80-Man Roster Breakdown
I decided to review the Dolphins 80 man roster heading into training camp in a few months. What I found was a team with more talent and more depth then I have seen in 15 years as a Dolphins fan...
I decided to review the Dolphins 80 man roster heading into training camp in a few months. What I found was a team with more talent and more depth then I have seen in 15 years as a Dolphins fan...
First off, Chad Henne is our unquestioned starter and future at QB. Now for the intrigue...
It is my opinion that as much as Pat White has struggled, his 2nd round draft status will save him from being cut this training camp. The trio has too much invested in him to give up after one year no matter how bad he plays. Worst and most likely scenario for him is that he sits inactive most of the season. The guy has alot of talent though, and I am not counting him out just yet.
Though Pennington is not even 100% yet and an unquestioned backup going into 2010, I believe he is too valuable from a mental standpoint for the Dolphins to dump him. They re-signed him for a reason he will be a Dolphin in 2010 barring unforseen circumstances.
While I am a big Tyler Thigpen fan and believe he is probably the second best QB on the team right now, there is a chance that a QB needy team will come calling in training camp with an offer too good to refuse. Therefore, Tyler Thigpen is not a lock.
First off, I do think that more than likely Lex Hilliard and Patrick Cobbs will both be on the team come September. However, there is an outside possibility that they end up fighting for one roster spot. Cobbs is a Sparano favorite and was an important player for the 2008 team, but at the end of the day he is a 3rd string RB coming off an ACL tear. If he doesn't regain his form the team may be forced to part with him or place him on PUP. Still, I could see him keeping his spot as strictly a special teams ace ala former Dolphin Travis Minor.
I thought Lex Hilliard did a great job when he was forced into action late in 2009. He now has in game experience which is valuable and I think his running style is what this regime likes. Hilliard also was a former 6th round pick in 2008 who didn't make the team out of training camp. So if he's been cut before it stands to reason he can be cut again, especially if Patrick Cobbs shows flashes of his old self.
Kory Sheets was on the roster late last season and has potential as a return specialist so its hard to say he is a just a camp body. Sheets actually has an outside chance of making the roster as a return man, or if he vastly improves as a RB.
I have a hard time seeing Cobbs being released, and an even harder time seeing Hilliard being cut. Still, neither player is a lock because there always is that chance that Miami decides to only keep 3 RB. Sheets is a player to keep an eye on but one who realistically will probably be off the 53 man roster come September. Rolly Lumbala and Tristan Davis are camp bodies in the truest sense and probably won't even make it past first cuts.
Before everyone jumps down my throat about all these former potential no.1 recievers (thats a joke) on my Camp Bodies list let me please explain. Every team brings 10 or 11 recievers to camp. That does not mean that all of these guys have a realistic chance to stick or that the team believes they all have longterm potential. The team needs to fill out their second and third team. I am not saying there is 0% chance Pruitt, Johnson, Moore or Wallace will emerge. I am just saying from my experience it is highly unlikely.
Now, to the players I actually think have a good chance. First off, i think it can be agreed upon that Marshall, Bess, Hartline and Camarillo will be our first 4 wideouts in any particular order come September. They are also likely to be the only players active on gamedays. That is where Turner and Grice-Mullen come in.
I am not a Patrick Turner fan. He has physical tools but that's about it. He was a disappointment in college and so far he has been a bust in the pro's. Still, as a 2009 3rd round pick this regime is going to give him every chance to make this team. His ceiling this season imo is as a 5th wideout who fights his way into a role. His floor is a spot on the Dolphins or another team's practice squad. Time will tell. I think he has a decent chance at making the team just because of his potential and draft status but if so he is likely to be inactive again. Then again, former Dolphins 2008 4th round pick G Shawn Murphy is a good example of this regime admitting mistakes quickly.
For Grice-Mullen it is much more simple. He will get a crack at the vacant KR position. If he succeeds he will make the team and be active on gamedays. If not its likely back to the CFL or an NFL PS. Those in Dolphins nation who think he can be as effective as Davone Bess should ease their expectations. However, of the journeymen wideouts at the back end of the roster, he has the best chance to stick with 4.3 speed and return ability.
