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Miami Dolphins Depth Chart Projections: Quarterback & Special Teams

Which quarterbacks and special teams players will make Miami’s 53 man roster, and where will they place on the depth chart?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is a magical time in the NFL. All players are “in the best shape of their lives” and every single coach is going to “create a winning culture.” All teams are “poised to make a playoff run,” and perennial losing teams are “finally ready to turn things around.”

That being said, the offseason is also a time when coaches need to make the tough decisions about who is going to make their team’s roster. No matter how much talent a team brings in through free agency and the draft, cuts are inevitable. An offseason roster of 90 players will eventually have to be trimmed down to the best 53, and outside of the team’s top players, there are never guarantees as to who will make the team.

This offseason, I have run a series of depth chart projections, breaking down Miami’s roster by position, and predicting who will make it to week 1 of the 2017 season. For our final edition, we review the quarterback and special teams positions.

Stay tuned for a full depth chart projection consisting of all prior projections (with slight changes due to injury and play during training camp/preseason) later this week.

Roster

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill

Jay Cutler

Matt Moore

David Fales

Brandon Doughty

Kicker

Andrew Franks

Punter

Matt Darr

Matt Hack (R)

Long Snapper

John Denney

Winston Chapman

Roster Locks

QB Jay Cutler

The Dolphins have endured a tumultuous training camp at the quarterback position. After incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill once again injured his left knee, and now appears to be on track to undergo surgery, the team brought in the briefly retired Jay Cutler as his apparent replacement. Despite having a capable backup quarterback in Matt Moore, the coaching staff seems to feel more comfortable going into the season with two able starters.

With Cutler having signed a $10 million contract with incentives that leave the door open for an extra earnings of $3 million, all signs point to him being Miami’s starter come week 1. The 34-year old former Chicago Bear seems to be set up for success surrounded by a loaded offense and playing under a coach whom he’s played well with in the past, but he’ll have to temper his trademark erratic mistakes and show more of the unbelievable arm talent that has led so many to believe he has the potential to lead a team on a playoff run.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

QB Matt Moore

Moore has been a Dolphin since starting 12 games for the team back in 2011. The following year, Miami drafted Tannehill out of Texas A&M, relegating Moore to backup duties ever since. Last season, when Tannehill went down with his initial ACL sprain, Moore was called up to the plate and he performed admirably well, helping the team make the final push it needed to see its first playoff appearance since 2008.

Unfortunately for Moore, that play does not seem to be enough to earn him the starting role this season. While Gase has yet to announce a week 1 starter, he did mention that Cutler “didn’t come out of retirement to stand on the sideline.” That being said, Moore is a lock to make the roster. He’s a locker room favorite, a consummate professional, and one of the best insurance policies in the league at the quarterback position.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

K Andrew Franks

Franks is a lock to make the roster at this point simply by virtue of being the only kicker on the team. While he hasn’t been stellar by any stretch of the imagination during his two years as a Dolphin, he seems to have impressed the coaching staff enough for them to give him another season to prove himself. I wrote earlier this offseason that both Franks and the team could benefit from extra competition at the kicker position, but I guess the coaches know a little more than I do about how to build a roster, so I’ll concede on that point… for now.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

Probable Starters

LS John Denney

Trust me, I know how much the Phinsider community loves our 38 year old long snapper. However, the fact that the Dolphins brought in competition for him and that NFL players simply can’t play forever forces me to keep him out of the “roster lock” category.

I have full confidence that the longest tenured Dolphin (Denney has been with the team since 2005) will retain his job, and hopefully his streak of never missing an NFL game. But the coaching staff wouldn’t waste one of the 90 training camp roster spots on Winston Chapman if there wasn’t even the tiniest shred of a chance that he could make the team. Denney’s historically consistent run and low cost will, however, make things difficult on Chapman.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 95%

P Matt Darr

The punting battle occurring in South Florida is probably the most overlooked on the team, although it’s not very hard to understand why. The Dolphins simply don’t have much reason to rid themselves of a 25-year old punter who hasn’t given the team any issues. Darr placed 7th in the league for punts inside the 20-yard line and 17th for net punting average with 39.9 yards last season. To put the latter number in perspective, that net average is just 1 total yard away from the 10th place punter Brad Wing, who finished 2016 with a net punting average of 40.9. Barring a spectacular training camp and preseason from backup Matt Haack or an injury to Darr, I expect Darr to be the only punter on the roster come week 1.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 75%

Must Impress

P Matt Haack (R)

The left-footed Haack had a very strong college career in three years starting at Arizona State. Last season, he finished sixth in the nation with a net punting average of 42 yards, and also displayed good hang time on most of his punts. He also had one of the strongest legs in college football, as he’s propelled multiple punts over 70 yards in his college career.

Scouts did had concerns over his directional punting and game-to-game consistency, but, as stated above, there’s a shot he’ll supplant Darr with outstanding training camp and preseason play.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 25%

QB Brandon Doughty

Doughty has no chance of beating out Matt Moore for the second string quarterback role, but that doesn’t mean he can’t push the team to keep a third passer on the roster. What worries me about the second-year QB is that last season, the Dolphins elected to sign T.J. Yates as Matt Moore’s backup following Ryan Tannehill’s injury as opposed to promoting Doughty from the practice squad. This tells me that the coaches don’t believe Doughty was capable of succeeding in regular season action.

However, with a full offseason of development later, things could have changed, but Doughty certainly didn’t light the world on fire during Miami’s first preseason game on Thursday night. He completed 7 of 12 passes while throwing 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was the result of a particularly boneheaded play on Doughty’s part, who, while on the run, elected to throw the ball to a covered receiver as opposed to throwing it away and living to play another down. The young buck will have to show more consistency and development if he wants to earn anything more than a practice squad position this year.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 20%

QB David Fales

Fales is currently the fifth string quarterback on Miami’s roster (fourth assuming Ryan Tannehill is placed on injured reserve), but he is certainly just as much in contention for the third position as Doughty. During Thursday night’s preseason game, Fales appeared to struggle with accuracy, completing 8 of 17 passes with 1 interception. However, Fales also threw 2 touchdown passes, both of which showed spectacular arm strength and good ball placement by the 26-year old.

Much like Doughty, Fales’ chances of pushing Matt Moore for the primary backup spot on the depth chart are zero, but with impressive enough play during the rest of training camp and the preseason, he could convince the coaches to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 20%

LS Winston Chapman

The problem with trying to make the roster over one of the most respected veterans in the locker room as a long snapper is that the only way a long snapper is ever noticed is when they make a mistake. The only reason I can see for Chapman even being on the 90 man training camp roster is to allow both Franks and the punters to work at the same time.

If the coaches are truly concerned about Denney’s age or if they’ve seen him struggling with consistency in training camp, then Chapman does have a small window of opportunity. But with the dependability that Denney has shown throughout his career, I doubt Chapman gets any further than the practice squad this year.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 5%

Probable Injured Reserve

QB Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill gets his own category here because of his unique circumstance. Due to his unfortunate injury and low probability of seeing any significant action for the next year, I don’t see a scenario where he stays on the roster. Every spot is valuable, and the chances of Tannehill undergoing surgery to hopefully solve his knee problem once and for all are becoming more and more likely. The best we can all hope for at this point is a speedy and full recovery for our quarterback.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: NA

Update: Tannehill elected to undergo ACL surgery and was placed on injured reserve on Saturday.

Projected 2017 Quarterback & Special Teams Depth Chart

Quarterback

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Matt Moore

Kicker

  1. Andrew Franks

Punter

  1. Matt Darr

Long Snapper

  1. John Denney