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Miami Dolphins players No. 1 to beyond roster limit

Drum roll please ...

It is time for the annual Miami Herald countdown of the Dolphins roster! Excited? Fired up?

Yeah, I can sense the tension.

Anyway, this is my annual countdown of the players on Miami's roster from the best to the bottom of the roster guys. It should not surprise that No. 1 on the list did not change in 2010. The rest of the list did change.

Take this in. Study it. Tell me where you agree and don't. Understand that rookies and free agents who have never played a game for Miami or even in the NFL are on this list. Those guys are included in the list as projections.

This is a lot to take in. Do it in increments if you wish. This list will be up a while as I'm going on vacation and leave and won't be back until July. Well, I will come back if something happens (like the start of free agency) because I'll only be out of town two of the weeks I'm off.

But otherwise, this is the annual summer vacay post as well as the summer roster list post. If you need to see what I'm up to, you can follow me on twitter.

The list:

1. LT Jake Long: He blew out his left shoulder in November against Tennessee. That wasn't his first injury of the season as he suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale against Dallas. No problem. Long got treatment for the knee and played without issue. He got a harness for the shoulder and continued playing despite knowing he'd need surgery after the season. And he was still a Pro Bowl player for the third time in three seasons.

2. OLB Cameron Wake: Studly. He came from part-time work to a full-time starting job and more than doubled his production. He became one of the NFL's most unrelenting and explosive pass-rushers. The scary thing is Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has said Wake has not yet reached his full potential. He might get better!

3. WR Brandon Marshall: When he's right, when he has the right people around him, when he's used correctly, he can dominate and take over a game. In 2010 he was rarely used right and didn't really have the right people around him. He was good but he and quarterback Chad Henne never meshed. There might be a personality problem going on in that relationship and the problem isn't necessarily Henne's.

4. ILB Karlos Dansby: He was as-advertised in that he was a tackle machine and was solid and a leader. But it is rare when an inside linebacker can be a game-changer. Ray Lewis has done it. Brian Urlacher has done it. Dansby can do it in the future but he didn't do it in 2010. Still, he was a significant upgrade as a free agent.

5. NT Paul Soliai: He was given an opportunity starting the second week of the season and he turned it into a $12 million franchise player payday. It was as if Soliai, at times immature, turned the corner. The question is whether the improvement was his reach for a contract that might fade once he gets paid, or a legitimate and lasting ripening of a fine player.

6. DE Randy Starks: The Dolphins need to keep Starks at one position because he plays quite well when he gets the opportunity to make a position his home. Late last season, Starks was again Miami's best defensive end after starting the year at nose tackle.

7. WR Davone Bess: Exceedingly hard worker. Reliable hands. Dependable route-runner. He is a very good possession receiver and every NFL team needs at least one of those. His receptions (79), yards (820) and TDs(5) were career highs.

8. SS Yeremiah Bell: Always excellent in run-support, he led the team in tackles again. Bell is consistent in that he's had more than 100 tackles each of the past three years. I don't understand why the Dolphins didn't blitz him more often because he's outstanding at that.

9.CB Vonate Davis: Most physical and potentially dominating cornerback on the team. He still has not made the climb from "being there" on contested balls to "winning" the battle for most of those balls. He's good now. Not excellent. Not great. Not very good. Good.

10. DE Kendall Langford: An end in the 3-4 defense is never going to be a big-playmaker if he's not named Suh. So Langford hasn't been a playmaker but has been solid and consistent. There is a step or two Langford could take to reach a level of excellence that would turn Miami's front into a dominant unit.

11. DE Phillip Merling: Merling asctually played relatively well when he returned from the non-football injury list last year. It suggests he has matured and could be ready to finally meet the potential that made him the No. 32 overall selection in 2008.

12. CB Sean Smith: He was humbled a year ago in losing his starting job to Jason Allen. Jason Allen! He didn't quit. He never gave up. He fought through adversity, although it was of his own making. He regained his job and played well. The difference between playing well and being a star? Smith drops every pass that hits his hands. He could have had eight or nine interceptions a year ago. Time to catch those, Sean.

13. WR Brian Hartline: He was open enough and effective enough to suggest he can continue to be a good deep-threat option. His stats -- 43 catches for 615 yards -- would have seemed nicer if quarterback Chad Henne had connected with him on the handful of times Hartline got open behind defenses.

14. ILB Channing Crowder: Solid. That's what he's always been when he's healthy. But excellent? Game-changing? Nope.

15. OLB Koa Misi: Starter who showed a great motor. He never gives up on a play. He is relentless. He needs to get stronger both in the upper and lower body. Once he truly becomes a technician at his craft, he has potential to be an eight- or nine-sack a year guy.

16. C Mike Pouncey: First round pick. Not exciting, but a safe pick. Why was it a safe pick? Because Pouncey is going to be a very good player. That's why. When he proves it, he'll rise on this list.

