We are currently making our way through the Miami Dolphins' 90-man offseason roster, breaking down last season for each player, as well as what could happen this year. Today, we continue today with a look at defensive tackle A.J. Francis.
Previous Roster Breakdowns: Chad Bumphis Marcus Thigpen Aaron Corp Jonathan Freeny Jordan Kovacs Dion Jordan Chris Burnette Josh Samuda Brian Thomas Keelan Johnson Jeff Fuller Jamar Taylor Michael Egnew Vaughn Martin Michael Clay
Francis was never able to get comfortable in Maryland's 4-3 defensive front as a junior. But, when the team switched to a 3-4 in 2012, Francis felt right at home. He was able to turn that comfort into an honorable mention on the All-ACC selections.
With his physical play, and his solid Pro Day performance, Francis was projected anywhere from a fifth round selection to undrafted. Unfortunately for him, it was the undrafted extreme that became a reality, but he was one of the 19 undrafted free agents Miami signed immediately following the draft.
Why he could improve in 2013:
The Dolphins have experience with 3-4 defensive linemen becoming successful in the 4-3, with both nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Randy Starks making the switch to defensive tackle, and playing at Pro Bowl levels. This year, they are moving defensive end Jared Odrick inside to defensive tackle. If any team can work with Francis to get the most out of him, even if he is more comfortable in a 3-4, it is the Dolphins.
Why he could regress in 2013:
He went undrafted for a reason, and he has never been a dominant defensive lineman, but just a very good, very solid player. Making the adjustment to the speed of the game, and going up against NFL offensive linemen play-after-play, could be more than Francis is ready to do at this point.
Odds he will make the 53-man roster:
At best, he is likely a practice squad candidate. With Soliai, Odrick, Starks, Kheeston Randall, and, potentially, Vaughn Martin all easily ahead of him, Francis has a tough climb ahead of him. Even assuming he makes the practice squad may be too much at this point. He will have to perform well throughout the entire preseason if he wants a chance of sticking around.