I will start with one of the Dolphins most under appreciated players: Anthony Fasano. Yes, I know that he had a down year last year from a recieving standpoint. However, he is one of the best blocking TE's in the game and the Dolphins are a run first team after all. Having a complete TE like a Vernon Davis or Jason Witten is ideal but far from neccesary, especially when you have a alpha wideout like Brandon Marshall. Frankly, there aren't that many complete TE's around. There are alot of receiving TE's, and alot of blocking TE's, and a few All-Pros who are studs at both. Unless you have a top tier TE (there's only a handful of them) you should be happy to have a player at TE who is effective as either a blocker or pass catcher. Would I like to have Vernon Davis? Yes. Was I all for taking a TE high in April's draft when we had actual NEEDS? Hell no! Plus, Fasano was a pretty good pass catcher in 2008 and parts of 2009. I expect him to regain his form now that he doesn't have to stay in and block as frequently.
The other TE's will all be competing for roster spots. In theory, they could all make the team, two of them could, or only one of them could. It depends on each's progress. Obviously, Joey Haynos has a big leg up as he has lot's of game experience and he was the no.2 TE last season. Haynos' size is also a huge plus. Still, his dropped passes and lack of elite skill set makes him liable to be surpassed if he doesn't continue to improve.
John Nalbone is the guy to watch this training camp. This regime took him in the 5th round a year ago so they obviously saw something in him they liked. Still, he was released shortly after training camp and spent the year on the PS and was actually surpassed by undrafted TE Kory Sperry for a roster spot when Fasano was injured. This was a huge indictment on Nalbone's progress as a rookie, and he will sink or swim this training camp. Either he does what Lex Hilliard did a year ago and makes this team a year after failing to, or this regime will officially give up on him if he doesn't start to show something. He has the potential to emerge as a pass catching backup TE who compliments Fasano, and he has the potential to fall out of the league all together.
Kory Sperry is a guy with valuable game experience but a lack of elite tools. He has a chance to stick if he continues to improve but could easily be the odd man out if Nalbone starts to finally emerge.
Dimirti Tsoumpas, Ray Feinga
Easily the teams deepest group. Though there will be alot of competition at guard and center in training camp, Berger, Grove, Incognito, Thomas and Garner all have too much talent and experience not to make this team. It's just a matter of who is a starter and who is a quality reserve. As for Jerry, he is a lock because of his 3rd round draft status. Long and Carey need no explanation. Carey is the team's most under appreciated player imo.
It will be interesting to see how many O-lineman the Dolphins keep. Teams generally keep a minimum of 8, and as many as 10. I already have 8 as locks, so its possible that none of the above "battlers" will make the team. However, all four of them spent time on either the Dolphins or another team's rosters last season, and they all will have a real shot at making the team.
IMO Cory Proctor is far and away the most likely to make it. He is a quality backup with starting experience in Dallas and is relatively young. He was also coached by Sparano previously. Though Andrew Gardner was on the roster all season last year and was a 6th round pick by this regime, Nate Garner's ability to play RT in a pinch and Vernon Carey's ability to play LT makes having Gardner uneccesary unless he shows himself to be too valuale to let go. That means he needs to continue to improve and show his potential as a swing reserve.
Murtha and Hartline both were on the team at certain points last season, but frankly this unit is so deep they have little chance at sticking. They are both still PS eligible. Tsoumpas and Feinga are protoypical camp bodies, especially on this team.
Look how far we have come in 2 years. Going into camp this team has a young franchise QB, two supremely talented RB's, a punishing lead blocking FB, a no.1 alpha wideout and a great mix of complimentary recievers, a talented and underrated starting TE and backups with potential, and possibly the deepest O line in the league highlighted by one of the best blind side protectors in the game in Jake Long.
