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Tough decisions at cornerback, linebacker on Dolphins' projected roster

Kelvin Sheppard stepping up to earn the middle linebacker job has given that group a boost. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Here is a position-by-position look at who stays and who goes when the Miami Dolphins make their final cuts.

QUARTERBACK (2)

Ryan Tannehill

Matt Moore

Tannehill is coming off the best training camp and preseason of his career. Moore struggled but the veteran gets the benefit of the doubt. Former first-round pick Josh Freeman was wildly inconsistent and didn’t do enough to convince Miami to keep three quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Lamar Miller

Damien Williams

LaMichael James

Jay Ajayi

Miller and Williams will carry most of the load on offense. James did a good job of creating a niche as Miami’s lead kick and punt returner. James muffed a punt Thursday but otherwise handled the return duties well. Ajayi is a rookie draft pick who had his best preseason game against Tampa Bay.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

Jarvis Landry

Greg Jennings

Kenny Stills

Rishard Matthews

DeVante Parker

Matt Hazel

This is one of Miami’s strongest groups. There are no true No. 1 receivers on the roster, but Miami doesn’t operate its offense that way. Landry, Jennings, Stills, Matthews and Parker should all contribute this season.

TIGHT END (3)

Jordan Cameron

Dion Sims

Jake Stoneburner

The Dolphins are comfortable with their pairing of Cameron and Sims. Both will get a lot of playing time. Cameron is more of a receiving tight end while Sims is a good blocker. Stoneburner needs to beware. He’s one of my last five in and could be on the chopping block if Miami finds another player worth claiming via waivers.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

Mike Pouncey

Branden Albert

Ja’Wuan James

Dallas Thomas

Billy Turner

Jamil Douglas

Jason Fox

Jeff Linkenbach

Sam Brenner

This is a much-maligned group for Miami -- and for good reasons. Tannehill is the most-sacked quarterback over the past three seasons (139). Questions remain with this group, especially if Albert can’t get healthy in time for Week 1 of the regular season. Do not be surprised if the Dolphins claim an extra lineman or two from another team to help provide depth.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Ndamukong Suh

Earl Mitchell

Jordan Phillips

C.J. Mosley

Cameron Wake

Olivier Vernon

Terrence Fede

Derrick Shelby

A.J. Francis

The Dolphins are legitimately eight or nine deep on their defensive line. Everyone in this group made contributions in the preseason. Miami will keep as many good defensive linemen as it can. Suh and Wake are the stars, but underrated players such as Mitchell, Vernon, Fede and Shelby provide overall balance and strength in numbers.

LINEBACKER (7)

Jelani Jenkins

Koa Misi

Kelvin Sheppard

Chris McCain

Zach Vigil

Spencer Paysinger

Mike Hull

I had a lot of questions about Miami’s linebackers entering training camp. But Sheppard stepping up to earn the middle linebacker job and moving Misi back outside has helped this overall group. Young guys such as McCain, Vigil and Hull also contribute on special teams.

CORNERBACK (6)

Brent Grimes

Brice McCain

Jamar Taylor

Bobby McCain

Tony Lippett

Will Davis

There are questions beyond Grimes, who is a Pro Bowler. Will Brice McCain and Taylor step up as the No. 2 and No. 3 corners? They will get a lot of passes thrown their way. Also, can rookies such as Bobby McCain or Lippett step up if there are injuries? Davis improved his stock with two interceptions in the preseason finale.

SAFETY (4)

Reshad Jones

Michael Thomas

Walt Aikens

Cedric Thompson

Miami lost leadership on the field and in the locker room with the season-ending knee injury to Louis Delmas. But the drop-off in talent wasn’t that much with backups Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas. Either player is capable playing next to Reshad Jones, who is having a strong preseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Caleb Sturgis

Matt Darr

John Denney

The Dolphins pulled off a roster surprise earlier this week by cutting former Pro Bowl punter Brandon Fields and keeping undrafted rookie Darr. The competition between kickers Sturgis and rookie Andrew Franks was close and could go either way. But we give the edge to the incumbent.