The Miami Dolphins made several roster moves this week, releasing several under-performing players while looking to bolster a Miami team that is 1-4 on the season and struggling all over the roster. The team waived offensive linemen Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner as well as running back Isaiah Pead, along with placing linebacker Koa Misi on injured reserve. To fill the roster spots available, Miami claimed cornerback Bene Benwikere off waivers, signed free agent offensive lineman Sam Young and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, both of whom spent training camp with the Dolphins this summer, and promoted defensive tackle Leon Orr from the practice squad.
On Wednesday, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase discussed the decision behind the moves and the timing of making them now. “It probably started on Sunday night,” Gase explained. “We started talking about if we wanted to make some changes and discussed it Sunday night, Monday, went through the morning on Tuesday, and we decided to make some moves.”
Gase admitted the moves were performance based, the the team looking to improve the talent level on the team. “We were doing our evaluation process on certain guys, and we felt like it was time for us to make a change,” he added.
The Dolphins’ offense this year has been a revolving door at the running back position, a trend that Gase changed this past week when he relied primarily on Jay Ajayi. Trying to settle on one or two key contributors - especially with the return of starter Arian Foster as early as this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers - made the team carrying five running backs on the 53-man roster unnecessary, and Gase was asked if the release of Pead was simply a number-based move. “It was a little bit,” he replied. “Hopefully, we’re going to get Arian back here pretty soon. We’re getting pretty crowded back there, and we got to make some moves on some other positions as well. We’re a little bit unhealthy (at) certain spots and need to add some depth.”
What should Dolphins fans expect from players at a realizte weak position like cornerback, where the team added Benwikere and Chekwa? Gase explained, “I think we’ve got a long ways to go before anybody is going to be able to get caught up that fast, and we’re pretty deep into it right now. There have been a lot of schematic things that we are doing a little different since the last time Chekwa has been here for sure. Obviously when you’re learning a new defense, it’s going to take a minute.”
Gase has spent this year trying to mold the Dolphins into the team he wants them to be - both by making roster moves like he made this week as well as through sending messages to players by benching under-performers or making inactive players who were not acting professionally. Was this week’s roster turnover a continuation of that message? “I think it was we wanted to make a change at a few spots, and a couple of those guys were offensive lineman and (at the) running back position,” Gase replied when asked exactly that. “That’s what we thought was best for our roster at the moment.”
But could the team take it as a message, and possibly a negative message at that? “I don’t know,” Gase answered. “You’d have to ask them. I just know that we’re trying to get the best guys we can possibly get to play on Sunday and play at max effort and do things right and do their assignments right and get guys that are going to play as a group and try to figure out a way to get a win.”
Gase did explain his message to the players on personal accountability and his expectations on game day, “Doing your job. Doing what you’re supposed to do at the right time under pressure. If you do your job, and the next guy does his job, you’ve got a better chance of having success on that one play.”
Will the roster churn continue next week or after that? “Every week’s a new week,” Gase said of deciding whether or not to make roster changes. “In the NFL, it’s hard to keep those seats in that room. There’s a reason why you go through this whole process throughout the season. It’s about trying to figure out who are the guys you want in this organization, who are the guys you want to build with and create something good.”
During the preseason, there was a lot of speculation that a player like Thomas, and possibly even Turner, could be released, but the Dolphins stuck with the younger players even though they were not necessarily having the performances expected of them. Now, after five weeks of regular season play, the team decided it was finally time to make that change. Why now and not back in the preseason? “A lot of times everybody thinks it’s really easy to just say, ‘Hey, let’s go grab this guy,’” Gase explained. “I mean who’s out there? We’ve got a list of guys that we’re always tracking and evaluating. This is part of our evaluation process. At the time, that’s where we were at. That was the roster we went with and we decided to make a change.”
The Dolphins will host the Steelers in the second game of a four-game homestand this Sunday, with kickoff at 1pm ET.