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Defense: Miami Dolphins Roster Projections

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The Miami Dolphins made some big moves this offseason on defense. Lets check out the key battles at each position.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just over a week ago, we checked out Miami's roster projections on offense.  In Part II of this edition, lets check out the projections on defense. With 26 players chosen on offense, that leaves 27 players vying for a roster spot here. While more players will likely be signed by the team over the coming months, lets check out the roster projections as the OTA's kicked off last week.


Defensive Tackle

1. Ndamukong Suh

2. Earl Mitchell

3. Jordan Phillips

4. Anthony Johnson

5. A.J. Francis

In Miami 4-3 defensive alignment, Earl Mitchell and Ndamukong Suh are projected to be the starters at defensive tackle. Earl Mitchell contributed to 33 tackles and 2 sacks last season.  He'll be used in the rotation with Jordan Phillips, this year's second round pick in the draft.  Phillips has all the ability in the world, but some analysts have suggested he has a questionable motor.  Was that a by-product of the scheme he played in college?  The Dolphins will be hoping so.  Anthony Johnson and A.J. Francis are two young players that will provide quality depth.


Defensive End

1. Cameron Wake

2. Olivier Vernon

3. Derrick Shelby

4. Terrence Fede

This may just be the last year where the Dolphins can expect Cameron Wake to be at his best.  Now 33 years old, he'll be desperate to make the playoffs.  However, the Dolphins do have a talented young defensive end who is playing in the final year of his rookie contract.  Olivier Vernon has been exceptional the past few seasons, and will be playing for his next payday.  Derrick Shelby signed the $2.35 million restricted free agent tender to keep him around for one more season.  Terrence Fede, in his second season coming out of college, offers much promise but is still raw.


Linebacker

1. Koa Misi

2. Jelani Jenkins

3. Chris McCain

4. Jordan Tripp

5. Kelvin Sheppard

6. Mike Hull

Koa Misi is projected to occupy the inside linebacker position, while Jelani Jenkins should hold onto the weak side. Jenkins is quickly becoming one of the most promising young players on defense. At present, Chris McCain is favourite to occupy the strong side. He's also played defensive end during his time in the NFL, and that should help him with defending the run and blitzing the quarterback in certain situations. Jordan should become the primary backup behind Jenkins.  Kelvin Sheppard and promising inside linebacker prospect Mike Hull (who I hear Dolphins linebacker coach, Mark Duffner, loves) wins out over Spencer Paysinger to make the roster. What Hull lacks in athleticism, he more than makes up for it in football intelligence and a revving motor. He's a guy you just want to root for.


Cornerback

1. Brent Grimes

2. Jamar Taylor

3. Brice McCain (Nickel)

4. Zack Bowman

5. Will Davis

6. Bobby McCain

7. Tony Lippett

Brent Grimes is one of the most formidable corners in the NFL.  But who will start alongside him?  It often takes corners two to three years to become a starter, in one of the most technical positions on defense. This will be Jamar Taylor's third year since being drafted in the second round out of Boise State.  He's shown he can be a starter at his position in the few games he has played.  Providing he steers clear of injury, he looks like the front runner for the job.  At the nickel position, Brice McCain is experienced and should win the job.  He made 9 starts for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, hauling in three interceptions. This year's fifth round pick Bobby McCain should be the second-string corner at the nickel position.  Zack Bowman was also brought in by the Dolphins, and he will really push Jamar Taylor for one of the starting positions and provide quality play on special teams. Finally, Tony Lippett will attempt to make the transition from wide receiver to corner.  The team could stash him on the practice squad, but risk losing him to other teams.


Safety

1. Reshad Jones

2. Louis Delmas

3. Walt Aitkens

4. Michael Thomas

5. Cedric Thompson

The Miami Dolphins have brought in some good competition at safety behind the two starters - Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas. Walt Aitkens, a former 4th round pick, is a player to keep an eye on this season.  In his second season, the Dolphins will be looking for him to become a key backup player at the position.  Behind him is Michael Thomas, a player the Dolphins re-signed this offseason.  Many will remember Thomas made one of the plays of the season two years ago when he intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the end zone, enabling the team to hold on to their lead with only seconds to spare.  Cedric Thompson, a 5th round pick in this year's draft, rounds out safety position. He's a player that has always over-achieved, and I'm willing to hedge a bet he makes the roster. Jordan Kovacs loses out.

Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter@AlexParish89.