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The cutdown day post-mortem and what's next

Cutdown day is over, but the activity surely is not. The Dolphins had their pro scouts in Sunday and they met with general manager Jeff Ireland and the rest of the Miami brain trust well into the evening.

The idea was to see about plucking talent from the NFL's list of cuts. The Dolphins might find a player or two that could be worthy of adding to their 53-man roster, although that is less likely this year than last. The Dolphins also are looking at that list for possible additions to Miami's 8-man practice squad.

Also chief among the personnel department's assignments is upgrading the Miami kick return game, particularly the punt returning.

Saturday was a wild day throughout the league. Lots of activity. But as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins enjoy a slice of continuity and his name is Jason Taylor. I don't think anyone truly appreciated the fact Taylor is on the roster until today when Matt Roth was placed on the reserve, non-football injury list.

That list means Roth cannot practice or play for Miami until Week 7 the earliest. Can you imagine the problems that would cause the Dolphins were Taylor not on the roster? Read the column and see how Taylor differentiates what he's doing for Miami now compared to the past few years the Dolphins have been running the 3-4 alignment on defense.

Now to the actual Miami cuts:

I'm not going through the entire roster. But if you want to see the that, check out the official depth chart.

Everyone is talking about the fact the Dolphins kept four tight ends instead of three. It doesn't suprise me and if you follow me on twitter, it would not surprise you, either, as I tweeted the possibility on Aug. 31. The common theory is Miami kept four tight ends because the team believed it could not get either John Nalbone or Joey Haynos through the waiver system to be able to sign either to the practice squad.

That is speculation and while not wrong, it isn't the entire story. The Dolphins aren't about just making decisions that affect this season, but also seasons to come. And the team isn't about picking a team based on a formula that designates each position with an unchangeable number of roster spots.

First, Bill Parcells picks the right players and that means players that have a future and a possibility of contributing in the future. Remember that David Martin is unsigned beyond this season and the Dolphins might not re-sign him because he's soon going to be on the wrong side of 30 and will be getting quite expensive as a free agent.

Nalbone and Haynos are cheap and both are signed for next year. The Dolphins believe they can develop Nalbone into a solid downfield threat. And they believe they can "change his body" a little to make him a better player.

So they didn't want to get rid of a player that has a future for the sake of keeping an equal or lesser player  that may not have such a high ceiling long-term. 

The Dolphins kept three offensive tackles -- starters Jake Long and Vernon Carey and rookie reserve Andrew Gardner. If you are a reader of this blog, you know I love Gardner. But you also know he is not game-ready by any means. Just isn't. Sorry.

So the Dolphins have gambled that Long and Carey will get through a 16-game schedule unscathed in any significant way, because if those two must miss time, the team has no legitimate answer to fill the void short-term. Sure, Miami can plug Gardner in, but that doesn't mean it would be pretty.

The Dolphins will likely add a tackle to the practice squad to develop the kid, and don't be surprised if an available veteran tackle gets Miami's attention. 

The interior line's depth is seems fine for now with Shawn Murphy and Joe Berger -- both of whom can play guard and both of whom have gotten work at center in practice.

The Dolphins kept five receivers which is no surprise. Rookies Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner are added to last year's core of Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo. All I can tell you is Turner will be inactive the first week of the season and until something significant happens to change that.

The Dolphins kept six outside linebackers. Six! Look for five to be active on game days with Erik Walden and Charlie Anderson and perhaps Quentin Moses to play lots of special teams. Cameron Wake needs to pick up his special teams play to find himself active on game days.

The Dolphins kept six defensive ends. Lionel Dotson and Tony McDaniel will be battling week to week to land that final active spot on game day. Oh, and Phillip Merling has absolutely got to pick up his play to keep from getting passed by either of those two. That may not be a first-week issue, but look for that as the weeks pass because Merling has hung a target on himself as a guy with great potential who is in danger of becoming something of an underachiever.

Merling needs to play better now that the bell on the regular-season is ringing.

Finally, the cutting of Will Billingsley is significant. I was told and reported Saturday the Dolphins were cutting him. Yet Billingsley was at practice Sunday morning. The fact is Billingsley was held back as insurance.

The Dolphins, who might add Billingsley to the practice squad, wanted to give the youngster a chance to work Saturday. They wanted to keep him off the waiver wire until the 6 p.m. deadline. And they wanted to make sure Vontae Davis (knee) would be healthy enough to be available for next Sunday's regular-season opener at Atlanta.

Davis missed practice Saturday. But the cutting of Billingsley as originally planned is a positive sign that Miami is somewhat confident Davis will be healthy enough to contribute, if it comes to that and the rookie suffers no setbacks during the coming week.