I’m showing up a little late to the party here considering the Dolphins have already made their first cut, waiving tight end Dedrick Epps this evening. But that should come as no surprise.
The Dolphins have until tomorrow night at 6 p.m. to trim their roster to 53 players. But nothing is stopping them from announcing more cuts any minute, so let’s jump right in with this prediction while we still have time.
Quarterback: Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Kevin O’Connell
Cuts: Pat Devlin
The only way Kevin O’Connell doesn’t crack the 53 is if the Dolphins decide to keep two quarterbacks. We didn’t see much of O’Connell or Devlin this preseason, but O’Connell finally saw some action as the number three last night and has the experience edge over the rookie.
It’s a fairly safe bet Miami keeps three quarterbacks considering they saw Chad Pennington and Chad Henne go down with injuries in the same game last year.
Running back: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lex Hilliard, Larry Johnson
Cuts: Nic Grigsby
The Dolphins decided to keep our running backs a year ago and that’s when they had two reliable workhorses in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Now, with Reggie Bush’s health concerns and with Daniel Thomas being an unproven rookie, keeping four backs makes more sense than ever. Larry Johnson made the splash he needed to make against the Cowboys on a 22-yard touchdown run last night.
Fullback/ H-back: Charles Clay
Cuts: Lousaka Polite
This is probably more me saying what the Dolphins should do than predicting what they actually will do. I wouldn’t be shocked either way, but fullback is a dying breed and the Dolphins have two players on the roster in Lex Hilliard and Charles Clay that can play the position.
Wide receiver: Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore
Cuts: Phillip Livas, Patrick Carter, John Matthews, Julius Pruitt
If Marlon Moore is cut it will simply be a numbers game for the Dolphins. I don’t see him passing up Roberto Wallace to claim the fifth spot, but I do think he’s a better football player than any tight end not named Fasano. The Dolphins could get by keeping only two tight ends with Charles Clay’s versatility.
Tight end: Anthony Fasano, Jeron Mastrud
Cuts: Mickey Shuler, Brett Brackett
Jeron Mastrud’s 18-yard touchdown last night likely won him the number two tight end job. It was only one play, but that one play single handedly trumped anything the rest of the group did this preseason combined.
Even if Mastrud survives cuts and even if the Dolphins decide to keep three tight ends, only Fasano will truly be safe as I expect Jeff Ireland to scour the waiver wire for an upgrade. The Dolphins arguably have some of the worst tight end depth in the league so another team’s trash could be Miami’s treasure.
Offensive tackle: Jake Long, Marc Colombo, Lydon Murtha, Nate Garner, Ray Willis
Cuts: D.J. Jones
You rarely see five tackles kept on NFL rosters and the Dolphins have kept as few as three in the past. But you can’t really classify Nate Garner as a tackle exclusively, as he can easily fill in at guard or center if he’s called upon. And with Marc Colombo’s struggles this preseason, the Dolphins would be wise to keep a couple capable replacements around.
Ray Willis has missed most of the action this preseason due to the death of his father, but the fact that the Dolphins haven’t cut him yet is a nice endorsement. I think Lydon Murtha, Nate Garner, and Ray Willis all have the potential to eventually supplant Colombo if his shaky play continues.
Offensive guard: Richie Incognito, Vernon Carey, Ray Feinga
Cuts: John Jerry, Garrett Chisolm, Matt Kopa
Ray Feinga displayed some quality versatility last night, starting at left tackle and providing some decent protection for Matt Moore. It seems logical that he survives cuts considering how abysmal John Jerry’s play has been lately. Either way, though, the Dolphins could churn the third spot by claiming someone off the waiver wire.
Center: Mike Pouncey
Cuts: Joe Berger
I just don’t see the value in keeping Berger around to backup Pouncey when Richie Incognito and Nate Garner are both capable of sliding over and playing the position. It’s not like either one would be a falloff from Berger, who struggled significantly when he was giving the starting job this time last year.
Defensive ends: Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Tony McDaniel, Ryan Baker
Cuts: Phillip Merling, Rob Rose
This may come as a bit of surprise, but Baker outplayed Merling in the preseason and made a huge impact with two sacks. Baker also has the ability to play nose tackle, giving him a versatile advantage over Merling.
So unless the Dolphins are able to find a trade partner for the 32nd overall pick of the 2008 draft, we may have seen the last of Phillip Merling in Miami. There is a possibility the Dolphins could keep both Baker and Merling and choose to forgo a backup for Soliai at nose tackle.
Nose tackle: Paul Soliai, Ronald Fields
Cuts: Frank Kearse
Randy Starks could easily move over to the nose if Soliai went down. Ryan Baker has experience playing inside as well. But I think the Dolphins value their deep rotation at defensive end. And Ronal Fields has been a quality starter in the past playing for Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Outside linebacker: Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Jason Taylor, Jason Trusnik, Ikaika Alama-Francis
Cuts: Jonathan Freeny, Quinton Spears
Unless the Dolphins choose to keep only four outside linebackers, maybe to compensate for a sixth cornerback, Ikaika Alama-Francis is safe and sound. He had a productive preseason and is developing nicely ever since transitioning from defensive end a year ago.
Inside linebacker: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, A.J. Edds, Marvin Mitchell
Cuts: Austin Spitler, David Nixon
I’ve seen some projections that have Austin Spitler beating out Marvin Mitchell. I think the Dolphins like Spitler, they wouldn’t have kept him around this long after selecting him in the seventh round last year if they didn’t. But the newly signed Marvin Mitchell has much more experience and appears to be an upgrade.
Cornerback: Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Benny Sapp, Will Allen, Jimmy Wilson
Cuts: Nolan Carroll, Nate Ness, Vince Agnew
I’ll take Will Allen over Nolan Carroll. Carroll has digressed in his second season and Allen can be a quality mentor on a young secondary. As long as the Dolphins are convinced his knee is finally fully recovered, I think he squeezes on. Of course, the Dolphins could always keep both Allen and Carroll as they kept six corners initially in 2010.
Safety: Chris Clemons, Yeremiah Bell, Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver
Cuts: Gerald Alexander, Mark Restelli
Gerald Alexander had a decent chance of unseating Tyrone Culver as the fourth safety on the roster. Then, Culver made an interception in the first quarter last night after reportedly taking a pay cut.
Special teams: Dan Carpenter (K), Brandon Fields (P), John Denney (LS)