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Bubble watch 2018: Miami Dolphins looking toward looming 53-man roster deadline

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are a little over 24 hours away from the start of their final preseason game for 2018. After Thursday night’s game at the Atlanta Falcons, the Dolphins will not have much time before Saturday’s 4pm ET deadline to cut their roster from the current preseason 90-man limit down to the regular season’s 53-man limit. Some of the players on either side of the cut line will be easy decisions for head coach Adam Gase. It is the players in the middle that could make for harder decisions.

Those players, sitting on the roster bubble, could make the team based on a strong showing on Thursday night. They could miss making the roster simply because the team needs more depth at a different position. There are a lot of variables that go into the building of an NFL roster, which means there are plenty of players who do not yet know where they stand in terms of that cut line. Who are the bubble players this year?

Leonte Carroo

There are several wide receivers who could be considered on the roster bubble this year, including Isaiah Ford and Francis Owusu, but there is probably no one on the roster who better fits the definition of a bubble player than Carroo. The 2016 third-round pick has been a disappointment for the Dolphins coaching staff, who expected much more from the receiver than the 10 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown he has thus far into his career. Carroo has been buried on the depth chart, and is currently dealing with a groin issue that has been keeping him from practice and game play. The coaches seem to want to see Carroo break out and become the player they thought they were drafting, but he is in real danger of being on the wrong side of the cut line this year. Prediction: Cut.

Greg Joseph

The Dolphins have two rookie kickers, but only space for one on the 53-man roster. Both Joseph and Jason Sanders have been solid this summer, which gives Sanders the advantage for the roster because the team used a draft pick to select him. Joseph has not really done anything to not be worthy of a roster position, but there is no reason to keep two kickers. Unless Joseph shines while Sanders implodes on Thursday, Joseph will be on the wrong side of the cuts. Prediction: Cut.

A.J. Derby

The Dolphins head into the season with three tight ends appearing to be locks for the roster. Mike Gesicki will be the starter, MarQueis Gray should be the second tight end, while Durham Smythe is a blocker and developmental player at the position. That leaves Derby, Gaving Escobar, and Thomas Duarte in the group looking to justify a roster position. Duarte will likely land back on the practice squad, Escobar will be cut, which leaves Derby. A couple of months ago, Derby was projected as a potential starter at the position. Now, he could be in trouble. Injuries and Gesicki’s ability to grasp the playbook have pushed Derby down the depth chart. Miami has kept only three tight ends the last few years, which would mean Derby is out. I think the Dolphins use a spot to keep him, however. Prediction: Roster.

Kendall Langford

The Dolphins are deep along the defensive line, which means there is going to be someone from the group cut that maybe could make the roster any other year. Langford is the bubble guy in that sense for Miami right now. If he has an outstanding game on Thursday, there could be an argument to find a slot to keep him on the roster, but the Dolphins already have Jordan Phillips, Akeem Spence, Davon Godchaux, and Vincent Taylor ahead of Langford on the depth chart, and when Williams Hayes is healthy, he will play a combination of defensive end and defensive tackle. That leaves Langford, who was signed during training camp as the replacement for Hayes’ playing time, needing an impressive game. Prediction: Cut.

Jordan Lucas

Safety/cornerback Jordan Lucas is buried deep on the depth chart and will struggle to make the team. Special teams player Jordan Lucas could make an argument for a roster spot. The Dolphins have to figure out if they can afford to keep their 2016 sixth round pick based solely on special teams play. Can someone else at a different position provide the same special teams play as Lucas while being able to bring something to the field on game day on offense or defense? Prediction: Cut.

David Fales / Brock Osweiler

Both backup quarterbacks are on the bubble, but there is not really a way to decide who could be on the wrong side of the cut line. It feels like it should be Osweiler, but Fales has not pulled away enough to make that a sure bet. If one of the two players dominates Thursday night, maybe it will be enough to decide to only keep one of them. Right now, though, I do not see a way to make a distinction, and Miami eats two roster spots as Ryan Tannehill’s backup. Prediction: Roster both.