A bad team goes into training camp trying to find out who their starters are. A good team goes into training camp trying to decide who their backups are going to be. The Dolphins are a good team. Outside of competition at G and 2nd WR between talented and proven players, all the other competitions will all center around the back end of the roster. It is a relief to be talking about who will be our 5th wideout and not our 1st. Every team needs competition, but having your most hotly contested battles at 3rd string RB, Backup TE, and 5th wideout means this regime is doing something right.
Camp Bodies: 8
Another deep, competitive unit. It is not a coincidence that this team has so much talent on the Oline and Dline. Parcells believes that is where games are won and lost and he is absolutely correct. Randy Starks will be the starting NT and that is about all that has been decided. Kendall Langford is almost certainly going to be starting at one of the DE spots in the 3-4, but if Jared Odrick and Phillip Merling show the potential that made Miami use top 32 picks on both then Langford could be the odd man out. Still, it is highly unlikely that both players will fulfill their potential this training camp. Odrick because he is a rookie, and Merling because he is a career under achiever. More likely, Langford will start and be solid as always, and one of Merling and Odrick will win the other spot. My money is on the ultra talented Odrick, and in that case Merling will be a quality backup again this year on a team full of them. Unfortunately, they didn't draft him so high to be a backup. A Starks, Langford, and Odrick starting DLine unit with Merling as a rotational player has the potential to be one of the league's best.
Then the question becomes who fills out the last 2 or 3 spots available at DE and NT. Of the four previously mentioned as locks, only Starks has played the nose, so it stands to reason the Dolphins will keep atleast one backup at NT. Since Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first 8 games, this battle will come down to Paul Soliai, Ryan Baker and Travis Ivey. Soliai is the obvious and most likely choice. He has started a number of games and shown himself to be atleast capable of being a fine backup. However, with only so many spots and a switch in defensive scheme, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Fins would release Soliai. It is though very unlikely.
Ryan Baker was an undrafted free agent last season who was signed to the practice squad after a good camp and made his way onto the roster after injuries struck late in the season. He is being groomed as a backup NT and will be Soliai's biggest competition this training camp. IMO there is a good chance both will make the team if Baker keeps improving and Soliai doesn't lose focus. Undrafted Travis Ivey is a longshot but has all the measurables and if he has a great camp he could win himself a spot on the back end of the roster. More likely he will be a PS possiblity.
The last question is who will win that last spot at DE. Tony McDaniel was a pretty solid rotational player last season after coming over from Jacksonville and he is clearly the heavy favorite to make this team. His main competition is going to be from Dotson and Alama-Francis, two players who were on the roster last year but did not suit up on gamedays. Lional Dotson will either sink or swim this training camp as a former 7th round pick of this regime in 2008. He either will finally come through on his potential and win a spot in the rotation, or he will be cut if he continues to be inconsistent. Ikaika Alama-Francis was a 2nd round pick by the Lions in 2008, so he clearly has potential. Still, his chances of making this team are slim because of how deep ther unit is. But he is a player to watch certainly.
The Dolphins have two problem spots: FS and OLB. Though there are less proven commodities at FS, there will be hotter competition at 3-4 OLB. I think it is becoming fairly obvious the team envisions 2010 2nd round pick Koa Misi starting from day one at strong side linebacker. He is starting in OTA's and quite frankly even as a rookie he gives us our best chance. The real competition therefore is at weakside linebacker. Cameron Wake is the fan favorite, the most talented, and the most likely starter at that spot. He could very easily record double digit sacks in Mike Nolan's defense. However, if he doesn't improve his consistency the team may opt to use him as a nickel rusher and start the more sound Charlie Anderson. That is the interesting thing about Anderson this training camp and why he is a perfect sink or swim canidate. If Wake emerges and beats him out for a starting spot, it is very possible he will be cut all together in favor of younger players like Quentin Moses or rookie 7th round pick Chris Mccoy. Or, he could just as easily be starting opening day if Wake struggles.
The team will likely keep atleast 4 outside linebackers. That means Moses, Anderson and Mccoy are competing for two spots unless the team feels that their depth at inside linebacker offsets their lack of depth on the outside. IMO the likelihood is that Anderson will be the top backup, Moses will spend a fourth year in a row as depth and a back end of the roster type, and Mccoy will be on the PS. Though only time will tell with this paramount training camp battle.
