- Fins lose preseason game to Panthers 31-30 However, the Dolphin starters were dominate and took a 14-0 lead before they were pulled
- S Delmas lost for season Louis Delmas tore is ACL in practice with the Panthers
- Dolphins lose in preseason to Bears Miami's starters looked great, but the backups dropped to the Bears, 27-10
- Parker's return still uncertain WR Devante Parker is not sure if he will be ready for the season opener
The Dolphins’ second pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers brings us closer to an actual football game. Look for the starters to play into the 2nd quarter, with many other roster battles to follow.
This year’s roster battle is a bit easier to predict. I’ve divided the “Roster Odds” into 3 different tiers, with 5 specific roster battles listed below.
In regards to the 45 “In’s”, I went back-and-forth about including 5 players: G Linkenbach, LB Vigil, CB Davis, CB Lippett, and S Thompson.
QB: Tannehill, Moore
RB: Miller, Williams, Ajayi
WR: Parker, Landry, Stills, Jennings, Matthews
TE: Cameron, Sims
OT: Albert, James, Fox
G: Turner, Thomas, Douglas, Linkenbach
DE: Wake, Vernon, Shelby, Fede
DT: Suh, Mitchell, Phillips
LB: Misi, Jenkins, McCain, Tripp, Sheppard, Vigil
CB: Grimes, Taylor, McCain, McCain, Davis, Lippett
S: Jones, Thomas, Aikens, Thompson
ST: Fields, Denney
RB: James, Gillislee
WR: Preston, Hazel
TE: Robinson, Stoneburner
C: Walton, Brenner
DT: Johnson, Mosley, Francis
ST: Sturgis, Franks
LB: Paysinger, Hull
CB: Bowman, Seamster
S: Kovacs, Jones
5 Main Roster Battles I’m looking for on Saturday:
Battle: Caleb Sturgis vs. Andrew Franks.
Dolphins fans are fed up with Caleb Sturgis, and rightfully so after ranking 28th and 29th in FG % in his only 2 NFL seasons. Franks may be a few good kicks away from supplanting Sturgis.
Battle: JD Walton vs. Sam Brenner.
GM Mike Tannenbaum gave Walton a $250K signing bonus to serve as Mike Pouncey’s veteran backup in 2015. Although Walton led the league with 1145 snaps, PFF graded 67th among 70 Centers in 2014. Brenner has the edge over Walton be default, but don’t be surprised if both are kept.
3) Defensive Tackle.
Battle: AJ Francis vs. Anthony Johnson vs. CJ Mosley.
AJ Francis is one solid performance vs. CAR away from securing a roster spot as the team’s 4th DT. Would the Dolphins keep 5 DT’s? If so, look for Mosley and Johnson battle for a final roster spot. Johnson has the edge because of his age and upside, but didn’t help himself against the Bears with 3 neutral zone infractions.
Kept: Francis and Johnson.
4) Tight End.
Battle: Gerell Robinson vs. Jake Stoneburner.
Arthur Lynch was released early in camp for one simple reason: he couldn’t keep up. This sets up an interesting battle between a WR-turned-TE (Robinson) and a classic blocking option (Stoneburner). Give Robinson the edge because of his athleticism. Stoneburner is your classic lunch-pail TE who could be easier to find.
5) Running Back.
Battle: LaMike James vs. Mike Gillislee.
The Dolphins rostered 4 RB’s in each of Joe Philbin’s 3 seasons, and thus, it’s unlikely the Dolphins will keep only 3 RB’s on the roster with Lamar Miller hitting FA after the season. Give James the edge because of his versatility.
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On September 1st, NFL teams begin their first round of roster cuts, with teams trimming their rosters down to 75 players. Four days later, on Sept. 5th, things will get very interesting as the NFL teams rosters must go down to 53.
Some Dolphin player cuts will come as no surprise to anyone. (QB Josh Freeman for example.) But there are some players on the bubble, who if released, might surprise a few Dolphin fans. So hold on to your hats Fin fans! Here are 6 potential roster cuts that might be a bit unexpected.
CB Zach Bowman
Bowman was signed in the off-season as a special teamer and to provide depth for a secondary with question marks. While Bowman’s run stopping ability is not the greatest, his pass coverage skills are adequate. But with the play of Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain, as well as the development of rookie Bobby McCain, Bowman has sunk some on the depth chart.
Bowman is a veteran among a DB group with a lot of youth and inexperience. But at age 30, Bowman could be a casualty as the Dolphins give the younger players more of an opportunity to develop and shine.
