The Miami Dolphins are a week away from their first Organized Team Activity, which will mark the first time (most of) the team's rookies will get on the practice field with the veterans, and the team can start truly working toward the 2016 regular season. The team's roster currently stands at 90 players, but will have to be whittled down to 53-players by the time the season starts in September.
The Dolphins will start building their depth chart with the OTAs, a chart that is admittedly fluid between now and the season - and even the end of the season. There will still be players added to the roster, there will be rookies who outperform veterans, and there will be players who unexpectedly struggle.
Despite those changes, the majority of the roster and the depth chart can be projected based on the current 90-man roster. The sixth part of The Phinsider Dolphins roster breakdown for 2016 turns to the linebackers, one of the biggest question marks heading into the season.
WLB: Jelani Jenkins - 4th year
MLB: Kiko Alonso - 4th year
SLB: Koa Misi - 7th year
The starting linebackers appear fairly well set, barring any late free agent signing. Jenkins will return to his weak-side linebacker spot and Misi is back as the starting strong-side linebacker. Both players suffered through injuries last year, with hopes that they will return to full strength this year as a part of why Miami believes their linebacker corps will be better this year. The other factor for an improved position group is the addition of former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has struggled with injuries of his own over the past few years, but appeared to be a dominant linebacker as a rookie with the Buffalo Bills in 2013. Miami could consider playing Alonso at weak-side linebacker, if they can find someone to lock down the middle, or the strong-side if Misi is moved back to the middle.
Neville Hewitt - 2nd year
Zach Vigil - 2nd year
Dion Jordan - 3rd year
Miami has a young set of reserves, which is concerning if injuries happen, but does provide hope for the future. Hewitt and Vigil appeared enough last year on defense and on special teams to warrant the early projection as the top two reserves. Jordan takes a roster spot here, despite still being suspended, and he should be a consideration at linebacker over defensive end. If Miami wants to move him to defensive end, they will have to make a tough decision on keeping players like Chris McCain, Terrence Fede, and Andre Branch, but it could open a spot on the roster for the bubble watch linebacker...
Spencer Paysinger - 6th year
Paysinger re-signed with the team this offseason and is a really strong special teams player. That could keep him on the roster, but Miami is simply running out of spots on the hard-capped 53-man roster limit for the regular season, and he could be on the wrong-side looking in.
Mike Hull - 2nd year
James Burgess - Rookie (UDFA)
Hull and Burgess could be in danger of being poached at some point this year if they land on the practice squad, but Miami has to make a cut line somewhere, and where Paysinger is on the bubble, these two appear to be starting the year on the wrong side of that line. Hull showed flashes last year and Burgess has the potential to develop into a solid outside linebacker, with outstanding special teams potential as well.
Akil Blount - Rookie (UDFA)
Tyler Gray - Rookie (UDFA)
James-Michael Johnson - 5th year
53-man roster prediction (21/53)
Jason Jones (Updated after article)
Cleyon Laing - defensive end
Isaiah Pead - running back
Deandre Coleman - defensive tackle
Matt Hazel - wide receiver
Griff Whalen - wide receiver
Spencer Paysinger - linebacker
Practice squad (5/10)
Brandon Doughty (rookie) - quarterback
Farrington Huguenin (rookie)- defensive end
Charles Tuaau - defensive tackle
Tyler Murphy - wide receiver
Rashawn Scott (rookie) - wide receiver
Mike Hull - linebacker
James Burgess (rookie) - linebacker