It’s once again time to take a glance at our 53-man roster projection.
With the first and second teams figuring to undergo their dress rehearsal Saturday night in Tampa, many of the roster fringe players will likely have to wait until Thursday against the Cowboys to win the coaching staff over and earn themselves a place on this team.
As a reminder, this isn’t a 53-man roster prediction. This is simply a freeze frame of what the final 53 may look like if cuts were made today.
- Quarterback: Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Kevin O’Connell
Cuts: Pat Devlin
We didn’t get a glimpse of O’Connell or Devlin against the Panthers after getting only a brief look at Devlin in Atlanta. We heard some good things about Devlin early on in camp, which positions him to unseat O’Connell with a strong preseason performance.
We’ll likely have to wait until Dallas comes to town in the final exhibition to see either, though, as Chad Henne and Matt Moore will likely steal all of the reps in the dress rehearsal on Saturday. For now, O’Connell gets the nod because of the experience he brings to the table.
- Running back: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lex Hilliard, Larry Johnson
Cuts: Nic Grigsby
I’ll tentatively sneak the newly signed Larry Johnson on the 53. If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll likely stick. But if he struggles with the significant time he figures to see on Saturday night, he’ll have a quick exit in Miami.
- Fullback/H-back: Charles Clay
Cuts: Lousaka Polite
Most agree that the Dolphins should part ways with Lousaka Polite. Fullback is a dying breed in this league and Polite would bring nothing but short-yardage conversions to the Dolphins’ offense. But I have doubted whether or not the Dolphins would actually cut Polite.
With Sparano admitting the bleak future of the fullback position this week and with Charles Clay seeing time with the first-team ahead of Polite, I see the Dolphins making the right move when final cuts are made.
- Tight end: Anthony Fasano, Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler
Cuts: Dedrick Epps, Brett Brackett
The Dolphins are reportedly in the market for a solid number two tight end and are willing to shop defensive end Phillip Merling in order to land one. It would be a wise move because after Fasano there isn’t a tight end on the team that’s 53-man roster material.
Jeron Mastrud and Mickey Shuler hang on for now, but keep your eye on Dedrick Epps. Epps had an 18-yard grab and saw some goal line reps as a blocker against the Panthers. He could unseat one with a solid performance in the final two preseason games. But I still expect the Dolphins to find their number two tight end on the waiver wire if they can’t pull the trigger on a trade.
- Wide receiver: Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace
Cuts: Phillip Livas, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, John Matthews, Patrick Carter
Marlon Moore would have given the Dolphins an awful lot to think about had he not dropped that well-placed Matt Moore pass along the sidelines that would have went for an easy score. Instead, he’s still on the outside looking in.
Phillip Livas failed to follow up his brilliant return performance in The Georgia Dome with any noteworthy kick or punt returns. But he didn’t make any mistakes, which keeps him in striking distance to land a roster spot if he can impress in the return game against Tampa.
Even if Livas and Moore shine in the final two weeks of the preseason, I feel like the top five are fairly safe regardless. The Dolphins would likely entertain the possibility of keeping six receivers if either one stands out.
- Offensive tackle: Jake Long, Marc Colombo, Lydon Murtha, Nate Garner
Cuts: Ray Willis, Matt Kopa, Allen Barbre, D.J. Jones
I don’t see much changing here from a week ago. Ray Willis returns after missing time due to the death of his father. He’s capable of pushing for a roster spot if he can impress these final two games. In that event, Garner would likely move inside because there is really no need to keep five tackles.
- Offensive guard: Richie Incognito, Vernon Carey, Ray Feinga
Cuts: John Jerry
I still expect the Dolphins to clean their hands of John Jerry in the same way they did former third-round pick Patrick Turner last preseason. We haven’t heard much from Feinga lately, but he surprisingly spent time with the starters early on in camp.
- Center: Mike Pouncey, Joe Berger
I feel like the Dolphins are very open to potentially cutting Berger after he disappointed when given the opportunity to start a year ago. But they likely need to see something from Nate Garner, who has spent time at center in camp and this preseason, to feel comfortable dropping him.
Center is crucial to the success of the running game and poor snaps can lead to turnovers. The Dolphins need a capable center in case something happened to Mike Pouncey. Richie Incognito can get the job done, but he looks improved early on and the Dolphins probably want to keep him put at guard. As for now, Berger will likely make the team by default.
- Defensive end: Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, Tony McDaniel, Phillip Merling
Cuts: Ryan Baker, Rob Rose, Johnny Jones
The only real question at defensive end is whether or not Phillip Merling will be dealt. He’s been reportedly placed on the trading block and if a quality tight end becomes available or, dare I say, an athlete like Tim Tebow, the Dolphins could ship away Merling for a piece that would bolster a position of need.
If Merling is dealt, Ryan Baker easily snags the opening made by his void. Baker had a sack against Carolina and has the versatility to play the nose as well.
- Nose tackle: Paul Soliai, Ronald Fields
Cuts: Frank Kearse
Seventh-round pick Frank Kearse has been solid through two preseason games. The Dolphins will likely try to stash him on the practice squad, though, as Mike Nolan has a comfort level with Fields.
- Outside linebacker: Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Jason Taylor, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Jason Trusnik
Cuts: Jonathan Freeny, Quinton Spears
I’m starting to like the depth the Dolphins have at outside linebacker. Ikaika Alama-Francis looks like he’s made progress in his second season standing up and Jason Trusnik is going to provide quality special-teams play. Jonathan Freeny and Quinton Spears are likely auditioning for the practice squad at this point.
- Inside linebacker: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, A.J. Edds, Marvin Mitchell
Cuts: Austin Spitler, Mike Rivera, David Nixon
Marvin Mitchell was able to register a couple tackles less than a week after he was signed by the Dolphins. The reps Austin Spitler has missed due to injury this preseason have prevented him from seriously contending. Unless a sixth corner proves worthy to be kept, Marvin Mitchell likely makes the team.
- Cornerback: Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Benny Sapp, Jimmy Wilson, Nolan Carroll
Cuts: Will Allen, Nate Ness, Vince Agnew, Jose Perez, K.J. Gerard
The top four corners are safe. But Nolan Carroll is no longer a lock to survive final cuts. Carroll missed a couple tackles last week that may have landed him in Sparano’s doghouse.
He stays on for now, but if Will Allen can get on the field in Tampa and prove he has anything left, he could easily pass up Carroll. Also, keep an eye on Nate Ness and Vince Agnew. If either one stands out these final two weeks Carroll will be in serious danger.
- Safety: Yeremiah Bell, Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver
Cuts: Mark Restelli
With Jimmy Wilson’s move to corner, there just isn’t any competition for Tyrone Culver. Mark Restelli almost made an impressive interception against the Panthers, but one play wouldn’t have changed that.
- Special teams: Dan Carpenter (K), Brandon Fields (P), John Denney (LS)