Bowman’s contract had an $80,000 signing bonus, which would be the cap penalty should he be released.
K Caleb Sturgis
Caleb Sturgis was not very consistent last year, hitting 29 of 37 FGs. As a result, he has been battling Andrew Franks for the kicking position this year. Unfortunately, neither one has been consistent so far in camp.
I give the nod to Sturgis over Franks at the moment, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if the Dolphins don’t scan the waiver wire for his replacement on September 6th.
Cutting Sturgis would cost the Fins $36,140 in dead money.
DT Anthony Johnson
I wondered if Johnson was on “borrowed time” when the Dolphins drafted Jordan Phillips and signed CJ Mosley this off-season. But Johnson was listed on the second team DT when the Dolphins lined up against the Bears in their first preseason game.
Johnson’s grasp on a roster spot dropped when he had 3 separate false start penalties against the Bears, and was demoted behind Mosley as a result. With Mosley playing better, Johnson may not beat out AJ Francis and could be gone.
The cap hit for releasing Johnson would be negligible.
WR Michael Preston
After languishing on the Titans roster for two years, (hauling in 2 TD passes in 2013), Preston was cut by the Titans at the beginning of the 2014 season. After the 2014 season, the Fins grabbed the 6’5 Preston. It appeared that the Dolphins may have found a hidden gem in Preston, as he turned some heads with his play early on in camp.
At the end of last season, the Dolphins continued their playoff drought. Having not made the playoffs since 2008 of course leads to some questions about the team’s problems. Questions that fans wanted addressed in the off-season.
Some of those questions include:
Are the problems with the receivers/tight ends resolved?
Last year Mike Wallace was not a happy camper, and was benched in the final loss to the Jets. Although he had 10 TDs in 2014, he never had a season with Miami where he reached 1000 receiving yards. He certainly was not worthy of his high price tag.
Brian Hartline, who had consecutive 1000 yard seasons before 2014 and had signed a contract extension in 2013, seemed to be the odd man out in OC Bill Lazor’s offense last year. Could he find his niche? What about Brandon Gibson?
Charles Clay, a former 6th round draft pick out of Tulsa, was making a name for himself in the league, and was on the final year of his rookie contract. How would the Fins approach that?
Answer – It appears so
On paper, the Fins appeared to have improved. Miami traded away Dannell Ellerbe and a 3rd round pick for Kenny Stills. The speedy Stills has had 95 receptions for 1572 yards and 8 TDs in his two year career. Stills could be on the verge of a breakout season.
Statically, Stills’ numbers (63 receptions for 931 yards) were almost identical to Wallace’s (67 receptions for 862 yards) last season, other than TD receptions. Each is credited with 4 dropped passes, though Stills reception per target percentage is over 75% while Wallace’s is less than 60%.
The biggest difference between the two is salary. Kenny Stills has two years remaining on a rookie minimum deal while Wallace was the highest paid receiver in the NFL.
With that out of the way, I’ll give you an opinion based on the information readily available, and where applicable give an opinion or two as to what the team may have been thinking.
Round one. WR DeVante Parker
We lost Wallace, Hartline, and Gibson. We signed Stills, and Greg Jennings.
This pick screams of sound logic. Jennings is the ultimate pro. But, clearly he is in decline. That said, think of the things he can teach DeVante. Think of how he can help him to understand how to be a pro.
Speaking of being a pro, there is some risk with Stills. He was feuding with Payton, and Brees at various points last year, and has to learn as well what it takes to be a pro. But, back to Parker…
He gives us a legit all around receiver. Maybe the best we’ve had since the Marks brothers, and I believe his ceiling can potentially be higher. He’s excelled with a number of quarterbacks in college and you know that has to be something that struck Hickey’s interest.
This kid, by every indication is the real deal. Love the pick, and he was 2nd on my wish list behind Todd Gurley who would have been a bigger risk.
My grade A
Before I list the players, and others add their favorites to the list, here are a few “conditions/caveats” I considered when parring down the list:
(1) Does the player have a reasonable chance to be there when Miami picks? (ex. No Winston, Leonard Williams, Fowler, etc)
(2) Would Miami choose the player OR would selecting him make Philbin “queasy”? (No DGB, Marcus Peters, Dawson, etc)
(3) Does he play a “position of need” for the Dolphins?
(4) Would they be an upgrade/challenge for time on the 53 man roster? (Coyle HATES playing rookies so defensive rookies definitely have to be a BPA at the time.)
