The preseason ends for the NFL on Thursday, with a quick turn around from there to the roster cuts for each franchise as they drop from the 90-man preseason roster limit to the regular season’s 53-man limit. As the Miami Dolphins prepare for their game against the Minnesota Vikings, we take a look at some of the players who are doing well and some who are struggling as the roster cuts begin to loom.
Jordan Phillips, defensive tackle - After falling out of the starting lineup earlier this summer, Phillips seems to be rebounding and looking more and more likely to see plenty of playing time, if not returning to the top pairing with Ndamukong Suh. Phillips biggest issues has been consistency, and since his “demotion” he has found some consistency, consistently getting better and seeing more first-team reps in practice. Defensive end Williams Hayes said this week that Phillips is competing “a little harder” and that “he’s working a lot harder and he’s just grinding.” We have seen benching work to inspire some of the other Dolphins players into reaching their potential, and Phillips could be the next member of that group.
Chase Allen, linebacker - An undrafted free agent rookie this year, Allen seems to be playing himself into a roster spot. He leads the team in tackles, and he has been seeing a lot of playing time. Last week, he played 54 percent of the game, nine snaps more than any other linebacker, as well as playing 16 snaps on special teams, or 44 percent of those available snaps. Allen seems like he could be snatching the final linebacker position at this point.
Eric Smith, tackle - Similar to Allen, Smith seems like he is playing his way on to the roster as a depth option. At worst, he is probably a practice squad option right now, just based on how the numbers end up working their way out on Saturday.
Lawrence Timmons, linebacker - Timmons came to the Dolphins as one part of their improvement of the linebacker corps, not needing to prove himself as a starting capable linebacker. The Dolphins have moved Timmons to the outside linebacker position, and he has made an impact in his preseason appearances, always being around the ball and playing well against the run. He has an interception this preseason, and he has looked like the answer Miami needs at the position.
Terrence Fede, defensive end - Fede is like the lost man at the defensive end position, and maybe rightfully with Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes, and Charles Harris already at the position. Fede, however, has looked good in the three preseason games, recording six tackles. He is not going to challenge for a lot of playing time in the season, but he has done enough this year to make himself a viable depth option for the team.
David Fales, quarterback - Miami’s game plan last week was to get the starters into the game, get some extended playing time, then get them some rest. For starting quarterback Jay Cutler, that was 20 snaps, followed by second-string Matt Moore picking up 19 plays. Brandon Doughty came in and took 12 snaps, with Fales rounding out the group with just six plays. The Dolphins look more and more like a team that will head into the season with just two quarterbacks on the roster, with one more on the practice squad.
Kraig Urbik, guard - Urbik was a surprise release with an injury settlement this week. He appeared to be the team’s top interior lineman reserve, but he is now off the team. The Dolphins have not ruled out re-signing Urbik somewhere down the road, but as of now, they are moving on without him.
Byron Maxwell, cornerback - Starting the preseason, Maxwell was clearly the starter, with Xavien Howard completing the pair. After an inconsistent summer, Howard appears to be the top cornerback on the team, with Maxwell in a battle with Alterraun Verner for the other starting position. Add in the availability of Joe Haden suddenly and there could be speculation that the Dolphins would like to move on from Maxwell. It is unlikely, but definitely is possible.
Matt Darr, punter - Matt Haack has looked good when he has gotten his turn to handle the punting duties. That is bad news for Darr, who has not been bad, but Miami simply could have to decide between keeping one of the two effective punters, and could decide on keeping the cheaper of the two options. Haack making a case for himself has definitely hurt Darr’s position.
Julius Thomas, tight end - Three receptions, three yards, and a touchdown. That is the stat line for Thomas this preseason. Maybe the team is just waiting for the regular season to get the tight end position fully involved, not wanting to give away too much during the preseason, but the team was not afraid of using different blitz packages against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, so that does not seem likely. Thomas has looked stiff this summer, and he does not seem to be fitting into the offense well. He is not in danger of losing a roster spot, but Thomas definitely does not look like the Gase-Thomas connection of the Denver years.