Who’s In, Who’s Out?: A premature look at the 53-man roster

With the NFL preseason kicking off tonight and the Dolphins only a day away from their exhibition opener, it’s time to evaluate where the roster stands today.

This isn’t a prediction on my part. This is a freeze frame of what the Dolphins’ 53-man roster would look like if they were forced to make final cuts today, before the preseason.

Obviously, this is far from an exact science. Only Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, and company have the real answers and know who they would keep and who they would cut. But judging by the various media reports of practice and the perception surrounding each player, we can formulate an educated guess of what the final 53 might look like.

This being the first installment of the series, with four crucial preseason games still on the slate, this is more of a report on which players are in the driver’s seat and which players face an uphill battle to make the squad.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Kevin O’Connell
Cuts: Pat Devlin
This is actually going to be quite the competition for third-string quarterback. Henne and Moore are safe and sound, but the recently signed Kevin O’Connell and undrafted rookie Pat Devlin figure to have a photo finish to see which quarterback will be kept on the 53-man roster.

At this very second, I would have to give the slight edge to O’Connell. Even though Devlin has been solid for the first 11 practices, O’Connell has experience on his side. We’ll have to see what Devlin does with his preseason snaps, but if he continues to flash potential, he could easily overtake O’Connell for the job.

Running Back: Daniel Thomas, Reggie Bush, Lex Hilliard, Kory Sheets
Cuts: Nic Grigsby
With Reggie Bush possessing the tools to be the scatback this offense needs, I think Lex Hilliard is fairly close to being safe considering a capable workhorse as insurance for Daniel Thomas is a must. Kory Sheets and Nic Grigsby are of the speedy variety and will likely battle it out for the fourth and final running back spot.

The Dolphins could always choose to only keep three backs around this year, especially considering Charles Clay’s roster spot will likely lead to fullback, tight end, or running back dropping a player this season. With the inexperience of the group, though, I see the Dolphins keeping four as a precaution.

Fullback: Charles Clay, Lousaka Polite
Cuts: none
It’s been speculated that Lousaka Polite is in real danger of losing his roster spot. After a lackluster blocking performance a year ago, that is indeed the case despite being the short-yardage ace that he is.

We’ll have to wait and see if Brian Daboll plans on utilizing a pure fullback in the new offense, but Polite sticks on for now at the expense of a third tight end.

Tight End: Anthony Fasano, Mickey Shuler
Cuts: Jeron Mastrud, Dedrick Epps, Brett Brackett
With Charles Clay figuring to be more of a receiving threat than anything, I see a third tight end getting the axe. Mickey Shuler is Fasano’s backup on the depth chart, so we’ll keep it that way until one of the others makes a strong impression. Jeron Mastrud is certainly capable of pushing him, as he’s made a few noteworthy plays so far in camp.

Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Roberto Wallace, Clyde Gates
Cuts: Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Patrick Carter, Brooks Foster, Phillip Livas
Sparano has already hinted that Roberto Wallace is the man to beat for the fourth receiver spot. While, Clyde Gates will likely pass him up by Week 1 if he can make a few plays in the preseason, Wallace would still be first in line for the final roster vacancy at the position.

Marlon Moore will have a say in the matter after cracking the 53-man roster a year ago and being slightly more productive than Wallace. But now that a potential deep threat is in place (Gates), I see the Dolphins sticking with Wallace’s upside.

Offensive Tackle: Jake Long, Marc Colombo, Nate Garner, Lydon Murtha
Cuts: Ray Willis, Matt Kopa, Allen Barbre, D.J. Jones
The Dolphins have kept as few as three offensive tackles in the past, but with the uncertainty at right tackle with Vernon Carey moving to guard, keeping four this time around seems to be in order.

I think this is how it would shake out if cuts were made today, assuming of course, Jake Long is taken off the PUP list before final cuts. Ray Willis is certainly capable of making things interesting, though, and if he lands a roster spot, it would likely come at the expense of Marc Colombo.

Offensive Guard: Richie Incognito, Vernon Carey, Ray Feinga
Cuts: John Jerry
This is certainly a tossup at the moment, but John Jerry’s roster spot is definitely in jeopardy after struggling as a rookie and showing up to camp somewhat out of shape. In the end, I think it comes down to whether or not the Dolphins keep Joe Berger around to backup Mike Pouncey.

If Berger is cut, which is a strong possibility considering Richie Incognito could easily move inside if something were to happen to Pouncey, Jerry probably squeezes on the 53.

Center: Mike Pouncey, Joe Berger
Cuts: none
For now, we’ll keep Berger on the team. But if Pouncey has an outstanding preseason, though, the Dolphins could feel safe parting ways with Berger, who was nothing short of dreadful when given the opportunity to start a year ago.

DEFFENSE

Defensive End: Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, Tony McDaniel, Jared Odrick, Phillip Merling
Cuts: Rob Rose, Johnny Jones
Let’s be honest, Rob Rose and Johnny Jones aren’t touching the Fab Five ahead of them. The Dolphins have kept five defensive ends in the past and Tony Sparano loves keeping around as many of those types of bodies as he can, so Merling likely makes the team. This is deep unit with the potential to be dominant, the league’s best even.