17. TE Anthony Fasano: He is unappreciated because he's not playing in a great passing offense, he's had some memorable drops in previous years, and doesn't like media attention too much. That doesn't mean he's a bad player. Fasano was second on the team with 13.5 yards per catch (among players with double-digit catches). He was fourth on the team in catches and yards. Great? No. Good? Yes.

18. RB Daniel Thomas: Second round pick better be Miami's top rusher in 2011 because, well, that's what he was picked for. He'll share the load with whatever free agent running back Miami lands. Obviously, this is a projection.

19. QB Chad Henne: Anytime a QB is not among the Top 10 best players on the team, that team is in trouble. Anytime a QB throws more interceptions than touchdowns and gets benched at least once in the season because the team isn't scoring enough, he cannot be ranked too highly and definitely not in the Top 10.

20. RB Ronnie Brown: Good man. Fearless every Sunday. But not the greatest instincts, and injuries seem to have sapped speed and explosion.

21. RB Ricky Williams: He had flashes but they are coming farther and farther apart now. He no longer has the amazing burst he once had, he no longer breaks tackles or avoids tackles in the second level.

22. G/C Richie Incognito: He was the team's best interior lineman. He was not the problem.

23. RT Vernon Carey: He has the ability to be the most frustrating player on the offensive line because he has the ability to be an A-player but has too often been a C-minus player. His best season came in 2008 when he was pushing for a new contract. He hasn't played at that level since.

24. FB Lousaka Polite: Good blocker. Good short-yardage runner. He might be replaced in 2011 if the Dolphins put their expected greater emphasis on the H-back postion over FB.

25. P Brandon Fields: He followed his best NFL season in 2009 with his second best NFL season in 2010 -- although the two blocks he suffered (not really his fault) look bad on his stat sheet. His 31 punts inside the 20 were a career high.

26. K Dan Carpenter: After connecting on 89 percent of his kicks in 2009, he dropped to a disappointing 73.2 percent in 2010 and had two kicks blocked. The end of Carpenter's season was a nightmare, as he booted only two of his seven final attempts. He did deliver 14 touchbacks on kickoffs, tying the number for the previous two years combined.

27 (tie). DE Tony McDaniel: There is thinking out there that McDaniel, a free agent in 2011, will go elsewhere because he will price himself out of the Dolphins market. That's is possible. But I would argue the Dolphins need to be very careful not to undervalue McDaniel because neither Odrick nor Merling are absolutes based on their histories. On a scale of 1-10, McDaniel is a solid 7. You don't want to lose those.

27 (tie). C Joe Berger: Berger was a pleasant surprise in that he was a solid C to B-minus center most of the year. He was the improbable starting center last year when the Jake Grove experiment proved a failure. And it would not be surprising if Berger is the starter early in training camp while Mike Pouncey gets acquainted. But that won't last barring an injury to Pouncey or others.

29. S Chris Clemons: Solid. Doesn't make mistakes. But neither does he really make any big plays. He had only one interception in 14 starts.

30. S Reshad Jones: He's a ball magnet and he will compete for a starting job with Chris Clemons in training camp. Truth is I expect him to win the job. He had one interception in two starts, which is the same as Clemons had in 14 starts. Until he wins the job, however, he finds himself just behind the starer.

31. G John Jerry: Last year it was about him being a rookie, and him being unable to get back from his early-season sickness, and his need for being stronger and his need for using better technique. This season it has to be about Jerry overcoming those issues and living up to his potential.

32. DE Jared Odrick: He was a starter the first week of the season and then was lost for the rest of the season. He has much to learn. He has much to improve upon. And he must stay healthy because durability is a category on which players are judged every bit as much as ability.

33. QB Chad Pennington: He was coach Tony Sparano's choice to lead the team in the crucial point of the season but although Pennington's spirit was willing, his flesh was weak. He sufferedanother shoulder injury on his first possession of the game he started. Having suffered another injury playing basketball this offseason, the Dolphins seem prepared to move on. If he's healthy, he's better than Henne.

34. CB Benny Sapp: He was on the team last year because Will Allen got hurt. He didn't disappoint but neither did his play impress. The Dolphins want to push Sapp to either make him better or find someone better.

35. ILB Tim Dobbins: Solid backup and that's a big deal because Crowder is injury prone and even Dansby got hurt at the end of last year. 

36. S Tyrone Culver: Solid role player in dime defense. Solid special teams tackler. He's .... solid.

37. CB Nolan Carroll: Ah, if only he'd caught that interception versus Cleveland. He could have been a hero. As it was, he was a rookie making mistakes and trying like crazy to compete. Carroll has great speed. Decent ball skills. Good work ethic. Let's see if those translate in Year 2.

38. LS John Denney: The only time one notices him is when he botches a snap. But he doesn't do that and that makes him valuable. Excellent at his craft.

39. QB Tyler Thigpen: Gutsy, willing to gamble, and strong-minded, he has the personality of a winner. But he's erratic and just as likely to throw two interceptions as two touchdowns in a game.

