Training camp opens tomorrow for the Miami Dolphins' 2014 season, with rookies and veterans reporting to the team facility in Davie, Florida. Over the next few weeks, the team will eat together, live together, and practice together, all in an effort to prepare themselves for the 17 week NFL regular season.
While some players are safely on the team's 53-man regular season roster already, there are many players hoping to catch the eye of the coaches, and earn their way on to the team. For every rookie and new free agent that the team adds to the roster, there is the other side of the transaction, where another player has to be removed. Which players are right in the middle? Let's breakdown the top five bubble players for the Dolphins heading into training camp.
1. Daniel Thomas, running back - You will see all over the place, fans predicting Thomas will be gone this year, pointing to players like Mike Gillislee and Orleans Darkwa as the player that needs to be kept over Thomas. With the injury to Knowshon Moreno, however, the door is probably wide open for Thomas to keep his spot on the roster. Thomas has to show in training camp and preseason that he is worthy of the spot, but he is likely on the right side of the cutline at this point.
2. Marcus Thigpen, wide receiver/returner - This one is a tough one to read. The Dolphins are clearly looking for a way to get Thigpen involved in the offense, moving him from running back to receiver, but it might be too little to late. After seeing a nearly 5-yard per return (both kick and punt) drop in his average last year, Thigpen has to prove he is the top choice - and by a large margin - in the return game if he wants to stay with the team. Otherwise, Miami could be looking to players like Jarvis Landry or Lamar Miller to fill the return role and open a spot on the roster for someone else.
3. Isaako Aaitui, defensive tackle - It hurts to see Aaitui on this list, but I think he is on the wrong side of the cut line right now. Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and Earl Mitchell will take the top three defensive tackle slots, with A.J. Francis likely the fourth. Given the suspension facing Dion Jordan to start the season, the team may need to consider an extra defensive end over a defensive tackle, which could be what keeps Aaitui from making the team. Given the roller coaster of a career Aaitui has had so far, from being cut by the Dolphins in 2012 to signed by the New York Jets to tearing his ACL and MCL in his first practice with New York to battling back to the Dolphins practice squad and ultimately making his first appearance in October last year, I hope he can make the team, but he is squarely on the bubble at this point.
4. Tyler Larsen, center - I know a lot of people are high on Larsen, especially with the hip injury to Mike Pouncey, but I'm not sure he's in the mix to make the team right now. The team is focusing on a starting offensive line that will have five new faces on opening day this year, as compared to last, and devloping a project center just may not be in the cards at this point. A huge training camp and preseason could change that for the Utah State rookie, but his best bet might be playing for a practice squad position.
5. Jordan Kovacs, safety - Defensive back is simply a crowded place right now, and Kovacs may end up being the odd man out. A strong training camp and preseason could very easily force the Dolphins to keep an extra safety, but with Reshad Jones, Louis Delmas, Jimmy Wilson, and Don Jones all likely to make the roster, Kovacs could be battling Michael Thomas for the final roster spot.