Nose Tackle: Paul Soliai, Ronald Fields
Cuts: Ryan Baker, Frank Kearse
With Randy Starks’ ability to move to nose if need be, there really is no reason to keep more than two nose tackles. Ronald Fields was brought in to address the previously had depth concerns behind Paul Soliai.

Outside Linebackers: Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Jason Taylor, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Jason Trusnik
Cuts: Jonathan Freeny, Quinton Spears
The top five seem fairly safe from the outside looking in, but a standout preseason from either Freeny or Spears could always change that. Ikaika Alama-Francis was decent as an early-down run stuffer a year ago and Jason Trusnik figures to earn his spot on special teams.

Inside Linebackers: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, A.J. Edds, Austin Spitler
Cuts: Mike Rivera, David Nixon
Austin Spitler is on for now given that he was listed ahead of Rivera and is presumably in front of Nixon on the depth chart. But between the three, whoever has the bigger impact on special teams will make it on, contingent, of course, on if the Dolphins keep four inside linebackers.

Cornerback: Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Benny Sapp, Nolan Carroll, Nate Ness
Cuts: Will Allen, Vince Agnew, Jose Perez, K.J. Gerard
If Will Allen doesn’t get healthy, and in a hurry, Benny Sapp is going to walk away with nickel corner. If that happens, I don’t really see Allen sticking around for the fourth boundary corner spot.

I see Nate Ness as the beneficiary of a released Allen for now, given his strong performance in last year’s preseason. But it’s a what have you done for me lately league, and one of the projected cuts could steal the show with a strong performance in the exhibitions.

Safety: Yeremiah Bell, Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson
Cuts: Tyrone Culver, Mark Restelli
From everything I’ve heard Jimmy Wilson is having himself a fantastic rookie camp. Not only does he project to be a fine strong safety, but his physical nature and hard hitting style will find him a home on special teams. Unless the Dolphins keep five safeties, Tyrone Culver appears to be on the outside looking in.

Special Teams: Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
Cuts: none 

david martin

Who’s In, Who’s Out?: A Premature Look at the 53-Man Roster

Now that we are over a week into camp, and the Dolphins have a 74-play intrasquad scrimmage in the books, how the 53-man roster will shape up is starting to become a little less hazy. Nothing is settled yet, and the biggest tests for those players sitting on the roster fence still lies ahead. The upcoming preseason games will provide make or break opportunities to those hopeful to make the team, so really everything below is subject to change. Just like the weekly ”Position Battle Tracker,” this segment is parallel to looking at a first quarter scoreboard, not a prediction of how I see things eventually playing out.

Offense

Quarterback
Projected Possible Cuts: Tyler Thigpen, Pat White
If there is any player that has defined the phrase “the media’s punching bag” it’s second-year quarterback Pat White. It seems as though every practice the South Florida beat writers use words like “erratic” and “wild” to describe White’s reps. White was far from spectacular a year ago, but I don’t think things were ever this bad. In all fairness to him, though, we really have no idea what exactly the young man is going through in his personal life. He missed the first day of workouts for personal reasons, and who knows how much whatever is going on is affecting his performance. Meanwhile, Tyler Thigpen hasn’t exactly impressed so far, but it was evident in Week 17 last season he was miles ahead of White, and judging by the first week of camp, things haven’t changed much.
In: Tyler Thigpen
Out: Pat White

Running Back
Projected Possible Cuts: Lex Hilliard, Tristan Davis
The battle for the fourth running back spot was set to pick up some intensity with Kory Sheets getting some opportunities as a kick returner, but since his season-ending Achilles injury, it’s safe to say Hilliard has this thing wrapped up. Of course, that’s assuming the Dolphins keep four running backs again. Having said that, possible sixth receiver candidates and tenth offensive lineman hopefuls will likely provide more competition to Hilliard than Davis.
In: Hilliard
Out: Tristan Davis

Fullback
Projected Possible Cuts: Rolly Lumbala
Lousaka Polite has emerged as one of the best fullbacks in the business, and there simply is no room for Lumbala on the roster.
Out: Rolly Lumbala

Tight End
Projected Possible Cuts: David Martin, Joey Haynos, John Nalbone, Kory Sperry
Assuming David Martin can return to his 08′ form, he will securely find himself as the second tight end on the depth chart. That was two years ago, though, and word has it Martin is a bit on the heavy side these days. It shouldn’t take long for him to get back in playing shape, however, and the upcoming exhibitions should reveal whether or not he can still be a legitimate receiving threat. That means there will be a three way battle for the third and likely final roster spot at the position. All three have been virtually invisible so far, so things should be fairly wide open heading into the preseason opener.
In: David Martin, Joey Haynos
Out: John Nalbone, Kory Sperry

