The Miami Dolphins open training camp July 25 at the team's facility in Davie, Florida. Here's a 53-man roster projection:
Rosen vs. Fitzpatrick for Miami's starting quarterback job will be the story of Dolphins training camp. The veteran is an early front-runner though Rosen says the real competition will start this week. They will fill the top two spots of the depth chart and Jake Rudock will get a chance to convince Miami to keep three quarterbacks, but it's more likely he ends up on the practice squad.
Drake and Ballage will handle most of the reps. Walton has the talent to earn a spot on this roster as a third back. His offseason legal issues could lead to NFL discipline that might impact his roster spot, but for now he'll stick. Brian Flores says he'll have a fullback, so Cox is a virtual lock. Special teams might decide Gaskin's battle with Kenneth Farrow for a fourth running back spot, if it's available.
The first four are close to locks. Rookie free agent Preston Williams oozes with potential and caught the eye of players, coaches and media during spring workouts. He has a good shot at winning the fifth receiver spot over Brice Butler with a consistent training camp.
Miami will need much better performance from the two tight ends they drafted in 2018 -- Gesicki and Smythe -- after underwhelming rookie seasons, but it's too early to give up on either one. Allen will provide a much-needed veteran presence and blocking ability that will be needed a lot this season. Nick O'Leary or Clive Walford are out unless Miami keeps four tight ends.
Right tackle is a problem area and the Dolphins need Mills to lock down that role, because the options behind him are uninspiring. Jaryd Jones-Smith has a chance to unseat Sterup for the swing spot with a strong summer, but for now we'll give the edge to Sterup because the Dolphins need more experience there. Look for at least one UDFA to stick (Calhoun is a good candidate). Miami might also examine the waiver wire hard for better options since it is light on reliable depth.
Positions will constantly change in the Dolphins' multiple defense, which should feature some 3-4, 4-3 and 4-2-5. There's young talent at defensive tackle, but there are two lingering questions: who will rush the passer and who will effectively set the edge? A lot will be asked of EDGE players Harris, Woodard, Carradine and Nate Orchard -- a crew that combined for two sacks in 2018. Mbu spent 2018 in the Alliance of American Football, but his versatility to play nose tackle, defensive tackle and even some 3-4 defensive end could earn him the final spot over UDFAs Jonathan Ledbetter and Dewayne Hendrix.
Baker is my candidate to make the biggest jump in Flores' defense. He will have a new role that will allow him to use more of his playmaking ability as a coverage man and pass-rusher. New faces Orchard, Van Ginkel and Holmes will attempt to add pass rush and coverage to the front seven. Hanks, another UDFA, can beat out Chase Allen and Mike Hull for a backup linebacker spot.
Miami's defense will prioritize hybrid defensive backs who can switch between cornerback and safety like Fitzpatrick and McCain. Rowe's experience gives him an edge, but a parade of young cornerbacks are fighting for that key starting role opposite Howard. A trio of young cornerbacks -- Wiltz, Davis and Hartage -- are my early picks to secure roster spots in competitive training camp battles with 2018 sixth-round pick Cornell Armstrong, UDFA Nik Needham and young veterans Torry McTyer and Cordrea Tankersley. Aikens is a special teams ace who deserves a spot.
No reason to break up the band. Denney might play until he's 45 if they let him.