Dolphins Roster Bubble Breakdown: Depth chart coming into focus as cuts loom

MIAMI - AUGUST 14: Coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins looks on against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an opening week pre-season game August 14 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

One preseason game and one final round of cuts - that's all that's left. The Dolphins head to Dallas on Thursday night to close out their preseason. For those players on the roster bubble, it's the final chance to make an impression on the coaching staff before the weekend's final round of cuts. And though Tony Sparano admits that "a large percentage" of the final roster is pretty much set, there are still a few roster spots that are undecided. For those few players, Thursday's game is huge.

The waiving of TE Joey Haynos yesterday ended Joey's season (he'll likely end up on Miami's IR once he clears waivers). Bad news for Haynos, of course - but very good news for some who are on the roster bubble.

Let's break it down below.

1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team/4th Team
QB Chad Henne
Chad Pennington
Tyler Thigpen
RB Ronnie Brown Ricky Williams Patrick Cobbs/Lex Hilliard
FB Lousaka Polite
WR Brandon Marshall
Marlon Moore
Patrick Turner
WR Brian Hartline
Davone Bess
TE Anthony Fasano David Martin

LT Jake Long Lydon Murtha
LG Richie Incognito

C Jake Grove
Joe Berger
RG John Jerry
Donald Thomas

RT Vernon Carey Nate Garner
1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
DE Kendall Langford Charles Grant
Tony McDaniel
NT Randy Starks
Paul Soliai
DE Jared Odrick
Marques Douglas

SOLB Koa Misi
Ike Alama-Francis

ILB Channing Crowder Tim Dobbins
ILB Karlos Dansby
Micah Johnson
WOLB Cameron Wake
Charlie Anderson
Erik Walden
CB Sean Smith
Nolan Carroll
Benny Sapp
CB Vontae Davis Will Allen
Jason Allen
S Yeremiah Bell Tyrone Culver
S Chris Clemons
Reshad Jones
1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
K Dan Carpenter
P Brandon Fields
LS John Denney

Last 5 On: Patrick Turner, Erik Walden, Micah Johnson, Marlon Moore, Lydon Murtha
First 5 Off: Roberto Wallace, Lionel Dotson, Cory Procter, Nate Ness, Austin Spitler
Next 5 Off: Pat White, John Nalbone, Quentin Moses, Chris McCoy, Ryan Baker

The players highlighted are ones I consider "locks" to make the roster. I now have 45 locks - meaning I believe only 8 roster spots are still up for grabs. As you can see, the injury to Haynos may have just given this coaching staff the flexibility it needs while two other injured Dolphins take time to recover. Let's discuss:

  • I know that this coaching staff likes to run many two tight end sets. That won't change, either. With Haynos done for the year, it's obviously risky to keep just two tight ends on the 53 man roster. But I do think that John Nalbone will again wind up on the practice squad. I believe that this regime likes his raw ability - that's why he hasn't been shown the door yet despite not being a contributor at all so far in his young career. And if the Dolphins did lost one of their two tight ends during a game, they have the personnel at receiver to make adjust their game plan. Do the Fins like going three and four wide rather than using two tight ends? Not necessarily. But to make room on the roster at other positions, this is something they will likely have to do.
  • Marlon Moore is listed as a second-team receiver, leap-frogging Patrick Turner. That's not a mistake. Moore has been more productive than Turner this preseason and presents a skill-set that is more in line with what the Dolphins need - a faster "run after the catch" receiver. I think both make the team. But I don't think it was just an accident that Moore worked with the starters on a few occasions last week against the Falcons. He's now the fourth receiver - and will solidify his spot with a good performance on Thursday night.
  • I think that the Dolphins definitely plan on keeping nine offensive linemen - at least until Nate Garner is healthy (which is expected to be sometime in October). Even then, the Dolphins may choose to carry nine linemen because they have seen first-hand how quickly you can go through offensive linemen during the season. I'm not sure Murtha, though, is the guy who ends up on the final 53 when week one rolls around. The Dolphins could look to the waiver wire for help at the backup tackle spot.
  • I have just seven defensive linemen on the roster - but the Dolphins could go with eight. If they do, that fifth outside linebacker or sixth cornerback could be the loser of the roster spot. But with Will Allen's health still a question mark, keeping six corners makes a lot more sense than keeping five outside linebackers or eight defensive linemen.
  • No that isn't a mistake - Micah Johnson might just have the inside track to the fourth inside linebacker spot. The undrafted free agent was signed by the Dolphins a couple of days into camp after rookie A.J. Edds was lost for the season due to injury - making his accession all that more impressive. Micah has been a favorite of mine since before the draft. His poor 40 yard dash time hurt his draft stock, though, causing him to go undrafted. The Giants signed him in may but cut him late in June. Since coming to Miami, Johnson has been a pleasant surprise. He plays faster than he timed and has a knack for filling running lanes and making stops. He's outplayed both Austin Spitler and J.D. Folsom and deserves a spot on this team. Micah saw action very early in the last preseason game - a sign that the coaches like him and wanted to see him against better competition. One more solid outing from Johnson should solidify his roster spot.
  • As you can see, I've upgraded Reshad Jones to a lock to make the team. That's mostly because of his play on special teams. He's been one of the bright spots for the coverage units and has enough raw talent at the safety spot to warrant making the team. I don't know if he will unseat Chris Clemons this year. But Clemons hasn't been anything special and Jones could start taking some playing time from him as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable with the defensive playbook as well as the speed of the game. For now, though, he'll be a major special teams contributor.
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