Inside linebacker is much more simple. Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder will almost certainly be the starters barring an injury setback with Crowder. Channing Crowder isn't a great player, but he is way too hated on in these parts. He was a third round pick in 2005, and he has been a starter since day one. He is very solid he just isn't a difference maker. Basically, Dansby is a huge upgrade on Crowder as a playmaker, and Crowder is a huge upgrade on Akin Ayodele because Ayodele was a huge liablilty last season.
A.J. Edds is almost certainly safe as a 2010 fourth round pick. He will likely settle into Reggie Torbor's role as a nickel linebacker and eventually push Crowder. Tim Dobbins is a very solid backup who could easily start for this team if Crowder isn't healthy and at the very least will be an excellent special teams player. Having a player like Dobbins is an indication of how deep this team is. Rookie 7th rounder Austin Spitler will compete with Erik Walden for maybe one roster spot as a special teams player. Otherwise, he will be a PS canidate and Walden will be cut for lack of progress. I would predict that Walden will be released and McCoy and Spitler will be on the PS. J.D. Folsom just isn't NFL calibar and may not even make it past first cuts.
Nolan Carrol, Jason Allen
Unlike most, I don't see Will Allen winning a starting spot in camp. Davis and Smith have too much talent and potential as a duo, the team just isn't going to mess with either of them IMO. Therefore, it is likely Will Allen is battling himself for the nickel corner spot. If he is healthy, he will be the nickel corner. If not, he will be placed on PUP and it will be a battle between rookie 5th rounder Nolan Carrol and habitual disappointment Jason Allen.
Will Allen is likely going to be on the roster come September, and therefore there is a battle for a 4th and possibly 5th corner spot. Some will say Carrol is a lock as a 2010 draft pick, but I have seen many teams including Miami cut 5th rounder's out of camp who fail to meet expectations (Nalbone). Also, he was injury prone in college so if he sustains another injury he could be placed on IR or PUP. Carrol could also show flashes in camp and win himself a spot on the roster as a backup CB and special teams player. Time will tell. The team took likes this guy obviously and he clearly has some potential longterm.
Jason Allen is a very interesting player to me. He is clearly a massive bust as a former 16th overall pick. He will never start for this team and probably won't anywhere else. Still, he is a great athlete, a core special teams player, and provides quality depth at corner as he has played a lot of snaps there and hasn't always struggled. He is imo an ideal fourth corner for this or any other NFL team. He just happened to be drafted 16th overall by the Nick Saban regime a few years back. I could easily see him making this team yet again as a core special teams player and backup, but he may be unseated by the younger Carrol if there is only one spot available.
Of course, there is a chance that Wallace or Weaver could be a hidden gem. I will believe it when I see it. More likely one or both will be on the PS. Evan Oglesby has virtually no chance at making this team as he is just a less talented version of Jason Allen competing for the same position.
Reshad Jones, Jonathon Amaya
Yeremiah Bell is a leader on this team and is one of the Dolphins best players on defense. He will be starting at strong safety come September barring injury.
Free safety is a hot topic around here these days as it is seemingly the Dolphins weakest position. 2009 5th round pick Chris Clemons seems to have a leg up going into camp. Even if he happens to be beat out for a starting job it is hard to see him not making the team barring a disastrous camp. More than likely, he will be starting for this team at FS come September unless some acorn is brought in. However, he definitely will have competition.
Imo in a pinch Tyrone Culver would be the best player to start at FS currently on the roster. If this team had an injury he could be put in without much of a hiccup. He is smart and has a lot of game experience for this team. The problem is the Dolphins are looking for a long term starter and Culver is best suited for strong safety, and may only ever be a replacement level. Clemons has all the tools and if the mental aspect comes along for him he could be the team's answer at free safety longterm.
