The 2015 edition of the Miami Dolphins' training camp closed on Monday as the team looked forward to two joint practices with the Carolina Panthers later this week in North Carolina, followed by the Preseason Week 2 contest between the two clubs. With training camp - and the public practices - complete for the year, we take a new guess at how the Dolphins will build their 53-man roster when the season begins in September.
This is a pretty easy one. Tannehill is set as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, while Moore is fairly well entrenched as the backup. Josh Freeman and McLeod Bethel-Thompson have not demonstrated anything that makes keeping three quarterbacks a necessity.
Running Backs (4)
Miller is the obvious starter, while the backups are still fighting among themselves for the rest of the depth chart. At this point, it appears that Williams and James are locks for the roster, with Ajayi likely to make it based on his being a draft pick this year. That means the Dolphins will have to release Mike Gillislee and Demitrius Bronson.
Cameron and Sims are locks. Stoneburner appears to have the inside edge for the third slot. I really wanted to keep four here, but I just do not feel like Tim Semisch or Gerell Robinson have distinguished themselves enough to claim a spot, and Arthur Lynch has already been released. Semisch landing on the practice squad would not be a surprise.
Wide Receiver (6)
Jennings, Landry, Stills, and Parker are the top four receivers of this group, with Matthews moving up over Parker based on the rookie's foot injury. That injury also opened up the possibility that the Dolphins keep additional receivers to cover themselves if Parker is not ready to star the year. Based on training camp practices, the nod goes to Preston to claim a sixth wide receiver spot, but Christion Jones, Matt Hazel, Damarr Aultman and LaRon Byrd could all make the case as well. Cobi Hamilton, Kevin Cone, and Tyler McDonald may be on the wrong side of the cut line right now, though strong performances (especially on special teams) in the upcoming preseason games could slide them closer to that last sport - or a practice squad position.
Offensive Linemen (9)
The top half of this list appears to be the starting five for the Dolphins, unless something drastic happens in the next couple of weeks. Assuming Albert is healthy and ready to start the year, that combination should be solid enough to get Miami through the season. Thomas has played fairly well as of late, and Turner, at right guard, saw the most playing time for any starter on offense against the Chicago Bears last week, and actually did well for the most part; he probably will have the same thing happen this week against the Panthers. Pouncey is settling back into the center position while James gets to move back to his natural right tackle position. Fox is working as the starting left tackle if Albert's knee injury keeps him from being ready for Week 1, and rookie guard Douglas has been the player closest to unseating Turner in the lineup. Brenner played well against the Bears and is the most likely choice for center if something should happen to Pouncey. Linkenbach is not a lock to make the roster, but does give Miami a depth option. J.D. Walton, Michael Liedtke, Audrey Walker, Jacques McClendon, Donald Hawkins, or Bryant Browning could make a case to overtake Linkenbach, but have to start making the presence felt pretty quickly.
Defensive Ends (4)
I really want to take a fifth defensive end, but I do not know where to find them. Wake and Vernon will start, with Fede and Shelby the backups. After that, no one in the Emmanuel Dieke, Ray Drew, and Kendall Montgomery group jumps out as a must have.
Defensive Tackles (6)
The shortage of defensive ends gives us an extra slot at defensive tackle to fill. Suh and Mitchell appear set to start, with Mosley and Francis the likely second string. Phillips, as a rookie, could make a case to bounce either of those guys out of the second string and split playing time with Mitchell. Anthony Johnson makes the roster as a depth option. Not making the roster are Deandre Coleman and Calvin Barnett from this group.
Linebacker may be one of the toughest positions to decide. Jenkins, at weakside linebacker, is really the only player who appears to be locked into a position. Sheppard could claim the starting middle linebacker spot, which would likely then move Misi back to the strongside. If Misi stays at middle linebacker, then McCain will likely move to the strongside starter (or he could become a defensive end, which helps the depth there as well). Tripp appears to be safely on the roster, though his ankle injury is concerning. Vigil looked good during the Bears contest, and could make a play to be a depth option for the team. Paysinger is probably a bubble player right now, and could be kept if the numbers somewhere else work out, but I could see one of the younger guys being kept in place of him. Mike Hull and Jeff Luc both could be practice squad options if they don't beat out Paysinger, with James Davidson and Neville Hewitt likely released.
The Dolphins are deep at cornerback options for depth, assuming Taylor claims the starting spot opposite Grimes and Brice McCain is the nickel. At this point, Bowman and Davis may have the inside track for the other spots on the roster. Tony Lippett, who is making the transition from receiver in college to cornerback in the NFL is probably to a practice squad player. Bobby McCain and Sammy Seamster need to make an impact quickly.
Jones and Delmas are the obvious starters. Thomas gives Miami a depth option at cornerback, while serving as the primary reserve at safety. Aikens appears set to be the final member of the group, though Jordan Kovacs and Cedric Thompson still have time to overtake him. Phillip Thomas appears to be the odd player out.
Punter: Brandon Fields
Kicker: Caleb Sturgis
Long Snapper: John Denney
Fields is obviously going to win the punter position over Matt Darr. Denney continues his run as the longest tenured Dolphins player. The assumption is that the team will stick with the known commodity of Sturgis over the unknown Andrew Franks, but the position battle could go either way.
Offensive Total: 26
Defensive Total: 24
Specialist Total: 3