Training camp and three preseason games are in the books. Next Tuesday, the 90-man roster will be trimmed to 75. Four days later, the Dolphins will be forced to make final cuts in order to establish the 53-man roster.
Plenty could still change between now and then, but the team is starting to take shape. With that said, it’s time for our final 53-man roster snapshot.
In recent news, tight end Dustin Keller went down for the season with a gruesome knee injury and potential starting cornerback Richard Marshall was released on Tuesday night. That means our latest snapshot has changed quite a bit from version 2.0.
Please note this post isn’t meant to be a prediction. We’ll save that for next week. Like the title suggests, it’s a current snapshot of how the team might look if cuts were made today. That way we can identify which players still must play their way onto the roster.
Quarterback (3): Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Pat Devlin
Cuts: Aaron Corp
Given Pat Devlin’s hand injury, the Dolphins should consider opening the season with only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Devlin has practice squad eligibility and isn’t as likely to be claimed if cut as he was before his injury. Keeping only two passers would also open up a roster spot elsewhere. But the Dolphins are as high on Devlin as the third-string quarterback and would be reluctant to expose him to the waiver wire.
Running Back (4): Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Jonas Gray
Daniel Thomas erased any doubt concerning his roster spot with some impressive running in Houston. He even received more reps with the starters on Tuesday’s practice than Lamar Miller. Meanwhile, Mike Gillislee is almost guaranteed a roster spot as a rookie fifth-round pick. The only question is: How highly do the Dolphins think of Jonas Gray? If they believe he can develop into a contributing short-yardage back, they should probably consider giving him a roster spot. After all, the Dolphins would be wise to invest in some insurance for a back like Daniel Thomas, who has a history of injuries.
Fullback/H-Back (1): Evan Rodriguez
Cuts: Jorvorskie Lane
Fullback Evan Rodriguez worked in with the tight ends during Tuesday’s practice. Certainly, the Dolphins could give him the opportunity to earn a roster spot there, but I still think his best chance of making the team is as a versatile fullback/H-back. Charles Clay moving to first-team tight end has paved the way for Rodriguez to beat out Jorvorskie Lane for a role in Mike Sherman’s offense. Of course, the Dolphins could bid farewell to the position all together and enter the season with not one true fullback on the roster. In said scenario, Charles Clay could always line up at fullback if the Dolphins needed one for a particular formation. But I get the feeling that the coaches are high on Rodriguez’s versatility.
Tight End (3): Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew
Cuts: Kyle Miller
Dustin Keller going to IR has essentially locked up Michael Egnew’s roster spot. Unless, of course, he’s clearly outplayed by Kyle Miller or a converted Evan Rodriguez during the final two preseason games. The Dolphins could always look elsewhere to find a tight end to potentially start or fill out the roster, but for now, they’re making do with what they have. I wouldn’t count Miller out, but as a former third-round pick and as a player who has made strides in his second season, Egnew is the favorite to be the third tight end.
Wide Receiver (6): Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews, Chad Bumphis, Marcus Thigpen
Cuts: Marvin McNutt, Kenny Stafford, Brian Tymes, Jeff Fuller, Julius Pruitt, Keenan Davis, Andrell Smith
The three starters and kick returner Marcus Thigpen are safe. That leaves one guaranteed opening at the position, with a good chance the Dolphins will consider keeping a sixth receiver. Rishard Matthews, who returned to the lineup last week, is the favorite to secure one of the spots. He has a reliable pair of hands and could develop into a nice fourth option for the Dolphins this season. But the fifth receiver spot, assuming Thigpen isn’t given a large role on offense and that Miami indeed employs six players at the position, is still up for grabs. Chad Bumphis has been the most impressive roster-bubble receiver during the preseason. Brian Tymes might have the most potential of the listed cuts, however. With Bumphis appearing to be more ready to contribute this season, though, rolling with him on the 53 and stashing Tymes on the practice squad seems to be the play at the moment. The waiver wire could entice the Dolphins to replace whoever wins the final spot, though.
