The 2018 regular season begins in just ten days, and every NFL team must pare their roster from 90 down to 53 before then. As Armando Salguero and others have said, the team, for the most part, already knows who they intend to keep at most of their key positions. They may not have decided on an extra tight end, wide receiver or offensive lineman but the defense, for better or for worse, looks set, at least for now.
The real suspense is whether the team will add anyone of note off the waiver wire when the cuts begin in earnest over the next five to seven days. The Dolphins, historically, are not a team that necessarily likes to add former big name players, generally preferring to add value or developmental type guys to fill out some of the rough spots at the bottom of their roster. That should tell you something about their acquisition of former Saints first rounder Stephone Anthony. Miami’s situation at linebacker was, until recently, similar to the cornerback unit of four or five years ago, which is to say, dreadful. Anthony figures to remain on the team for at least this season, if only because there are so few other options at the position right now.
One player that is available right now whom the Dolphins apparently aren’t interested in is former Giants and Colts defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. Although he’s generally viewed as more of a 3-4 nose tackle than a 4-3 DT, Hankins, who’s listed at 6’3”, 325, is only about fifteen pounds heavier than last year’s starter at defensive tackle for the Dolphins, Ndamukong Suh. Of course, no other NFL team has signed Hankins since the end of last season, but then again, the Dolphins, through three preseason games, are worse than any other team in the league against the run, which would seem to play to his strength as a run stopping DT.
As far as the imminent roster cuts are concerned, I really only have three wishes: number one, I want Leonte Carroo cut, second, I want Isaiah Ford kept, and third, I want Maurice Smith kept. Beyond that, everything else seems fairly predictable, barring any surprises. Rumors are that Miami could very well look to add another corner, if someone they like becomes available. Why Cordrea Tankersley hasn’t played well during the preseason remains largely a mystery, after a promising rookie campaign. One problem he seems to be having is repeatedly failing to get his head around and look for the ball before it arrives, which is an easy way to pick up a pass interference penalty. Defensive backs who fall prey to this error in technique often do so because they’ve already been beaten by the receiver. Many years ago (1982-91) the Dolphins had another corner who was just good enough to avoid being cut but not good enough to ever make a real difference. His name was Paul Lankford, and I grew so frustrated with him during the late 80’s era of bad defense that I began referring to him as ‘Stankford’. If Tankersley doesn’t improve his play soon, I may have to resort to calling him ‘Stankersley’, and I don’t want to do that. Like Tankersley, Lankford came into the league as a third round pick.
I have recalibrated my predictions for the Dolphins record this season, from 10-6 to 9-7. I have them winning eight and losing six, with two toss ups.
- Week One - Tennessee: Toss UpAlthough Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn’t performed well in the preseason, the Titans’ running game remains potent, and Mariota is always a threat to run for big yardage himself.
- Week Two - @ New York: Win Prize rookie Sam Darnold figures to make at least a couple of bad throws and Miami will make him pay. Jets’ impressive young talent on defense could surprise.
- Week Three - Oakland: Win Dolphins should have beaten them last season. Tannehill makes this game a win this time around.
- Week Four - @ New England: LossForget about it; it ain’t happenin’. Maybe next year.
- Week Five - @ Cincinnati: WinIf the Dolphins’ revamped offensive line can keep Tannehill clean, Miami should win the battle of the pass rush, and Cincy QB Andy Dalton is largely immobile.
- Week Six - Chicago: Toss UpThe Bears are one of the most improved teams in the league the past couple of years, and have amassed an impressive group of young talent. Their offense also presents a lot of tough matchups for Miami. Pray for a hot day and a good offensive game plan by Gase in this one.
- Week Seven - Detroit: WinIt will probably take four quarters, but Dolphins eventually dispatch the pesky Lions late. A potential shootout; look for a lot of big plays from both teams.
- Week Eight - @ Houston: LossA prime time game on the road, against a playoff contender? Forget about it.
- Week Nine - New York: WinDolphins sweep an improving Jets team this season.
- Week Ten - @ Green Bay: LossForget about it; too many weapons for Miami to contain, and too good a game plan by the Pack for the Dolphins to win this one.
- Week Twelve - @ Indianapolis: WinSame as above; Dolphins have too many weapons and probably have the better coaching staff, as well. Jim Irsay plays the blues on one of the guitars from his expensive collection after this one.
- Week Thirteen - Buffalo: WinRookie QB for the Bills, home field advantage for the Dolphins and a shot at a playoff berth results in a win for Miami.
- Week Fourteen - New England: Win This is the Dolphins’ Super Bowl, as it is every year. Miami wins this one on both sides of the ball, harassing Brady all game long and wearing down Pats’ defense.
- Week Fifteen - @ Minnesota: LossForget about it; Vikes just have too much talent, too much firepower on offense and a top three home field advantage. Dolphins keep it close for a while but succumb in the end.
- Week Sixteen - Jacksonville: LossThis NFL team from Northern Florida is just too tough, folks. The Jaguars have the type of team I wish the Dolphins had: hellacious defense, hellacious running game.
- Week Seventeen - @ Buffalo: LossIf the toughest place to play in the NFL is at Seattle, the next two toughest places to win are at Minnesota and Buffalo. The Dolphins unfortunately have to play road games against both of these teams late in the season, and it leaves them a game or two shy of the playoffs. But take heart, because this team is headed in the right direction. It’s an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.