Okay folks! With that said, here are the Top 18 players I would be happy to see in a Dolphins uniform by the end of the draft:
(19) Ben Koyack (TE) — Is TE a “position of need”? Maybe/maybe not. Would want him in 5th/6th but wouldn’t take him earlier than 4th round. In a Miami offense that uses frequent 2-TE sets, I am not happy with the depth behind Cameron and Sims ESPECIALLY with Cameron’s concussion history. From what I hear, Koyack is a better blocker than Clay but not the caliber of receiver (inconsistent hands). However, at 6-5, I like his potential in the red zone.
(18) Stefon Diggs (WR) — Rising up draft boards. Tough/gritty WR with return skill/experience. Not the most gifted or athletic WR in the class but if he’s there in the 4th/5th round, I want him.
(17) Stephen Nelson CB) — A potential starting Cornerback that is 18th because he may need to be drafted higher than he deserves. Can be good if he learns how to cover without grabbing. Right now, he’s a walking PI Penalty.
(16) Clive Walford (TE)– All around great TE but #17, and barely makes the list, because TE isn’t considered a big area of need. Would challenge Sims as #2 TE once he acclimates to speed of the NFL game. Probably goes in the second and Miami has more pressing needs.
(15) Ipo Ekpre-Olomu (CB) — He’s short AND injured (sounds like a Dolphins pick to me!) but the guy was a total playmaker at Oregon. Before his injury, he was once considered the top DB coming out in the draft.
(14) Malcolm Brown (RB) — He is actually higher on my “man crush” list but listed him lower because he shouldn’t be drafted before Round 5 or 6. HARD runner that Nolan Nawrocki specifically states “can close out games and be effective in 4-minute offensive situations. Strong work habits.”
(13) Tre Jackson (G) — One of only two offensive lineman on my list that is considered purely a Guard. Doesn’t really fit Miami’s “finesse” blocking scheme but I want the next “Richie Incognito” WITHOUT the off-field ‘meathead’ attitude.
(12) Quentin Rollins (CB/S) — REALLY like Rollins because he finds the ball BUT he has only played football for 1 year and Coyle probably wouldn’t trust him.
(11) Ali Marpet (G/C) — The “small school DARLING” of the Combine. Comes in this high because he plays, arguably, the biggest position of need on the team. He is also the athletic guard that Philbin/Lazor covet. Comes in this low because he went to Hobart College and Miami doesn’t have a good history with small school OL.
(10) Byron Jones (CB) — The other “workout warrior” on his list. He has the size, fluidity and skills to be our #2 corner. Lower on the list because, if he was THAT special, you would have heard about him before the Combine.
(9) Denzel Perryman (ILB) — A local favorite that has most of the “intangible” traits you are looking for in a MLB but much better at the run than coverage.
(8) Ereck Flowers (OT/OG) — Doesn’t have the physical tools of my Top 2 OLineman but he has the “dog” you look for in a player. Listed in draft guides as LT but limited athleticism probably makes Guard his best position. Only worth a 1st rounder if we trade back.
(7) Melvin Gordon (RB) — Great back that had the single game rushing record for a week. Vision is considered great and well built. This low because I am leery of Nebraska RBs (see Ron Dayne), would require a 1st round pick and RB isn’t even in our Top 3 needs.
(6) Nelson Agholor (WR) — Wide catch radius that would help make Tannehill look better. Concerned about his durability.
(5) Todd Gurley (RB) — Just like in my mock draft, I wanted to put him higher because he is considered a special athlete and once-in-a-decade RB BUT injury history and higher priorities push him to #5.
(4) Devante Parker (WR) — Has all the tools you look for in a WR. After Miami’s past experience with WRs with “attitude”, reading that Parker is a “bit of a prima dona” soured me on his stock. His talent makes him a Top 3 player on my board but maturity issues push him to 4.
(3) La’el Collins (OT/OG) — Beginning to trend as a popular pick in Dolphins circles. To me, best position appears to be Right Tackle (so not an area of need) BUT probably can kick into Guard. This high because of uncertainty with Albert.
(2) Eric Kendricks (ILB) — Best ILB in the draft. Has the instincts to play the run and the athleticism to cover. Probably would be #1 but ILB isn’t the biggest need (and Philbin/Coyle have a ‘hard on’ for Misi).
(1) Andrus Peat (OT/OG) — Peat is the best LT in the class and I believe he can also kick into the Guard spot in the NFL. I want Peat because I believe he improves our Guard play for a couple years and then becomes our LT of the future.