Who’s In, Who’s Out? A 53-man roster prediction

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.

OFFENSE

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.

DEFENSE

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)
Cuts: none 

moore and wallace

Who’s In, Who’s Out?: A 53-Man Roster Prediction

The opportunities are over, those roster fringe players have made their case to be on this football team, and by tomorrow, we will know who exactly the 53 men are who will represent the 2010 Miami Dolphins. For the entirely of the preseason, this post has been about who is currently leading the various roster bubble competitions.

Now, going by strictly what I have seen in four preseason games, I’m ready to make my 53-man roster prediction. Feel free to use the comments section to disagree with my pics and share which positions you think I got wrong.

Quarterback: Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Tyler Thigpen
If Pat White wasn’t a former second-round pick, I think this would be one of the more obvious positions on the entire team. Still though, there’s no room for Pat White on the 53 even if he did give us a reason to think he can play quarterback in the NFL.
Cuts: Pat White

Running Back: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard
With Ronnie being injury prone and Ricky being 33 years old, it would be surprising if the Dolphins let one of their backs go.
Cuts: none

Fullback: Lousaka Polite
He’s a lock to make the team thanks to last year’s dominate performance as a lead blocker and short yardage converter. Let’s just hope he can return to form by next Sunday.
Cuts: Rolly Lumbala

Tight End: Anthony Fasano, David Martin
Nalbone helped his cause with a big 30-yard reception last night, and the Dolphins likely want to keep three tight ends with as many two tight end sets that they use. But Nalbone hasn’t done enough to lock down that third tight end job, and the Dolphins could use the extra roster spot to make up for keeping a sixth cornerback.  
Cuts: John Nalbone

Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace
I flip flopped with this one all day. First things first, I now feel that Marlon Moore is lock to make the team, and probably wouldn’t have been cut even if he didn’t go off for 31 yards and a score in Dallas. Before last night’s game, I would have said Turner edges out Wallace because so much has been invested in Turner and he hasn’t been bad this preseason, just outplayed. But Wallace’s 3 receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown just gave the Dolphins a whole lot to think about between now and tomorrow’s cut-down deadline. If it was me, I would keep who I think has the potential to be the better player, regardless of who was taken where in the draft. Right now, I believe that is Roberto Wallace. He’s got the size this regime covets (6’4, 225 pounds), and is much further along than Turner was this time last year as a rookie.
Cuts: Julius Pruitt, Patrick Turner

Offensive Tackles: Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Pat McQuistan
Seeing Long getting his knee looked at last night was enough of a scare to go out and trade for Pat McQuistan earlier this evening. While, McQuistan has limited potential, it’s probably safe to say the front office believes he is more capable of filling in if Long or Carey were to get seriously hurt.
Cuts: Andrew Gardner, Lydon Murtha

Offensive Guards: John Jerry, Richie Incognito, Donald Thomas, Cory Procter
The guy who benefits the most from Nate Garner going to the IR is Cory Procter. He was realistically on the outside looking in before Garner was shelved for the season, but is now suddenly the favorite to land the ninth and final offensive line opening.
Cuts: Ray Feinga

Center: Jake Grove, Joe Berger
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who is going to win the starting job. We do, however, know that both will probably make this team. That is assuming the Dolphins don’t cut Grove because of his price tag and durability concerns.
Cuts: Andrew Hartline

Defensive End: Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Marques Douglas, Tony McDaniel, Charles Grant
This was likely already decided heading into last night’s game. The Dolphins will only keep two nose tackles, so the defensive line could use five defensive ends. McDaniel has been pretty stout against the run this preseason, and Charles Grant has created some value for himself rushing the passer.
Cuts: Ryan Baker, Lionel Dotson

Nose Tackle: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of the preseason has been the play of Starks and Soliai. Soliai was average at best last year, and we didn’t really know what to expect from Randy Starks, who made the switch over from defensive end. Both were close to dominate in four games, and the only success teams had at running the football came at the expense of the outside linebackers not containing the edge.
Cuts: Montavious Stanley

Outside Linebacker: Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Charlie Anderson, Erik Walden
The first four are pretty much a lock to make the squad, but I see Walden squeezing on the 53-man roster because of his solid special teams play. If Quentin Moses wasn’t currently dealing with a hamstring injury, this may have been a different story.
Cuts: Quentin Moses, Chris McCoy

Inside Linebacker: Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, Micah Johnson
With Crowder’s status still up in the air, it is necessary for the Dolphins to keep four inside linebackers. Even if he was fine, though, Micah Johnson’s emergence would have probably sealed the deal anyway. Quite a feat considering he went undrafted, was thought to be too slow for the NFL, and was cut in June by the Giants.
Cuts: J.D. Folsom, Austin Spitler

Cornerback: Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Will Allen, Nolan Carroll, Jason Allen, Benny Sapp
Uncertainty behind Will Allen’s knee will likely force the Dolphins to uncharacteristically keep six corners. Despite Nate Ness’ one good quarter, I think it’s fairly obvious who those six corners will be. Nolan Carroll has shown enough potential on defense and special-teams, and Jason Allen and Benny Sapp are already proven special-teams contributors.
Cuts: Nate Ness, Kevin Hobbs, Ross Weaver

Safety: Yeremiah Bell, Chris Clemons, Tyrone Culver, Reshad Jones
If there was going to be a roster spot battle here, it was going to come down to Jones vs. Amaya. Amaya had a solid spring and even picked off a pass in the preseason, but Jones’ stellar special-teams play and his upside at safety will likely win out in the end.
Cuts: Jonathan Amaya

Special-Teams: Dan Carpenter (K), Brandon Fields (P), John Denney (LS) 
Nothing to see here. Carpener, Fields, and Denney all signed extensions this offseason, and could remain in Miami for years to come.
Cuts: none

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