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8 Players to Watch in Preseason Week 4: Miami Dolphins vs St. Louis Rams

Eight fringe players to keep an eye on to sustain interest in the Dolphins' final preseason game of the year.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

We've reached the fourth and final preseason game of the year for the Miami Dolphins. Thursday night will be the last meaningless game the Dolphins play in 2014.

This game will feature a heavy load of back-ups and bubble players trying to state their final case for a roster spot before the roster must be trimmed down to 53 by 4pm ET on Aug. 30.

It's likely that a large portion of the starters will stay on the bench the entire night to stay healthy for the looming battle against the New England Patriots to open up the marathon that is the regular season.

As the anticipation of meaningful football blossoms and the interest in preseason football dissipates, the few who aren't already peaking ahead to Week 1 of the regular season are the most die-hard of fans or family members of fringe players.

The St. Louis Rams are now a team lacking a quarterback, but they still have a strong defense and a deep defensive line that will help the Dolphins gauge their running game (which I still believe is the most troublesome area on this team) one last time before the regular season begins.

In order to keep this game interesting for you, I have provided you with a few players to keep an eye on when the Rams come to Sun Life Stadium on Thursday night for the final evaluation game of the preseason.

RB Orleans Darkwa (3) - For this list, I will start with the intriguing undrafted free agents who have a golden opportunity to make the Dolphins roster with strong play to finish out he preseason.

In wake of Mike Gillislee being put on the Reserve/Injured list due to a lingering hamstring injury, it's possible that Darkwa could earn a roster spot with a solid performance against the Rams (or the Dolphins could cut him to poach a running back from another team's practice squad or the waiver wire).

At the very least, Darkwa has played respectively enough to earn a spot on the Dolphins 10-man practice squad.

DT Anthony Johnson (76) - AJ Francis being put on IR opens the door for Johnson to solidify his spot on the roster with a strong showing against the Rams. Johnson is a ferocious player who plays with great leverage, but he can sometimes get to aggressive and overrun a play or get blocked out of a play.

The problem with Johnson making the roster in place of Francis is that Earl Mitchell wouldn't have a back-up and it would force Randy Starks to play the 1-technique nose tackle more often. For this reason, it's possible that Kamal Johnson earns the final defensive tackle spot (though it would be tough to keep Kamal over Anthony as Anthony has much more upside).

RB Damien Williams (5) - Williams is the most likely to make the roster at this point out of this batch of rookie UDFAs. Williams leads the team in rushing touchdowns this preseason and was a big part of the impressive day from the rushing attack against the Cowboys in Week 3 of the preseason.

LB Chris McCain (47) - McCain is reportedly assuming more roles in practice, and it may have shown against the Cowboys as he didn't do much and was unable to take advantage of a few opportunities that he had to make a big play.

McCain will likely make this roster as he is too talented let go (and is being groomed in many different roles, which adds to his value), but I still want to see him back in playmaking mode.

TE Gator Hoskins (89) - Harold Hoskins scored a touchdown on his first touch after missing the first two games of the preseason. It was a fitting way to begin Hoskins career after scoring 25 touchdowns in his finals two years at Marshall.

Hoskins is undersized and inconsistent, but he's a tough player who's a tank with the ball in his hands. Hoskins has undeniable talent and a knack for scoring touchdowns, but he needs to be refined.

Luckily for Hoskins, Miami's releasing of Michael Egnew and Arthur Lynch's back injury opens the door for him to grab the third tight end spot behind Dion Sims and Charles Clay.

RB Daniel Thomas (33) - Thomas will make his preseason debut Thursday night. This preseason game, which is trivial for starters, may be the most important game of Thomas's career.

Thomas is fighting to elongate his stint in Miami. Thomas has been leapfrogged on the roster by rookie UDFA Damien Williams and has been rendered nearly useless with the emergence of Knowshon Moreno.

Thomas can prove his worth Thursday by running with power consistently and rushing for at least four yards consistently. These would silence the two biggest criticisms of Thomas (at least for the time being).

Thomas has an uphill climb to secure a roster spot, but his chances will dramatically increase with a strong performance on Thursday. If he does not perform well, however, it's likely that this former second round pick will be exiled just like Michael Egnew.

RB/WR Marcus Thigpen (34) - Thigpen is also facing elimination from the Dolphins roster. Thigpen has been dealing with a lingering injury and has only played in one preseason game.

Thigpen needs to prove that he is the best returner on the Dolphins to earn his spot, but he must also contribute on offense. Thigpen is a RB/WR hybrid and could be a huge weapon for this offense if used correctly, but with all the weapons available to the Dolphins offense Thigpen will need to first impress enough to be given the game reps.

What Thigpen really needs to do Thursday is prove that he is a viable big-play option.

If Thigpen has a good game the Dolphins will carve out a spot for him on the roster. If he doesn't and gets the waived, he will have a new job very soon. Thigpen is talented, it's just a matter of putting that talent in the right situations.

DE Michael Sam (96) - Would I be a sports writer if I didn't include Sam? If you look past the media minefield surrounding Sam, and of course his sexuality, you simply see a football player who is trying to make a football team.

Thursday will be our chance to take a glimpse past the soap opera surrounding Sam's life off the field and see what Sam can really do on the football field. We will be able to judge him by his talent instead of the extra-curricular things, something I have been looking forward to doing (as all I've seen of him has been ESPN's exploitation).

Will Michael Sam, the most well-covered seventh round pick of all time, play well enough to make the Rams roster? Yet another interesting sub-plot that lies within this "meaningless" football game.

If there are any players that intrigue you that you feel I missed on this list, comment below. As for the fate of these players, I will provide my 53-man roster position within the next few days.