We continue our look at the recent article from CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan asking what it means to have depth in the NFL. Kirwan asks 13 different questions about each NFL franchise, looking at key positions on the field and who would fill in if needed. Kirwan conclulded two teams, defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals, best fit the idea of "depth" on a roster.
He then listed five teams that could be considered "honorable mention" clubs: the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and a "tossup" between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Kirwan's explanation of the Dolphins, and the other four teams, making the honorable mention list reads, "they don't satisfy all the categories but they did better than most teams hitting on at least nine of the 13."
The depth questions start with an entry criteria question, one that if you answer no, you do not move on to the rest of the fields and simply do not have depth. Since the Dolphins met the entry criteria for the depth discussion by having a backup quarterback that "can go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch" with Matt Moore, we have been breaking down the rest of the questions Kirwan poses. The sixth area for consideration is:
Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
The Dolphins seem to be pretty well set at the wide receiver position this offseason, so much so that there could be a difficult time deciding who to released and who to keep at the end of the preseason. The team currently has 13 different receivers on the 90-man roster, so there will be plenty of fighting among the receivers as they all look to claim their position on the final 53-man roster.
Miami starts with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline on the outside, then has several player vying for the slot position, including veterans Brandon Gibson, who spent 2013 on injured reserve, and Armon Binns, and second round draft choice Jarvis Landry. Before the battle is over, other players like Rishard Matthews, Ryan Spadola, and Matt Hazel could also have a say in the final depth chart.
If the Dolphins were to lose Wallace or Hartline, the depth chart would shift, with Gibson likely moving back to the outside, playing where he did with the St. Louis Rams before joining Miami. Landry could also move into the vacancy, playing in a role similar to how he played at LSU.
Even if the Dolphins were to lose one of their top two receivers, the impact may not be overly noticeable, at least as it comes to how the players lineup prior to the snap. Not having Wallace's speed or the chemistry between Hartline and quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the lineup would hurt Miami's offense, without a doubt, but with the movement and multiple arrangements of the receivers on the field the offense has already shown in minicamp and Organized Team Activities, the Dolphins seem to be working to make sure every receiver can play every position.
That versatility could come in handy if at any time the team needs to replace one of their top receivers this year. Gibson and Landry provide the insurance of having guys capable of stepping up and into one of the top positions. Between the formations and motions and the third and fourth receivers on the roster, the Dolphins have the depth required at the position to answer Kirwan's sixth question.