The Miami Dolphins will start training camp later this month. As usual, there are several positional battles that will intrigue fans. Here is a look at how the depth chart looks heading in to camp.
(S) denotes starters and (*) denotes players that should make the final roster
Ryan Tannehill (S)*
There are no real questions at quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is the starter and Matt Moore is his backup. Bethel-Thompson is practice squad eligible and will likely end up there. The ideal scenario for Josh Freeman is to have a good camp and preseason and increase his trade value.
Lamar Miller (S)*
Lamar Miller is the clear starter going into the season. It's more interesting after him however as there should be a good battle for the #2 back. Williams has the inside track right now as he has experience and flashed some last season. Jay Ajayi is supposed to be a big draft steal and he'll have to show why to jump over Williams. James had a good minicamp session and was getting more offensive touches, showing the speed and ability that made him a 2nd round pick in 2012. Gillislee appears to be the odd man out.
Jarvis Landry (S)*
Greg Jennings (S)*
Kenny Stills (S)*
First round selection DeVante Parker will miss a majority of training camp and will likely start the season behind the other four listed. He won't stay there however and he should secure a starting spot later in the season. Landry and Stills will be the primary starters. Jennings has the inside edge over Matthews, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Matthews have a strong preseason and begin the season as a starter over Jennings. Hazel is on the bubble and coach Philbin has pointed him out as a player that has dramatically improved. He may force the coaches to keep 6 WRs. UDFA rookie Jones has some return skills that could earn him a spot, but he and the rest of the group are likely camp bodies only.
Jordan Cameron (S)*
Cameron and Sims are locks to make the roster. The depth after that is shaky however. Lynch should make the roster as a blocking TE. Everyone else is questionable. Semisch is 6'8" and scored some TDs during minicamp. Stoneburner was also mentioned as making some plays during minicamp. It wouldn't be shocking to see Miami sign a free agent after roster cuts.
Branden Albert (S)*
Dallas Thomas (S)*
Mike Pouncey (S)*
Billy Turner (S)*
Ja'Wuan James (S)*
The starting tackle positions and center are set with Albert, James, and Pouncey. Jason Fox is set as the backup OT. Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas are locks to make the roster. After that, it's pretty uncertain. Dallas Thomas has been getting first team reps at his more natural LG spot with the hopes he'll finally lock that position down. Douglas also got some first team reps though and barring another free agent acquisition, it appears to be between them for the spot. Turner is expected to get the RG spot and should once pads come on. But Linkenbach got some first team reps at RG, so he's not out of the picture. Brenner got some first team reps, and will probably be the backup center. Those nine players are the best options currently on the roster and unless one of the UDFA rookies step up, it's doubtful Miami will keep more than those nine.
Ndamukong Suh (S)*
Earl Mitchell (S)*
Since the DTs work in a rotation, the only true "starter" will be Ndamukong Suh based on projected snap count. Mitchell, Mosley, and Phillips will see the bulk of the other DT snaps. Francis has potential and could make Mosley expendable. Anthony Johnson was an UDFA last season and could make the team as Suh's backup. It all depends on how many snaps the DEs get on the interior in the sub packages.
Cameron Wake (S)*
Olivier Vernon (S)*
Wake and Vernon are the starters. Shelby and Fede are the backups. Unless one of those other players can make some plays, those four will likely be the only defensive ends that make the final roster. Chris McCain, listed as a linebacker, has seen some DE snaps in minicamp and will be used in edge rushing situations.
Jelani Jenkins (S)*
Chris McCain (S)*
This is the thinnest positional group for the Dolphins. Jenkins is the starting WOLB and is a 3-down player. Chris McCain, as mentioned, has higher expectations this season as the starting SOLB and situation pass rusher. Misi is the starting MLB for now, but Sheppard could take some snaps from him. The team is high on Tripp and he could get into the starting mix at MLB. Paysinger gets the nod as the remaining backup at this point, but could be supplanted by any of the UDFA rookies. Special teams will be the key to keeping a roster spot here.
Brent Grimes (S)*
Jamar Taylor (S)*
Brice McCain (S)*
This will be the biggest, and possibly most important training camp battle this season. Grimes is the only clear-cut starter at CB. Taylor saw plenty of reps as the starting outside CB across from Grimes during minicamps. The spot is his to lose. Brice McCain is going into the season as the starting nickel corner, but rookie Bobby McCain could take that spot away from him. Tony Lippett is making the position switch from WR to CB, but has already made some plays during minicamps, with a 3 INT day during one OTA. Bowman could make the roster, depending on how quickly Lippett picks things up. Davis appears to be on the way out, simply due to numbers. Seamster is a long shot.
Reshad Jones (S)*
Louis Delmas (S)*
Jones is a potential Pro Bowl safety and the leader of the group. When healthy, Delmas is a quality starter. He appears to be recovered from a season ending injury to the point he was having limited participation during minicamp. Aikens has been mentioned as a player the Dolphins are high on and a potential starter. Michael Thomas should be a lock to make the team as he was playing Pro Bowl caliber special teams last season and saw time at safety. Both Aikens and Thomas can drop into coverage as a CB, so that could mean the team prefers to use them in the old Jimmy Wilson role instead of keeping a 6th CB. Rookie Thompson could make the roster as the 5th safety. The rest will have to earn their spot over Thompson due to special teams.
