ll have a set amount of plays they can go.”

According to Gase, Howard is a little ahead of Drake in terms of football shape. Howard practiced all last week but didn’t play in the third preseason game.

Both rookies missed most of training camp due to injury. Howard had his knee scoped this summer and missed all of camp. Drake tweaked his hamstring early in camp and recently returned to practice.

This is a good game for the rookies to get playing time. The Dolphins are expected to sit many veterans in an effort to stay healthy for their regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks.

It’s a good opportunity for first-year players such as Howard, Drake and third-round pick Leonte Carroo to get quality game reps before the regular season. Howard, in particular, was pushing for a starting job in the spring before his knee injury and is expected to play a key role in the defense this season.

“He’s a spectacular player, a guy that can help us out tremendously this year,” Carroo said of Howard. “I feel like him being out, he got a chance to learn the game mentally and prepare himself that way. Now that he’s back, he looks back to normal to me.”

Notes from Sunday’s practice:

  • Starting tight end Jordan Cameron had one of his better practices of the summer. He caught a route down the seam for about 30 yards in team drills and followed up with a touchdown catch in the corner against safety Walt Aikens through solid coverage. Cameron has had issues with drops in the past two preseason games.

  • Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (ankle) was not present at practice but was working at the facility, according to Gase. The team was forced to move inside the bubble due to rain. Running back Isaiah Pead could miss a couple weeks with a hamstring injury.

  • Backup quarterback Matt Moore was seen at practice Sunday for the first time since suffering a concussion Aug. 19 against the Dallas Cowboys. Moore didn’t practice but could be on track for Week 1 of the regular season as he goes through league protocol.