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Dolphins roster bubble: An early look at the hardest roster cuts

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NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier, I posted my first look at the Miami Dolphins’ potential 53-man roster, trying to put together how the current 88 players on the team’s roster could fit together for the regular season, along with the 10-man practice squad and T.J. McDonald’s suspension. It was an exercise conducted well before any cuts actually have to be made, well before anyone actually gets on the field for live practices, and well before anyone gets an idea of any offensive or defensive adjustments the team could be making this year.

In other words, it was a way too early roster projection. But, it was one that might prove to be fairly close to the actual 53-man roster when September finally rolls around.

A way too early look at the 53-man roster does provide us with another way too early piece of the puzzle: the roster bubble. In the case of my roster projection, the bubble was clearly in play, as my first draft had 57 players on the list - meaning four players I really wanted to keep ended up getting cut.

Where is the roster bubble as of the middle of May? We take a look.

Last five on the roster

Storm Johnson, running back

Thomas Duarte, tight end

Terrence Fede, defensive end

Mike Hull, linebacker

Maurice Smith, safety

All five of these players are depth options at their respective positions, but are not necessarily safe for making the roster, either with someone pushing them from further down the depth chart or because Miami could choose to go with one less at their respective position in order to keep one more at another spot. Johnson will be challenged by Senorise Perry and De’Veon Smith for the final spot in the running backs group. Duarte’s spot could be one the Dolphins decide not to give to the tight ends, even though the team would only have three tight ends at that point. Fede probably has to come into training camp and the preseason and prove he is developing and going to be more consistent, or Miami could look to add another player using that last defensive end position elsewhere. Hull and Smith are simply gut feelings at this point. Hull or Neville Hewitt likely make the roster as a depth linebacker. Smith is just looking for where does an undrafted free agent make the roster.

Last five cuts made

Walt Aikens, safety

Neville Hewitt, linebacker

Lafayette Pitts, cornerback

Brandon Doughty, quarterback

Matt Haack, punter

Aikens, Hewitt, Pitts, and Doughty were all the cuts that had to be made after the initial construction of a 53-man roster with 57 players. Aikens could still make the roster, especially with his special teams play, but I edged him out for Smith right now. Hewitt or Hull. Pitts would be a good depth option at cornerback, but I simply ran out of roster spots. Same with Doughty, who the team promoted last year to the active roster just to ensure he was not poached from the practice squad. Haack is just a fun thing I want to do - have Miami keep two punters, a lefty and a righty, just so punt returners have to deal with both spins on the ball during a game.