The Miami Dolphins trimmed their roster to 75 players on Tuesday afternoon. Doing so featured two minor surprise cuts, as many expected Lance Louis to be one of the nine or 10 offensive linemen to make the team and fullback Jorvorskie Lane played in all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2012.
Yesterday’s cuts were only the tip of the iceberg, however. 22 more will be let go between now and Saturday’s 6 p.m. final cut-down deadline. With that said, it’s finally time for my official 53-man roster prediction:
Quarterback (2): Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore
Cuts: Pat Devlin, Aaron Corp
The Dolphins gave Pat Devlin a whole half of action in the team’s fourth preseason game in hopes of allowing the former Delaware passer’s play to determine whether to keep two or three quarterbacks. Devlin did little to secure a spot, throwing an interception and failing to lead a touchdown drive. Miami would like a reliable third quarterback for insurance purposes, but there’s likely no winning a game in which your top two signal callers go down, anyway.
Running Back (4): Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Jonas Gray
Most will have Jonas Gray off their final roster projection. His fumble late in the fourth quarter last Saturday night certainly didn’t do him any favors. But backup running back Daniel Thomas isn’t the wrecking ball his size would indicate in short-yardage situations, and despite incessantly singing his praises, I believe the Dolphins realize this. If Gray can regain the coaching staff’s trust with hard running and ball security in the preseason finale, I think he could find a role as the short-yardage/goal-line back for this offense. He’ll need a strong performance against the Saints. This prediction is banking on it.
Fullback/H-Back (1): Evan Rodriguez
Whatever position Evan Rodriguez plays — fullback, H-back, or tight end — I think he makes the team. Rodriguez impressed catching passes out of the backfield in the latest exhibition, and could find a home in Miami if he can stay out of trouble off the field. And given the depleted tight end position, it would be wise to keep another capable body on the roster.
Tight End (3): Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew
Cuts: Kyle Miller
The Dolphins clearly lack experience, depth and talent at the tight end position, which means they could put in a claim for another when teams make final cuts on Saturday. But don’t expect the waiver wire to provide any fixes at the position. The tight ends that will become available this weekend, will be available for a reason, and outside of a trade, the Dolphins’ most capable options to replace Dustin Keller are likely listed above. Miami might consider keeping Kyle Miller as a fourth tight end, but probably haven’t seen enough from him outside of a fluky touchdown catch in the Hall of Fame Game.
Wide Receiver (6): Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews, Marvin McNutt, Marcus Thigpen
Cuts: Chad Bumphis, Brian Tymes, Keenan Davis
I was originally under the impression that Marvin McNutt’s suspect hands would keep him off the team. And that still could very well be the case. But after watching him get action with the first-team offense last Saturday night, it appears the Dolphins are high on his skill set. McNutt flashed the ability to play the slot and could help out in the red zone as a bigger target than Miami’s top three receivers. But it will still boil down to if the Dolphins can trust his hands. I would be surprised if Rishard Matthews was let go after contributing 151 receiving yards last season as a rookie. And I also have kick-return specialist Marcus Thigpen listed at receiver. He has lined up at tailback this preseason, but if he contributes on offense in 2013, my money is on him doing so out of the slot.
Offensive Line (9): Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, John Jerry, Tyson Clabo, Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner, Josh Samuda, Will Yeatman
Cuts: Jeff Adams, Andrew McDonald, Chris Barker, Sam Brenner
Cutting Lance Louis cleared up much of the mystery along the offensive line. Many had the Dolphins keeping 10 offensive linemen beforehand. Now, it’s almost certain they won’t keep more than nine. Of those linemen on the bubble, Nate Garner has too much versatility to part ways with. I would be shocked if the Dolphins cut him. Josh Samuda, meanwhile, struggled mightily attempting to fill in for John Jerry at right guard, but his primary responsibility will be backing up Mike Pouncey at center, where his ineptness as a pass protector will be less exposed. Finally, Will Yeatman makes it on as Jonathan Martin’s backup at left tackle. The Dolphins should scout the waiver wire for a more reliable option behind Martin, however.
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, Tristan Okpalaugo
Of the listed cuts, Antwan Applewhite and Vaughn Martin still have a good shot to make the team. The Dolphins could keep Applewhite as insurance for Dion Jordan’s shoulder injury and it’s uncertain how high the coaching staff is on undrafted rookie A.J. Francis, who would need to beat out Martin for the final roster spot at defensive tackle. But assuming Jordan is close to a return and that the Dolphins were as impressed with Francis’ preseason as I was, I like the listed nine to make the team. One darkhorse to monitor is Tristan Okpalaugo. The undrafted rookie out of Fresno State has produced three sacks this preseason.
Linebackers (7): Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny, Josh Kaddu
Cuts: Austin Spitler, Lee Robinson
It may surprise some to see seven linebackers make the cut, especially considering the corps has lacked depth this preseason. But I really don’t see the Dolphins giving up on a fourth-round pick in Jelani Jenkins this soon. And I think Jason Trusnik and Jonathan Freeny survive given their special-teams contributions. Josh Kaddu could be the odd man out, but the Dolphins seem to be high on his ability as a linebacker and potentially a pass rusher.
Cornerback (5): Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor, Nolan Carroll
Cuts: R.J. Stanford, De’Andre Presley, Julian Posey
Will Davis (ankle) and Nolan Carroll (back) sat out the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday morning. That currently gives the Dolphins three healthy corners with a fourth option in safety Jimmy Wilson, who covered the slot at yesterday’s workout. If either Davis or Carroll’s injury is serious, maybe the Dolphins keep a sixth cornerback. I’m guessing both injuries are relatively minor, however, and given Wilson’s versatility to play the nickel, I don’t foresee any surprises at the position.
Safety (4): Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Kelcie McCray
Cuts: Don Jones, Jordan Kovacs, Keelan Johnson
There’s nothing stopping the Dolphins from only keeping three safeties, but I think they stashed Kelcie McCray on injured reserve last season for a reason. While McCray hasn’t made many plays in exhibition action, he’s likely more reliable than the listed cuts. And I like the idea of keeping a second backup safety given Jimmy Wilson’s erratic nature and the possibility he’ll be asked to contribute at cornerback.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Caleb Sturgis K, Brandon Fields P, John Denney LS
Caleb Sturgis beat out Dan Carpenter for the starting kicker job, Brandon Fields is one of the best punters in the business and John Denney recently signed an extension that made him the highest paid long snapper in football. Nothing to see here.
THE ROSTER BUBBLE
Last five on: Kelcie McCray, Marvin McNutt, Jonas Gray, A.J. Francis, Josh Kaddu
First five off: Vaughn Martin, Pat Devlin, R.J. Stanford, Austin Spitler, Chad Bumphis
Next five off: Kyle Miller, Antwan Applewhite, Brian Tymes, Jeff Adams, Tristan Okpalaugo