Dolphins' 53-man roster projection includes surprise cuts in Alonso, Allen

Linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has been with the Dolphins since 2016, doesn't make this 53-man roster projection. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins will cut their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a projection:

QUARTERBACK (2): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen

There's plenty to talk about in a Dolphins quarterback battle that could see the job change hands multiple times throughout the season, but both players should be roster locks. Jake Rudock has shown some flashes as a third quarterback, but he seems set to slide on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

RUNNING BACK (5): Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, Patrick Laird, Chandler Cox (fullback)

One thing to watch is if Walton gets suspended because of his now-resolved legal cases this offseason. The NFL says the matter is still under review but the Dolphins are prepared if he has to miss a chunk of the season. Laird is another example of an undrafted free agent earning his roster spot with a great preseason. He flashes every time he's on the field and he's done enough to edge out seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin and former AAF back Kenneth Farrow.

RECEIVERS (6): Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Preston Williams, Isaiah Ford

Williams' dominant training camp and universal praise from coaches and teammates makes the undrafted free agent a roster lock. If the Dolphins don't feel great about Wilson being at 100 percent early in the season, they could keep a sixth receiver. Ford might have an edge over Allen Hurns and Brice Butler for that sixth spot. But that player -- Ford in this case -- could find himself expendable a day later if Miami is active on waivers. There is uncertainty around Stills' roster status that could leave him as a surprise departure as well, but for now he sticks.

TIGHT ENDS (3): Mike Gesicki, Nick O'Leary, Durham Smythe

O'Leary has gone from potential odd-man out to arguably the Dolphins' best tight end after a strong training camp. Four might be a little heavy for this group, but it's too early to get rid of Gesicki or Smythe -- each of whom have shown improvement this summer. That leaves Dwayne Allen as the big question -- he hasn't shown much and hasn't stayed healthy. "I love Dwayne. I do. But Dwayne knows that I'm all about competition," coach Brian Flores said. Allen's reputation and experience aren't enough to keep him over Miami's other younger tight ends, and he becomes the surprise offensive cut.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Laremy Tunsil, Michael Deiter, Daniel Kilgore, Deion Calhoun, Jesse Davis, Chris Reed, Zach Sterup, Isaiah Prince

Look for the Dolphins to be aggressive on the waiver wire searching for offensive line upgrades. This is their weakest position group and it could be one of the worst in the NFL. The early departure of struggling veteran Jordan Mills opened up a spot for Miami to keep Sterup as its swing tackle and Prince as a developmental fourth tackle. They can't feel comfortable about depth here though. Calhoun, a UDFA, is a lock and likely Miami's starting right guard.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Charles Harris, Tank Carradine, Nate Orchard, Jonathan Ledbetter, Dewayne Hendrix

I went back and forth between two promising UDFAs -- Ledbetter and Hendrix -- for the final defensive line spot before deciding to keep both, at least on the initial 53-man roster. Ledbetter might have a slight edge because of his versatility as a contributor in 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. But Hendrix's pass-rush potential might be worth investing in. Carradine and Orchard are former cast-offs who can take advantage of the Dolphins' lack of defensive end talent. This is a group where the Dolphins decide between keeping a guy such as Adolphus Washington or Joey Mbu versus a waiver pickup for depth after they cut Akeem Spence.

LINEBACKER (7): Jerome Baker, Sam Eguavoen, Raekwon McMillan, Andrew Van Ginkel, Tre Watson, Nick DeLuca, Terrill Hanks

The Dolphins might look into shopping Kiko Alonso and/or McMillan via trade. Neither seems to be a long-term fit and each missed most of training camp and preseason with undisclosed injuries. The emergence of Eguavoen makes them somewhat expendable. Miami, in a surprise cut-down transaction, moves on from the more expensive and older of the two (Alonso) via trade or release. Watson and De Luca earned their reserve spots, and Hanks is one of the last guys to make it thanks to his special teams prowess. He could be vulnerable after waiver cuts, though.

SECONDARY (11): Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Reshad Jones, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Walt Aikens, Montre Hartage. Jomal Wiltz, Chris Lammons, Cornell Armstrong, Nik Needham

Two more UDFAs -- Hartage and Needham -- stick around, showing a lack of overall roster talent yet a strong post-draft recruiting period for the scouting department. Despite some preseason struggles, Flores seems high on Needham often giving him first-team reps, so he beats out fellow cornerbacks Torry McTyer and Jalen Davis for the 53rd roster spot. Lammons emerged as one of Miami's best special teams players and that earns him a spot.

SPECIALISTS (3): K Jason Sanders, P Matt Haack, LS John Denney

One of these years the Dolphins will have to get a new long-snapper, but not this one.