40. CB Will Allen: He's got to prove he can still contribute after missing two years because of injuries.

41. WR Marlon Moore: That 57-yard TD catch against Oakland was an eye-opener. But he had some troubling drops in the following couple of games and was basically iced against Buffalo before returning the final two games of the season. He had two catches for 43 yards in the season-finale so he finished on a high note. It is time to go higher.

41. WR Roberto Wallace: Big. Strong. A fine special teams player. Good hands. But still largely unproven. His special teams ability is the reason he played ahead of Moore most of the season.

42. WR Edmond "Clyde" Gates: Yeah, he doesn't like to be called Edmond. He likes Cylde. I'll call him Mr. Clyde if he lives up to his speed and blows the top off defenses likes he's supposed to. We'll see. This is obviously a projection.

43. S Jonathon Amaya: Great hitter on special teams. He might have been Miami's most effective special teams hitter late in the season.

44. RB Patrick Cobbs: His role on offense declined to practically zero last year. That showed .. 1. The coaching staff's hesitation to seek alternatives to underpeforming Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and 2. Cobbs' inability to show himself worthy of a shot. Yes, he was the special teams captain. But Miami's special teams were terrible. Solid locker room presence. 

45. OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis: There was much buzz about Alama-Francis early in the season but injuries and circumstances prevented him from playing up to that buzz. He's a hard worker and a solid run-stopper.

46. TE Charles Clay: Hopefully this kid becomes a latter day Chris Cooley or Dallas Clark. No idea if he'll be even in the same conversation thus his low ranking.

47. DB Jimmy Wilson: A seventh-rounder who missed two years while in prison facing murder chargers, Wilson is obviously a gamble. He's also got the feels of a special teams contributor.

48. RB Lex Hilliard: Time to be more than a special teams player because the Dolphins are looking for viable running back options and he's not exactly the first name on anyone's lips among team insiders. With the team bringing in more special teams talent, 2011 could be a turning point year.

49. ILB A.J. Edds: The plan has not changed from a year ago in that he will be a passing situation substitution for Channing Crowder or Karlos Dansby if he has the abilities the team thought he did when he was drafted.

50. OLB Quentin Moses: Extremely under-rated. Mostly unknown. Can you believe he's been on the team since 2007? Says something for his latent ability which is little used. He did

51. Nate Garner: He was going to get a chance to compete to start at G when he got hurt and was lost for the year. Now the onus is on to prove he can recover and show some durability. 

52. OL Pat McQuistan: He started a handful of games. He should be a backup.

53. T Lydon Murtha: He is good stay active and take to the game as a backup. Is he good enough to displace someone on the starting unit? I doubt it, but I'd like to see him try. It can only make everyone better.

54. G Rey Feinga: His chances of winning a starting job are also dependent on the health of other players. Betting on someone to be hurt is a tough way to earn a living.

55. DT Frank Kearse: The Dolphins need a backup for Soliai not named Starks. Kearse has the opportunity to be that guy. Does he have the ability?

56. WR Julius Pruitt: He was active the regular-season finale but didn't catch a pass. He's been all about potential. It's time to be about production.

57. ILB Austin Spitler: The youngster got better at his special teams duties later in the season.

58. WR Patrick Carter: He's been in camp with Seattle, Tampa Bay, Denver, Baltimore, and was most recently on the Hartford Colonels. He's 26 now so this camp is probably his make-or-break NFL moment. Don't bet on make.

59. LB Mark Restelli: A free agent signee from the CFL. He's only 6-2 and 215 so he needs to get better. He's strictly a special teams guy if he makes the team at all.

60. T James Marten: The Dolphins are his fourth team in four years and he's still a project player.

61. QB Tom Brandstater: Late season signee and never really an option to play. Don't expect much different in 2011.

62. RB Kory Sheets: He had speed and potential before an Achilles' injury. No idea if he has either now.

63. CB Nate Ness: Cut in the preseason, then cut by Seattle when he was toasted during one game, he returned as insurance against injuries.

64. FB Deon Anderson: Dolphins have to learn that signing every Dallas Cowboys reject is not a good idea. Anderson was signed after the Cowboys dropped him and he promptly got hurt one week into his Dolphins career. He probably won't be on the team this year.

65. LB Mike Rivera: He's been jumping from practice squad to practice squad and was active only for the season-finale against New England. I simply do not know enough about him to give you an idea which direction he's going.

66. T Matt Kopa: Signed off the 49ers practice squad in November, he was mostly just insurance and was inactive the final seven games of the season.

67. DE Ryan Baker He's undersized. He's probably not the most naturally gifted player. But he works. He studies the game. He is a good guy in the community.

68. G Cory Procter: He was a backup most of the year before going on injured reserve in late November. He's likely played his final game with the Dolphins.

69 (tie). TE Dedrick Epps: Young kid. Project.

69 (tie). TE Mickey Shuler: Young kid. Project.

69 (tie). TE Jeron Mastrud: You kid. Project.

(Not rated) T Allen Barbre: He spent one week with the Dolphins last year, the final week of the season. I have no idea what he's about.

(Not rated) DT Chris Baker: Don't know enough about him.

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