OTAs are now under way, and we are beginning to get some insight as to who is playing well and who is struggling. With this, I decided it was a good time to publish my first 53-man roster projections with the depth chart. This is based on current OTA news and last year's play. I understand that OTAs don't mean much and we shouldn't look much into them, but they are the best insight we currently have in the team. But first, some of the preseason movement.
Matt Moore traded to Kansas City Chiefs for 4th round pick - The Chiefs have little depth behind Matt Cassel, and need someone who can push Cassel for the job. Moore is the perfect candidate for this as he is already familiar with KC OC Brian Daboll's system and has experience with a Dwayne Bowe-esque WR when he worked with Marshall last year. This move benefits both teams as the Dolphins avert a QB controversy, picking up a pretty good pick, and the Chiefs get a solid starter or backup.
Now that the trade is out of the way, let's get moving to the real roster. It's split into the three logical sections of offense defense and special teams, so let's get started.
Garrard has been the best QB in OTAs by far, and will get one last shot at being a starting QB. He was a pro bowler the year prior to his injury and should play very well if he is healthy. He has the mobility, experience and intelligence to both start at this spot and to serve as a mentor to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill becomes the primary backup, but may start somewhere throughout the season. If the Dolphins are playing very well and Garrard is a difference maker, Tannehill sits the whole season. If they are playing very well and Garrard is only a game manager with the rest of the team being playmakers, Tannehill probably would take over whenever Philbin feels he is ready this season. If we are playing very poorly and it is because of Garrard, Tannehill starts by week 6, and if we are playing poorly, but Garrard is playing well, Tannehill sits all season. Pat Devlin rounds out the tail end of the depth chart earning a 3rd string spot.
This is more than likely Reggie's last year as a phin, and he will have less of a rushing role. He will be utilized more as a pass catcher and slot reciever, but will still have plenty of touches as a RB. Daniel Thomas will be pushing him for a starting role, and will have about the same amount of rushing opportunities as Bush, providing a strong, bruising thunder to Bush's lightning. Miller rounds out the RB corps getting some opportunities, but mostly will be developing and working on getting healthy as he will be the primary rotational back next year.
Fullback/Halfback: Jerome Messam
Messam is a powerful fast back that can be used both as a rusher and as a blocker. Because of this, he gets a spot on the roster as a fullback/halfback. I see him being used very similarly as John Kuhn in Green Bay last year, as a powerful back and blocker.
Fullback/Tight End: Charles Clay
Clay is a strong blocker and is a very good pass catcher. Clay will be used everywhere around the field, and will serve as a utility knife for the offense, being successful from many spots. Because of this, he is designated an H-back that will see much playing time as a potent target.
Tight End: Anthony Fasano - Michael Egnew
The writing is on the wall for Fasano at this point. He is a very good blocker and is a good red zone threat, but will be too expensive to resign next year. That is not an issue for the Dolphins however as both Charles Clay and Micheal Egnew are more than capable of taking over. For this year, Egnew sees the field as a situational receiver, while working on his blocking.
Z-Wide Receiver: Roberto Wallace - Jeff Fuller
The Dolphins have a tight competition at wide reciever, with as many as ten players vying for a role. Hartline and Bess are the automatic starters at their respective spots, while the other four are up for grabs. Roberto Wallace has been very impressive thus far in OTAs and is looking to be an ego-less, drop-less clone of Brandon Marshall. His size, speed and hands earn him a starting spot on the team, and he looks to hae a Victor Cruz-esque season. Clyde Gates' speed earns him the backup X spot over rookie Rishard Mathews, but he will have to up his production this year as he will get a lot more opportunities as the 4th WR in an offense that uses many 4-WR sets. Moore runs great routes and has good speed, earning him the backup slot job, while Jeff Fuller's size and familiarity with the system earns him the backup Z spot. It may come as a surprise that I have none of the drafted rookies making the roster, but simply neither of them have showed enough in OTAs to justify a spot.
