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Dolphins 53-man roster prediction ahead of final cuts

The Miami Dolphins will spend the next few days shaping their final 53-man roster heading into the 2015 regular season. We take a shot at predicting how it will look.

 Miami Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel (83) catches against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel (83) catches against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium.
Andrew Innerarity-USA TODAY Sports

The Preseason is over, the regular season is a week away, and NFL rosters are still at 75-players. That means, between now and then, each team has to release 22 players as they get down to the regular season 53-man roster limit. The Miami Dolphins, who have already released defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, are beginning that process. We attempt to predict how the final roster looks.

Quarterback (2)

Ryan Tannehill
Matt Moore

Nothing surprising at quarterback. Josh Freeman and McLeod Bethel-Thompson did not show enough to earn them a spot on the roster.

Running Backs (4)

Lamar Miller
Damien Williams
LaMike James
Jay Ajayi

The Dolphins will likely carry four running backs this season, especially early as rookie runner Jay Ajayi, who looked really good during the last preseason game, cracked a rib on Thursday. Mike Gillislee looked good too, scoring two touchdowns and leading the game in rushing yards, but he may just not fit on the roster. He could be a practice squad candidate.

Tight End (3)

Jordan Cameron
Dion Sims
Jake Stoneburner

The first projection of the Dolphins' 53-man roster had Cameron, Sims, and Stoneburner. It changed along the way to rotate in Tim Semisch and Gerell Robinson, but has now ended back where it began. Semisch should land on the practice squad.

Wide Receiver (6)

Greg Jennings
Jarvis Landry
Kenny Stills
Rishard Matthews
DeVante Parker
Matt Hazel

Hazel has performed to the point that Miami simply cannot cut him. Jennings, Landry, Stills, Parker, and Matthews are clearly the to five wide outs, but the Dolphins will have to keep six to protect Hazel from poaching, and allow him to continue to develop.  Damarr Aultman should land on the practice squad, as could either Christion Jones or Cobi Hamilton.

Offensive Linemen (9)

Branden Albert
Dallas Thomas
Mike Pouncey
Jamil Douglas
Ja'Wuan James
Jason Fox
Sam Brenner
Billy Turner
Jeff Linkenbach

The Dolphins need some depth on the offensive line, especially with Albert and Fox, the top two left tackles, dealing with injuries this Preseason. Douglas appears to have vaulted over Turner as the starting right guard. Linkenbach is the last player on the roster, with the Dolphins hoping his versatility is not needed, but is something they should have.

Defensive Ends (4)

Cameron Wake
Olivier Vernon
Terrence Fede
Derrick Shelby

The defensive ends have appeared set since the news of Dion Jordan's suspension.

Defensive Tackles (5)

Ndamukong Suh
Earl Mitchell
C.J. Mosley
A.J. Francis
Jordan Phillips

How the battle between Mosley and Francis turns out could be the key to how many defensive tackles Miami keeps. Suh, Mitchell, and Phillips are all locked into the 53-man roster. Does Miami keep both Mosley and Francis, or do they look to gain a roster spot by releasing one of them. If they do cut one, it would likely be Mosley.

Linebackers (7)

Jelani Jenkins
Kelvin Sheppard
Koa Misi
Chris McCain
Jordan Tripp
Zach Vigil
Mike Hull

The linebackers are hard to predict. Spencer Paysinger, who is not on this list, probably finds a way on to the roster, but it is not clear how. Vigil and Hull have both been impressive as undrafted free agents - as has Jeff Luc who should be on the practice squad - so Miami probably has to keep both of them. McCain, Misi, Sheppard, and Jenkins are roster locks, so that leaves Tripp versus Paysinger for the seventh linebacker position.  Injuries to Tripp held him back some this preseason, but he is someone the team trusts as a starter if injuries happen ahead of him on the depth chart, and he is a special teams contributor. Paysinger appears to be liked by the coaches as well. One of them two of them should be on the roster, and it could be a coin flip as to which one.

Cornerbacks (6)

Brent Grimes
Jamar Taylor
Brice McCain
Will Davis
Bobby McCain
Tony Lippett

The Dolphins were strapped for cornerbacks last year when injuries started ripping through the secondary, so the projection has them carrying six this year. Grimes, Taylor, and Brice McCain are the starters, with Bobby McCain and, after a really good Preseason Week 4 performance, Davis take the next two spots. The team likes what Lippett brings from an athletic standpoint, despite being raw as a cornerback, and they likely will not want to open him up to poaching if he in on the practice squad. Currently, Miami has seven cornerbacks on the roster, meaning Zack Bowman is the odd man out in the group. Switching Bowman and Davis would not be a shock, but Davis in younger and can still develop.

Safety (4)

Reshad Jones
Walt Aikens
Michael Thomas
Don Jones

Miami has six safeties on the roster, with four spots available. Jones, Thomas, and Aikens are locks, leaving the final roster spot to be decided between Jones, Jordan Kovacs,  and Cedric Thompson. Thompson has flashed at times, but makes too many mistakes to make this projection. Jones is right on the bubble, with Kovacs likely on the wrong side of that bubble.

Specialist (3)

Punter: Matt Darr
Kicker: Caleb Sturgis
Long Snapper: John Denney

Darr claiming the starting punter spot was a surprise. Still projecting Sturgis as the starting kicker for the Dolphins, though it would not be a surprise for Andrew Franks to claim the spot. Would the Dolphins trust two rookie kickers? John Denney continues to be the longest tenured player on the roster.

Offensive Total: 24

Defensive Total: 26

Specialist Total: 3