Offensive Line (9): Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, John Jerry, Tyson Clabo, Dallas Thomas, Lance Louis, Nate Garner, Jeff Adams
Cuts: Josh Samuda, Will Yeatman, Andrew McDonald, Chandler Burden, Chris Barker, Sam Brenner, Jeff Braun
The Dolphins might consider keeping 10 offensive linemen, but doing so would handcuff how many players they could keep at other positions. Most surprisingly, I have Josh Samuda as a listed cut after starting on Saturday night in Houston. But frankly, he was awful at right guard and now must make the team as Mike Pouncey’s backup at center. Pouncey certainly needs a backup center, but versatile lineman Nate Garner will have the ability to play the position when he returns from injury. At left tackle, the Dolphins also must find a reliable backup for Jonathan Martin. Will Yeatman got a good long look there against the Texans, but was clearly outmatched on most plays. Jeff Adams has worked in front of Yeatman on the second team for the majority of camp and claims a spot here. The Dolphins will likely attempt to replace Adams with a waiver-wire claim, though, so his spot is far from safe even if he survives cuts.
Defensive Line (9): Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Jared Odrick, Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan, Kheeston Randall, Derrick Shelby, A.J. Francis
Cuts: Antwan Applewhite, Vaughn Martin, Tracy Robertson, Chris Burnette, Tristan Okpalaugo, Emeka Onyenekwu
Ideally, the Dolphins would only keep eight defensive linemen, but they would have to release a roster-worthy player in order to do so. Openings six through nine are up for grabs, but I like the work Kheeston Randall and Derrick Shelby have put in this preseason. Both likely claim spots, in my opinion. My final spot goes to A.J. Francis after a near-dominant effort against the Texans. The Dolphins signed Vaughn Martin during the offseason with the idea he’d provide the defensive tackle position with depth, but he’s been outplayed by Francis so far.
Linebackers (6): Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik, Josh Kaddu
Cuts: Austin Spitler, Jonathan Freeny, Michael Clay, Alonzo Highsmith, David Hinds, Lee Robinson, Nathan Williams
After the three starters, only rookie Jelani Jenkins is safe given draft status. But there hasn’t been one linebacker outside of the starters who has done anything consistently besides play poorly. I tend to believe Jason Trusnik will get a spot because of his ability to be a standout on special teams. But the final opening at the position has become a crapshoot. Austin Spitler has the most experience, but his play has always been mediocre. Jonathan Freeny, David Hinds and Lee Robinson have all flashed on a play or two, which doesn’t seem like much but could be enough on a corps that has left something to be desired this preseason. For now, I’m giving the final spot to Josh Kaddu on potential. But the final one or two players to make the team at the position will certainly be vulnerable to a waiver wire claim by the Dolphins.
Cornerback (5): Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor, Nolan Carroll
Cuts: R.J. Stanford, De’Andre Presley, Julian Posey
The release of Richard Marshall clears up any mystery at the position. Well, it’s still uncertain who starts at nickel corner, but which players make the team has likely already been decided. The two starters — Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson — aren’t going anywhere and neither are rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor. Nolan Carroll isn’t good enough to be considered a lock, but he contributes on special teams and has enough experience to suggest it would be a surprise if he were let go.
Safety (4): Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Kelcie McCray
Cuts: Don Jones, Jordan Kovacs, Keelan Johnson
Before Richard Marshall’s termination, the Dolphins were expected to keep six cornerbacks. Keeping six cornerbacks would have likely limited the team’s safety openings to three. Now that employing only five corners is probable, I could easily see the Dolphins going into the season with two backup safeties. Jimmy Wilson has made more dumb penalties than plays this preseason, but he’s a versatile defensive back and a key contributor on special teams. He’s the third safety for now. The fourth spot would likely go to Kelcie McCray. McCray works with the second team but hasn’t done anything to validate that spot in three exhibitions. The door is still open for seventh-round pick Don Jones to make a big play in order to re-enter the discussion.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Caleb Sturgis K, Brandon Fields P, John Denney LS
There’s no longer any doubt pertaining to the one available roster spot at kicker. Dan Carpenter, who was with the Dolphins for five seasons, is out and rookie Caleb Sturgis is in. Sturgis has impressed in the preseason, but can he keep booming long, accurate kicks when the pressure is amplified in real games?
THE ROSTER BUBBLE
Last five on: Josh Kaddu, A.J. Francis, Jeff Adams, Kelcie McCray, Chad Bumphis
First five off: Josh Samuda, Austin Spitler, Vaughn Martin, Jonathan Freeny, Brian Tymes
Next five off: Kyle Miller, Antwan Applewhite, Don Jones, Will Yeatman, Jorvorskie Lane