Left Tackle: Jake Long
Right Tackle: Jonathon Martin - Lydon Murtha
via cdn.bleacherreport.net (obviously not the current O-line)
The LT spot is a no-brainer, Long is one of the best tackles in the NFL. Incognito deserves the starting LG spot, but it remains to be seen how well he plays in the new zone-blocking scheme. Pouncey is a top center, and retains this role, while Jerry earns the starting RG role. Martin was a very good prospect and will immediately start at RT. As for the depth, I tried to go for versatility. I choose mostly players that can play multiple spots and can be moved around based on need. Lydon Murtha can play as a LT and a RT, so can serve as the backup for both spots, while Artis Hicks can serve as a backup RG and RT, giving him the versatility to play inside or outside. Ryan Cook can play any of the three interior roles, RG, C and LG, which allows him to be moved around on the inside, while Nate Garner can play every position on the O-line, which makes him a perfect backup.
Cameron Wake is a no-brainer, being one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, while both Soliai and Starks are well deserving of the DT spots. Odrick will be the starter in name only, and will either come off the field or move inside on passing downs. Vernon will come in as a pass rusher on passing situations, alleviating some of the pressure on Wake and creating sacks. McDaniel will sub in for Soliai on passing downs, providing a strong interior pass rush and a tall frame to bat down passes. Baker and Randall provide depth and rotation to the inside of the line.
Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are locks for the starting spots, and Koa Misi will get another opportunity to return to his 2010 form as he transitions to a 4-3 OLB role. Guyton provides speedy depth for all three spots, and may push for starting time if Misi struggles down the stretch. Spitler is a young player who played well last year in a backup role, and should continue in that role. Kaddu was a high motor drat pick that should shine on special teams this year and can come in as a situation OLB. Freeny can play both OLB and DE and would provide some pass rush from the OLB spot.
Cornerback 1: Vontae Davis - Vince Agnew
Cornerback 2: Sean Smith - Johnathon Wade
Nickel Cornerback: Richard Marshall
Vontae Davis is a lock for his starting spot, and Sean Smith has played very well in OTAs, earning the nod. Richard Marshall was brought in to play NCB and that is where he will play. Johnathon Wade is a typical Philbin player, someone with a lot of heart and determination, who was picked highly, but didn't get enough playing time or opportunity to make an impact and is determined to make one now. Agnew was an UDFA last year and has signed brightly in practice, and should be able to beat out incumbent Nolan Carroll for the spot. Carroll struggled last year, and will need a very strong training camp to make the roster.
Safety 2: Chris Clemons - Jimmy Wilson
Because our new defense uses two free safeties as opposed to the traditional FS/SS combo, I designated the starters as only safeties, not as strong or free. Reshad Jones gets the nod for one of the starting jobs, having played very well last year and in OTAs this year, and Tyrell Johnson has proven to be a solid backup to replace Culver, who struggles at times in coverage. Chris Clemons gets the nod for the other starting spot, but will be on a short leash. If he strings a few bad performances together, he may fins himself benched for Wilson, who is a tough, physical safety that loves to get the big hit.
Kicker: Dan Carpenter
Punter: Brandon Fields
Long Snapper: John Denney
No surprises here. An overall solid group with no real weaknesses
Kick Returner: Lamar Miller - Clyde Gates
Punt Returner: Reggie Bush - Davone Bess
Miller has the potential to be a very good kick returner, and will get the nod here, while Clyde Gates played well enough to earn the backup role in case Miller is hurt. Bush was an elite punt returner in New Orleans, and will finally be utilized in this role here. Davone has been a solid punt returner, but has never been a big play threat, earning him the backup role.
Waldron makes the squad due to his upside and the fact that we need at least one OT on the practice Squad to hold two full teams in practice. Mathews has a ton of upside and should push for a roster spot next year. Wole is a very good WR that can provide a fresh practice target and has decent upside. McCray is a very good project player that needs some work before he can make the active roster. Smith was good in college and provides some developmental pass rush. Gray is a powerful, bruising short yardage back who I see having a future with the team if Reggie Bush were to leave via FA next year. Les Brown has a TON of upside and should make the active roster and have an impact next year if Fasano leaves via FA. Cameron Collins is a good project that needs some development, but could push Spitler for a roster spot.
And there you go, my first projected 53-man roster. I probably won't make any more, as this will most likely be my last fanpost for the season. But I will definitely try to get some up. As always, please leave feedback below, always appreciated.