Wide Receiver
Projected Possible Cuts: Patrick Turner, Ryan-Grice Mullen, Taurus Johnson, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore
With Marshall, Bess, Hartline, and Camarillo already settled as members of the 2010 team, baring serious injuries of course, the six remaining receivers will battle for the final job opening. Patrick Turner is the early favorite, and if he can maintain a level of consistency throughout the remainder of camp and in the preseason I don’t see him getting the axe. Then again, if Taurus Johnson or Ryan-Grice Mullen flash big-play ability in the return game and show they can also contribute at receiver, we could have an interesting scenario on our hands.
In: Patrick Turner
Out: Ryan-Grice Mullen, Taurus Johnson, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore

Offensive Tackle
Projected Possible Cuts: Andrew Gardner, Lydon Murtha
With the Dolphins only expected to keep nine offensive lineman, and with the starting tackles being engraved in stone, things are starting to point to only three tackles making the team. And with Nate Garner’s versatility guaranteeing him a job at backup right tackle, Andrew Gardner and Lydon Murtha could both be on the outside looking in when final cuts are made.
Out: Andrew Gardner, Lydon Murtha

Offensive Guards
Projected Possible Cuts: Cory Procter
Procter is really a borderline possible cut. Based on his past, you would think he is the least likely to start among the four guards, but he has been rotating off and on with the first-team throughout camp. That probably won’t last much longer, as John Jerry and Richie Incognito now appear to be the front-runners, but with so much uncertainty at the position, the Dolphins will probably end up keeping all of them.
In: Cory Procter

Center
Projected Possible Cuts: Jake Grove, Andrew Hartline
I only mention Jake Grove as a possible cut because if he loses the battle for starting center, Miami would be wise to rid themselves of his $30 million contract. Still though, because Grove was so productive last season, I think he eventually pulls away from Berger and Hartline. Speaking of Hartline, signs point to the reasoning behind his move to center being a motivational tool to get Grove and Berger going.
In: Jake Grove
Out: Andrew Hartline

Defense

Defensive End
Projected Possible Cuts: Lionel Dotson, Ryan Baker

In light of Charles Grant’s three sack performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, he’s off the possible cuts list for the time being, and could even surpass Tony McDaniel on the depth chart. As for who is in danger of missing the cut, Lionel Dotson and Ryan Baker will likely be competing for the final roster spot, given many expect the Dolphins to keep six defensive ends. As of now, Baker gets the nod because his versatility also allows him to mix it up at nose tackle.
In: Ryan Baker
Out: Lionel Dotson

Nose Tackle
Projected Possible Cuts: Montavious Stanley, Travis Ivey
If the Dolphins do indeed keep six defensive ends, it is likely they will only keep two nose tackles. And with starter Randy Starks being undersized by prototypical standards, Paul Soliai would be the smart bet to back him up with his 355 pound size.
Out: Montavious Stanley, Travis Ivey

Outside Linebacker
Projected Possible Cuts: Ikaika Alama-Francis, Quentin Moses, Chris McCoy, Erik Walden
I guess we still have to put Ike on this list, but based on reports about how well he has been playing the run, I don’t expect him to be a possible cut for long. That likely leaves Moses, McCoy, and Walden fighting for the final spot if the Dolphins end up keeping five outside linebackers. If this was a prediction I might go out on a limb and give McCoy the edge, but right now, one good practice from the rookie won’t be enough to beat out Moses.
In: Ikaika Alama-Francis, Quentin Moses
Out: Chris McCoy, Erik Walden

Inside Linebacker
Projected Possible Cuts: Austin Spitler, J.D. Folsom, Micah Johnson
Edds being out for the year has many thinking the Dolphins will now only keep three inside linebackers. Looking at the talent behind Dansby, Crowder, and Dobbins, I would say that assessment is probably accurate. I will say that I’m interested to see what Micah Johnson can do in the preseason, though, but right now he’s still a long shot.
Out: Austin Spitler, J.D. Folsom, Micah Johnson

Cornerback
Projected Possible Cuts: Jason Allen, Nolan Carroll, Nate Ness, Ross Weaver, Evan Ogelsby
Based on Jason Allen’s contribution as a special teams standout and Nolan Carroll’s outstanding beginning to camp, I really don’t like listing either one as a possible cut. That doesn’t change the fact that Allen is continuing to get exposed in coverage, though, and Carroll is still a late-round draft selection, after all. But right now, both are well ahead of Nate Ness, Ross Weaver, and Evan Ogelsby. I would say Jason Allen is the most vulnerable of the two, however, and Nate Ness, who was recently promoted to the second-team for a practice, would be the most capable of surpassing him.
In: Jason Allen, Nolan Carroll
Out: Nate Ness, Ross Weaver, Evan Ogelsby

Safety
Projected Possible Cuts: Reshad Jones, Jonathan Amaya
Some expected Reshad Jones to be the starting free safety after the Dolphins traded up to the last pick of the fifth-round to snag him. It became clear in the spring, though, that it was Chris Clemons’ job to lose. That hasn’t changed either, as Clemons has been limiting his mental mistakes so far in camp. Jones has been pretty solid based on reports, though, and has even got his hands on a couple of interceptions. Amaya, meanwhile, has been an after thought so far, after a few noteworthy OTA sessions.
In: Reshad Jones
Out: Jonathan Amaya

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