Then comes the two rookies. Reshad Jones has received a lot of hype around these parts, but I am here as always to be realistic about things. First of all, as talented as he is he fell to the 5th round for a reason let's make no mistake about that. Second of all, even if he is going to be a player for this team he almost certainly will need time to develop. Jones is very talented and longterm could be the team's future at strong or free safety, but again he fell so far for a reason and as a 5th round pick is not a lock for a roster spot. I would be very surprised if he didn't make the team given their lack of depth, but I would not be totally shocked.
Undrafted Jonathan Amaya is why I wouldn't be shocked. Though in theory the team could keep 5 safeties, it is more likely they will keep 4, and if they do, the battle will come down to Jones and Amaya. Jones has the leg up clearly as a draft pick and the more physically gifted player. However, if Jones falters in camp and Amaya continues to impress the coaching staff, don't be shocked if Jones is the odd man out. Nate Ness is camp fodder which should say something for his career prospects given safety is the team's biggest question mark.
This defense will unquestionably be improved in 2010. From a talent and depth standpoint, they are not quite to the level of the offense heading into training camp. Where we are talking about camp battles between two or more capable players on offense at admittedly less vital positions (Guard and no.2 WR), on defense there are unproven players looking to win starting jobs at critical spots.
Still, this defense has a stud at each level of the defense in Randy Starks, Karlos Dansby and Yeremiah Bell. They have two talented young corners who hopefully will make major strides this season in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. They have solid incumbent starters in Channing Crowder and Kendall Langford at ILB and DE, respectively. They have a 1st round pick in Jared Odrick who should immediately make an impact at defensive end. Also, they have starting caliber players who will provide quality depth in DE Phillip Merling, LB Tim Dobbins, and CB Will Allen.
11 starting positions and 4 are available going into camp. With Koa Misi a very likely starter at OLB, and Odrick likely to start at DE, weakside LB and FS are the most hotly contested position battles heading into camp. Though the players are unproven, each spot has talented players that can potentially be longterm starters for his team. This defense is going to be improved by the additions of Dansby, Odrick and Misi, and the subtractions of Joey Porter, Akin Ayodele and Gibril Wilson. Whether it becomes elite will depend on how thing shakeout at free safety and weakside linebacker.
Camp Bodies: 6
Look how far we have come in just two years since Parcells, Ireland and Sparano came to town and made us relevant again. Heading into camp the Dolphins have by my estimation:
38 Locks (including 3 special teams locks Carpenter, Fields and Denney)
Of the 15 available roster spots, there are by my estimation 28 viable candidates (Battlers) including:
Tyler Thigpen, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, Joey Haynos, Kory Sperry, Cory Proctor, Tony McDaniel, Paul Soliai, Ryan Baker, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, and Jason Allen
Every one of the above players played in games last season, and all but Cory Proctor (Cowboys) played in games for Miami. We aren't going into camp trying to decide which fringe NFL players we are going to keep at the back end of the roster. The Dolphins are trying to choose between players like Tony McDaniel, Paul Soliai and Joey Haynos, all players that made an impact for this team last year. This all is an indication of how deep this team is going into this season. The fact that a guy who started half the season at NT isn't guaranteed a roster spot is remarkable. Half the teams in the league would be lucky to have a Cobbs or Hilliard as a backup, and the Dolphins actually might have to part with one of them. Also, the Dolphins have a bunch of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year players with promise who will push for roster spots including:
Kory Sheets, Patrick Turner, Ryan Grice-Mullen, John Nalbone, Andrew Gardner, Lional Dotson, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Travis Ivey, Chris McCoy, Austin Spitler, Erik Walden, Nolan Carrol, Reshad Jones, and Jonathan Amaya.
This team is going to have the most talented 53-man roster it has had in a very, very longtime. In my estimation, this team has the least open roster spots (15), most viable candidates for those roster spots (28), and least amount of camp bodies (14) that they have had since I have been a fan. Bringing 66 players to camp that all would have made this team in 2007 or 2008 is an indication of the Dolphins frontline talent and great depth going into this season. It is a great indication of how far this team has come. Injuries will strike as they always do, but this year this team will have the depth to survive them.