Dolphins roster breakdown: Who's made it, who's likely out; who's on the bubble, the team's strengths, weaknesses
I hate the NFL's preseason finale. It typically does not feature star players or even starting caliber players. It is often sloppy. It is a game played with one eye on being careful and avoiding injuries and another looking toward another game -- the regular-season opener.
So please NFL, get rid of the fourth preseason game.
Having said all that, I recognize when the Dolphins play the Tennessee Titans in the fourth and final preseason game for both, the fate of a handful of players will be decided as the teams make decisions in advance of trimming their rosters from 75 players now to 53 by Saturday afternoon.
So to that handful of guys, this game means everything. With that in mind, let's get to the roster spots seemingly already decided and those about to be decided. This is version 2.0 as we did one of these prior to the cut to 75.
On the team: Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore.
Battling: Brandon Doughty and Zac Dysert.
The situation: Doughty had the early advantage but it seems Dysert has a slight advantage now. Frankly, I don't see either of these guys on the 53-man roster. I think the Dolphins cut both and bring one or both back for practice squad.
Count toward 53-man roster: 2.
On the team: Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster, Kenyan Drake.
Not making it: Daniel Thomas.
Battling: Damien Williams, Isaiah Pead.
The situation: Pead was in the mix until he suffered a hamstring injury last Thursday that has forced him to miss this week of practice and Thursday's preseason finale. He likely wouldn't be ready to play in the regular-season opener, either. Williams is healthy and has been solid enough on special teams, although his work running the football has amounted to a 2-yard-per carry average. I think the Dolphins keep Williams and put Pead on injured reserve. Carrying five running backs is crazy. Carrying three when all three have an injury history is equally crazy.
Count toward 53-man roster: 4.
On the team: LT Branden Albert, left guard Laremy Tunsil, center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod, right tackle Ja'Wuan James (My line). Center Anthony Steen, guard Dallas Thomas, guard-tackle Billy Turner.
Not making it: No one is definitely out that I am comfortable putting here.
Battling: Jamil Douglas, Kraig Urbik, Sam Young, Ulrick John.
The situation: Urbik plays all three interior positions so that is a plus but as an eighth-year veteran his salary is the highest among all the backups at $975,000 this year. That has to be a consideration. Douglas hasn't shown much and is working third-team. Same with Young. The truth is the Dolphins front office has done a good job of finding redundancy at the offensive line. The last couple of years an injury to a starting tackle -- either Albert or James -- was catastrophic. That happens to Albert this year, either Tunsil or Bushrod (who has always been an NFL left tackle) can move there. If the James goes down, either Turner, John or Young can go there and two of those have experience. Turner, who was a starting guard last year, was a tackle in college and has been working at right tackle this summer and likely is the backup there. Me? It looks like a battle between John and Young for the final tackle spot.
Count toward 53-man roster: 9.
On the team: Jordan Cameron, Dion Sims.
Not making it: Not eliminating anyone today.
Battling: MarQueis Gray, Dominique Jones and Thomas Duarte are all vying for the third spot. The third tight end must be a special teams monster -- otherwise Darren Rizzi gets in a tizzy. I don't know that any of these guys are special teams monsters. Honestly, it is possible the third tight end is on another team right now. Duarte needs to remake his body while serving his time on practice squad. I guess the team could carry him (hard to believe) but he is not a good special teams player.
Count toward 53-man roster: 3.
On the team: Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo.
Not making it: Not putting anyone here.
Battling: So Jakeem Grant started out like a house on fire but has cooled of late. He's caught one pass for five yards the past two preseason games. He has not wowed in practice, either. I suppose he makes it as a punt and kickoff return guy and on future potential as a wide receiver. That leaves one spot, maybe, open. If so, Griff Whalen is that guy because he's the next best receiver. Rashawn Scott, who played at the University of Miami, has potential but he has not caught a pass this preseason. He needs to play well Thursday night to be more of a practice squad possibility.
Count toward 53-man roster: 5 or 6.
On the team: Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh, James Jones, Andre Branch, Earl Mitchell, Jordan Phillips.
Not making it: Cleyon Laing, Cedric Reed, Jordan Williams.
Battling: So do the Dolphins keep eight defensive linemen or nine? If they go by the idea that you keep good players, regardless of position, they keep nine. Julius Warmsley has come on of late and played well enough, albeit against backup competition, to merit a spot. Chris Jones has played tougher competition and was exceptional earlier in camp. If I'm the Dolphins, I keep both. Terrence Fede is a tough question, particularly now that he is nursing an MCL knee injury. He's not playing Thursday. Injured reserve?
Count toward 53-man roster: 8 or 9.
On the team: Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Spencer Paysinger, Neville Hewitt.
Not making it: Tyler Gray, James Burgess.
Battling: This is really quite easy. It's down to James-Michael Johnson or Mike Hull or somebody not currently on the roster for the final linebacker spot. Johnson has missed the last couple of weeks with an injury but supposedly would be ready to play in the regular-season opener if he makes the team. Hull has been more than solid and, indeed, leads the team in tackles during the preseason.
Count toward 53-man roster: 6.
On the team: Xavien Howard, Byron Maxwell, Reshad Jones, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, Michael Thomas.
Not making it: Rashaan Melvin, Lafeyette Pitts.
Battling: This group is light on boundary corners. That's the reason the Dolphins should be looking for help on the waiver wire. And the reason the team needs Chris Culliver to get healthy -- something that won't happen until after the sixth game of the regular season at the earliest. And so, for now, it seem Chimdi Chekwa might just make it based on his ability to play outside. That may leave one spot open to be won by Walt Aikens, Shamiel Gary or A.J. Hendy. Aikens is probably the call based on his special teams contributions.
Count toward 53-man roster: 8 or 9.
On the team: Kicker Andrew Franks, punter Matt Darr, long snapper John Denney.
This group is set.
Count toward 53-man roster: 3.