The Miami Dolphins have completed their 2013 training camp on Thursday and have two preseason games already in the books. It’s the perfect time to provide my first Miami roster projection leading up to the final cuts on Aug. 31.
Keep in mind, there are three preseason games remaining. With that said, here is my early 53-man projection for the Dolphins based on what I've seen thus far:
Analysis: This is a solid quarterback group. Tannehill is young with the potential to be a franchise quarterback. Moore is a rock-steady veteran and one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Devlin is the third, developmental quarterback that the team can continue to invest time in. He’s had some injuries in camp. But Devlin has been head-and-shoulder better than Miami’s fourth quarterback: Aaron Corp.
Analysis: This was one of the toughest groups to figure out and will remain a fluid situation. I’m not big on Thomas, but the team invested a 2011 second-round pick and they like his work ethic in camp. I don’t think the Dolphins are ready to give up on Thomas just yet. Gillislee and Gray have been coming on strong. For now, I think both have performed well enough to be on the 53-man roster.
Fullback (1): Charles Clay
Analysis: This is somewhat of a risky projection because Clay is not a true fullback. But from what I’ve seen, the Dolphins have shifted towards versatility in camp as opposed to a traditional fullback. Clay is more of an H-back who can act as a fullback or a tight end, depending on the play. Position flexibility is key. Evan Rodriguez also has done well at times with his athleticism. I wouldn’t rule him out if Miami keeps a true fullback. Rodriguez is taking a lot of reps from last year’s fullback -- Jorvorskie Lane – who is definitely on the bubble.
Analysis: There’s a lot of competition for the final three spots. Matthews is getting healthy again and carries some leverage due to his flashes last year. Bumphis has been consistent and knows how to operate in the slot, which is a valuable commodity to Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Marvin McNutt was an early standout in training camp but has tailed off. He’s struggled with consistency and catching the football as of late. Also keep an eye on Brian Tyms and Keenan Davis, who have made plays but appear to be practice-squad candidates.
Analysis: Keller and Sims are locks. But the third tight-end spot is wide open. Kyle Miller has flashed in training camp. But a recent injury opens the door for Egnew, a 2012 third-round pick, to make a push. Egnew has a lot of holes, but he’s done decent in preseason games. The coaching staff also has been talking him up a lot, which makes me think they want to keep him around. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland doesn’t like to throw away third-round picks. So that could factor in the decision.
Analysis: This is not a deep group, but Miami must keep a lot of players due to potential injuries. I expect the Dolphins to pick up a late addition here from roster cuts with other teams. That means fringe offensive linemen like Louis must show what they can do now if they want to stick on the team. Samuda is valuable due to his toughness and versatility to play center and guard. Garner reportedly has a shoulder injury and his status remains up in the air, but he’s also versatile. Thomas struggled in camp. But he’s a rookie third-round pick and part of the blame should be put on the coaches for playing Thomas at tackle when it's not his best position.
Analysis: This is Miami’s deepest group. There are a lot of starting-caliber players who must take lesser roles in Miami. The Dolphins will be able to substitute in droves this season if everyone stays healthy. How good is this unit? Starks, who has the franchise tag, and Jordan, Miami’s No. 3 overall pick, are projected backups heading into the regular season.
Analysis: Miami's three starters -- Ellerbe, Wheeler and Misi – are solid, but depth is a question at linebacker. I like Trusnik because he’s dependable and is also is good on special teams. Jenkins makes it because he’s a rookie draft pick with potential. Spitler also is solid on special teams and brings experience.
Analysis: Miami’s 27th-ranked pass defense from 2012 should be improved. The Dolphins have more depth this year, particularly at cornerback. Marshall and Patterson are still battling for a starting job, and Davis is making a lot of big plays and trying to earn a role on the defense. Taylor has been injured, but he's a second-round pick with potential and isn’t going anywhere. Carroll has quietly and consistently done his job and brings value on special teams. I project him as one of the final bubble players to make the team.
Analysis: No surprises here. This group is set for the regular season. Earlier this week, the Dolphins cut veteran kicker Dan Carpenter and his $2.68 million salary in favor of Sturgis, a rookie fifth-round pick. Fields and Denny are two of the best at their positions in the AFC.
Last five out: FB Evan Rodriguez, WR Marvin McNutt, OT Will Yeatman, FB Jorvorski Lane, TE Kyle Miller
Last five in: Egnew, Louis, Jenkins, Spitler, Carroll
Overview: Miami has a talented roster this year. Therefore, some of these decisions are difficult, especially picking the bottom seven or eight players. But this is how I view Miami’s roster if the regular season started today. Fortunately for some players, there are still three preseason games and practices to make a push. Look for our next roster projection for the Dolphins later in the preseason.