Caleb Sturgis (S)*
At this point, Sturgis is on the roster by default. Franks hasn't been consistent during minicamps and he'll need to basically nail every kick in preseason to make the team over Sturgis. However, Sturgis is not a lock to make the team either. Miami may choose to go after a more reliable free agent kicker.
Brandon Fields (S)*
Brandon Fields restructured his deal in order to free up some cap space and remain with the Dolphins. Fields had a down year for him last season, but unless Darr can really outplay him, Fields will be back.
John Denney (S)*
Same stuff; different day.
53 MAN ROSTER
The final 53 should be:
QB: Tannehill, Moore
RB: Miller, Williams, James, Ajayi
WR: Landry, Stills, Parker, Jennings, Matthews, Hazel
TE: Cameron, Sims, Lynch, Semisch
OL: Albert, Thomas, Pouncey, Turner, James, Fox, Douglas, Linkenbach, Brenner
DT: Suh, Mitchell, Mosley, Phillips, Johnson
DE: Wake, Vernon, Shelby, Fede
LB: Jenkins, Misi, McCain, Sheppard, Tripp, Paysinger
CB: Grimes, Taylor, McCain, McCain, Lippett
S: Jones, Delmas, Thomas, Aikens, Thompson
46 MAN GAME DAY ACTIVE ROSTER
The specialists will always be active so that leaves 43 available roster spots on game day. The starters comprise 24 spots if you include the slot WR and nickel CB, leaving 19 available spots open. Matt Moore will be active. Jason Fox is the primary backup tackle, so he's going to be active. Miami no longer has an OL utility player like Nate Garner, unless you consider Brenner a capable backup at center AND guard. He would likely be active. If not, that means that Miami would have to carry an 8th active OL, instead of 7. That takes 3 more spots. The wide receiver position becomes interesting. Greg Jennings will most likely be active, but he will not likely play special teams. That means a 5th WR may be active for special teams purposes. But that also takes up two more roster spots. They will only keep 3 TEs active at most. They will keep 4 backup DL active, leaving 7 available spots. There will be 2 additional linebackers active making 5 available spots open for the DBs. Aikens and Thomas are core special teamers so they'll always be active.
The active roster thus far looks like this:
QB: Tannehill, Moore (2)
WR: Landry, Stills, Jennings, Parker, Matthews (5)
TE: Cameron, Sims, Lynch (3)
OL: Albert, Thomas, Pouncey, Turner, James, Fox, Brenner, Linkenbach (Douglas) (8)
DT: Suh, Mitchell, Mosley, Johnson (Phillips) (4)
DE: Wake, Vernon, Shelby, Fede (4)
LB: McCain, Misi, Jenkins, Sheppard, Tripp (5)
CB: Grimes, Taylor, McCain (3)
S: Jones, Delmas, Thomas, Aikens (4)
That totals 41 players active with two spots to spare. The running back spot was omitted and it's a safe assumption to figure 3 RBs will be active. That's one too many spots so who's spot gets taken? This is where special teams will play a huge factor. Damien Williams plays special teams so he's a likely active player. But if James can win the returner role, he'd be the 3rd active RB, leaving Ajayi to be inactive in this scenario. This sounds crazy to many fans, but it's a plausible scenario, unless the Dolphins plan to keep 4 RBs active. But that means two spots will have to open up. The most likely spots would be the 5th WR and 8th OL. But that leaves weaknesses in other areas, plus it means no WRs would be on ST unless they use Stills on coverage duties. Is it also too much to expect Thomas and Aikens to fill CB roles since only 3 CBs are active?
Another interesting factor is at DT. Despite being a 2nd round pick, it's plausible that Phillips could be inactive on game day. Miami has a one true 3-tech in Suh and then a bunch of 1-techs. Johnson is the only other 3-tech DT on the roster. Can Mitchell or Mosley play 3-tech? If Mitchell can play 3-tech, then Phillips would probably take Johnson's spot on the active roster. If not, then Phillips is fighting for playing time behind two veterans.
The last interesting note is about the rookies. Miami will almost certainly keep all of the draftees, but very few will make the game day active roster. Parker is a lock to make it, but that's really it. Ajayi is currently the 4th RB and that means he's inactive on game day unless he can prove to be a better special teamer than the 5th WR. The rookie CBs need to show they can play better than Aikens or Thomas on both special teams and on defense before they become active. Douglas needs to win the starting LG spot or Linkenbach, who is appears to be more versatile, will get the active spot over him. Phillips was discussed in the previous paragraph.
Miami has a good roster and it could be the group that gets them over the playoff drought. It's a mix of young talent and veteran presence that could make for a solid playoff run. What are your thoughts on this version of the roster?