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Dolphins training camp preview: Predicting the 2016 depth chart

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The Miami Dolphins open training camp this week. We project the final depth chart ahead of the start of camp.

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The Miami Dolphins opening training camp this week, with players reporting on Friday to start preparation for the 2016 season. The team will take 90 players into camp, but by the end of the preseason will have whittled that down to the 53-man roster they will use on opening day. Who will be on that roster? It’s prediction time for the 2016 Miami Dolphins depth chart:

Quarterbacks:

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Ryan Tannehill
Matt Moore

The top spot on the roster is clearly Ryan Tannehill’s position. Matt Moore is a near-lock for the second position, but could see some challenge from rookie Brandon Doughty. At this point, the projection has Miami only keeping two quarterbacks, but if Doughty shows up well during the Preseason, the Dolphins may have to find a way to keep him on the 53-man roster.

Running backs

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Jay Ajayi
Arian Foster
Kenyan Drake
Damien Williams

Miami signing Arian Foster puts him in competition with Jay Ajayi for the top spot, but, given his age and health history, he may be best suited for the second position with Ajayi taking the lead role. Rookie Kenyan Drake should easily make the team, with Damien Williams appearing to be solidly ahead of Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead at this point.

Tight ends

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Jordan Cameron
Dion Sims
Jake Stoneburner
Thomas Duarte

Jordan Cameron did not have the first year in Miami he anticipated when he signed as a free agent last year, but he will reportedly have an increased role in the new offense being designed by coach Adam Gase. Dion Sims appeared to be ready to breakout last year, but a concussion early in the season slowed him, and then the lack of utilization of the tight end position hit him up as well. Both players should see better results in 2016. Stoneburner will be in competition for his roster position throughout the summer, but he should be able to lock up the third spot. Thomas Duarte has to play catch-up in camp and the Preseason after missing most of the offseason workouts because of the league’s rule against rookies joining their teams until their respective school has completed their academic term (UCLA was on the quarters system and did not graduate until late June). He could be challenged by undrafted rookie Gabe Hughes, who might also be a practice squad option.

Wide receivers

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Jarvis Landry
DeVante Parker
Kenny Stills
Leonte Carroo
Jakeem Grant

Jarvis Landry, DeVanter Parker, and Kenny Stills are the top three on the depth chart and should remain that way throughout the year. Leonte Carroo should assume the fourth spot on the roster, if he can transition from college to the league quickly enough. Jakeem Grant is similar to Carroo in teams of a rookie needing to get up to speed at the NFL level, but he has the added likelihood of being the Dolphins’ primary kick- and punt-returner. The wildcard at the position could be Matt Hazel, who could make a case for himself as the fourth wide receiver and force Miami to have to keep six wide outs.

Offensive line

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets

LT: Branden Albert
LG: Laremy Tunsil
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Billy Turner
RT: Ja’Wuan James
Sam Young
Jermon Bushrod
Jamil Douglas
Dallas Thomas

Three of the five starting position on the roster are locked, with Pro Bowlers at left tackle, Branden Albert, and center, Mike Pouncey, along with Ja’Wuan James who is continuing to develop into a strong right tackle. Laremy Tunsil, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, should be able to claim the left guard spot, though he is having to transition not just from college to the pros, but also to a new position after playing solely left tackle throughout college. The right guard spot will be one of the key position battles to watch in training camp and the Preseason, but Billy Turner appears to have the early edge on the spot. Sam Young, Jermon Bushrod, Jamil Douglas, and Dallas Thomas provide depth and experience. Kraig Urbik and Jacques McClendon could also make a case to earn a roster spot.

Defensive ends

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Cameron Wake
Mario Williams
Andre Branch
Terrence Fede
Chris McCain
Jason Jones

Cameron Wake is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, but he also tallied 7.0 sacks in seven games last year, so as long as he is healthy, he should still be a dominant force. Mario Williams should have a better year than he had last year with the Buffalo Bills, where he was playing out of position as a linebacker instead of his natural defensive end position, and he should be looking to prove last year was just one down here, not the end of his career. Andre Branch, Terrence Fede, and Chris McCain should battle for the top reserve defensive end, though they will all likely see playing time throughout the year. Jason Jones gives the Dolphins some flexibility, with him available to play either defensive end or defensive tackles as needed.

Defensive tackles

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Ndamukong Suh
Jordan Phillips
Earl Mitchell
Chris Jones

Ndamukong Suh is obviously the main member of the position group and will be looking to get back to the Pro Bowl after missing it last year. Jordan Phillips and Earl Mitchell will continue to battle for the second position, though they will both see plenty of playing time this year. Chris Jones is coming to Miami after missing all of the 2015 season for the New England Patriots with a torn calf muscle, but if he is able to return to full strength, he will be able to provide depth at the position.

Linebackers

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WLB: Jelani Jenkins
MLB: Kiko Alonso
SLB: Koa Misi
Zach Vigil
Neville Hewitt
Spencer Paysinger

The linebacker corps will be under a lot of scrutiny this year after a disappointing 2015 performance. Kiko Alonso is added to the team as the presumed middle linebacker, and he will be asked to take control of the defense and make sure everyone is lined up properly. Jelani Jenkins should be developed a little more, meaning he will be a little more comfortable as a weakside linebacker in the NFL. Koa Misi will likely continue to be a solid if unspectacular player for the Dolphins. Maybe the key thing for all of them will be to stay healthy this year. Zach Vigil, Neville Hewitt, and Spencer Paysinger should be a solid set of reserves and special teams contributors.

Cornerbacks

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Byron Maxwell
Xavien Howard
Bobby McCain
Tony Lippett
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Miami traded for Byron Maxwell this offseason, giving him the top spot on the depth chart as a replacement for Brent Grimes. Rookie Xavien Howard could find himself in the second position on the depth chart, though Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett will be fighting for that spot as well. McCain appears to have the inside/nickel cornerback position, though Ifo Ekpre-Olomu should be a consideration there. Jordan Lucas could find himself on the wrong side of the cut line if Ekpre-Olomu is ready to play this year, with Lucas possibly a practice squad option.

Safeties

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Reshad Jones
Isa Abdul-Quddus
Michael Thomas
Walt Aikens

The Dolphins safety position is dominated by Reshad Jones like the defensive tackle position is dominated by Suh. The Pro Bowl safety is looking to continue to climb into the elite at the position. Isa Abdul-Quddus is coming to the Dolphins from the Detroit Lions and will look to provide the solid free-safety role next to Jones’ attacking strong-safety play. Michael Thomas provides depth at safety, and can play cornerback if needed, or could slide into a Jimmy Wilson type of role, playing a big nickel option. Walt Aikens is a depth safety and special teams player.

Special Teams

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P: Matt Darr
K: Andrew Franks
LS: John Denney

The three special teams players from 2015 should be back in 2016, with Matt Darr punting, Andrew Franks kicking, and John Denney again playing the long snapper role. Marshall Koehn will attempt to unseat Franks, while Denney will be pushed by Ryan DiSalvo, but, for now at least, the three incumbents look like they are the three who will be on the roster when the season starts.

Summary

Offense: 24
Defense: 25
Special Teams: 3

I only have 52 players on the projection right now for one specific reason: Dion Jordan. With his reinstatement pending, he is technically not a member of the Dolphins right now, but will be as soon as the NFL officially allows him back into the league. Assuming that does happen, Jordan will be templated in the linebacker group. If he is not reinstated, Jordan Lucas is added to the roster at cornerback.