It’s officially preseason time in the NFL, and with that comes depth chart speculation aplenty. Teams and their PR staffs only fuel the fire by releasing unofficial depth charts which generally receive little to no input from coaching staffs. This means that what we see on these unofficial depth charts must be taken with a mountain of salt, especially since rookie contributors are often shown to be lower than their actual standing, especially early in the preseason. Per our very own Josh Houtz, the Miami Dolphins’ first unofficial depth chart has been released.
Let’s take a dive into each position group and see where they match up with some general expectations.
No surprises here. Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa has been performing very well in practice and is set to take a leap this season. Seasoned veteran Jacoby Brissett is secure in the #2 spot, and Reid Sinnett is bringing up the rear.
Again, no surprises. Myles Gaskin is primed to be Miami’s featured back when healthy. Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed will contribute in situational settings (i.e. goal line and short yardage work for Brown). Patrick Laird, Jordan Scarlett, and rookie seventh-round draft pick Gerrid Doaks will need to show their mettle on special teams as they vie for the fourth and likely final spot.
This is where things get interesting. All of Dolphins Twitter has been debating who will be able to secure Miami’s final spots at the wide receiver position (and whether the team will keep six or seven receivers total). Given the tradition of not supplanting established veterans with rookies on unofficial early depth charts, it’s no surprise that DeVante Parker, free agent signee Will Fuller, and speedster Albert Wilson are listed as the top three at the position. The coaching staff is high on Wilson and he’s reportedly been an absolute stud in training camp practices.
Rookie sixth-overall pick Jaylen Waddle has also shown out in training camp, and despite being behind Wilson on the first unofficial depth chart, he will see as much, if not more playing time during the regular season as the three wideouts ahead of him. Beyond them, it appears that special teams standouts Jakeem Grant (All-Pro returner) and Mack Hollins (one of the league’s better gunners) are in the unofficial lead for the fifth and sixth spots.
Kirk Merritt, Robert Foster, and Isaiah Ford have all reportedly made highlight reel plays in practice and could make a push, while Lynn Bowden Jr.’s draft pedigree and ceiling certainly keep him in the mix. Given Miami’s depth here, don’t be surprised if one of the roster bubble players is traded before the regular season, possibly for a tackle given Miami’s need for depth and reported interest in the trade market at that position.
Miami has a lot of wide receivers.— Justin Hier (@HierJustin) August 8, 2021
Miami needs a tackle.
WR + draft capital <—> tackle? https://t.co/57j6carT1x
This is Mike Gesicki’s unit, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. With rookie third-round draft pick Hunter Long going down with a lower body injury that required him to be carted off the practice field, Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe are quite likely to return as Gesicki’s primary backups and contributors in two-tight end sets. Cethan Carter, someone Miami signed to a three-year, $8.7 million deal in free agency back in March, will likely round out the unit as a utility piece at fullback and on special teams.
2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson remains the starter at left tackle, but it’s all change from there. Rookie second-round pick Liam Eichenberg, a player many speculated would take over the role of protecting Tagovailoa’s blindside at right tackle, is the starter at left guard. Eichenberg was a steady presence at left tackle for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 2019 third-round draft pick Michael Deiter is listed as the starting center despite veteran Matt Skura signing with Miami in free agency. Deiter starting would show a vote of confidence on behalf of the coaching staff in his development after a sophomore campaign in which the former Wisconsin Badger played sparingly.
2020 second-round pick Robert Hunt is shifting inside to right guard after an impressive second-half of his rookie campaign at right tackle. Draft analysts and media personnel have projected that Hunt’s ceiling is higher at guard. Long-time Dolphin Jesse Davis, who’s generally regarded as Miami’s most versatile offensive lineman, is listed as the starting right tackle.
2020 fourth-round pick Solomon Kindley is listed with the 2nd team despite shining at times as a rookie. He’s likely Miami’s next man up on the interior, and if the coaching staff feels comfortable paying Eichenberg at right tackle, it’s likely that Kindley would take over at left guard.
This is my under-the-radar pick for deepest unit on the team. 2020 second-round pick Raekwon Davis played better and better with each successive game as a rookie and is one of my favorite defensive sophomore leap candidates in the entire NFL. Christian Wilkins is as steady as they come, and Emmanuel Ogbah represents one of Chris Grier’s best free agent signings in his tenure as general manager. Zach Sieler, Adam Butler, and John Jenkins comprise incredible depth across the 2nd-team defensive line.
It’s interesting that the PR team decided to represent Miami’s base defense as nickel (five defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three linebackers), as few teams do on their depth charts. That said, Brian Flores changes up defensive formations regularly, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Miami deploy five defensive backs more often than not. This depth chart configuration shows rookie first-round draft pick Jaelan Phillips playing with the 3rd team, but barring injury, I’d be shocked if he isn’t on the field early and often. Benardrick McKinney seems back to form in practice as a premier run-stuffer and Jerome Baker just signed a very lucrative contract extension and is primed to continue his role as Miami’s leader on defense for seasons to come.
By releasing Kyle Van Noy earlier this offseason, Miami is showing immense confidence in Andrew Van Ginkel being able to take a big next step in an every-down role. He’s listed as the third and final 1st-team linebacker. Duke Riley, Brennan Scarlett, Sam Eguavoen, and Vince Beigel will compete for the rotational spots on this unit.
Xavien Howard is back, and all is well. With his restructured contract now in place, the reigning First-Team All Pro is set to start on the boundary opposite Byron Jones. Free agent signee Justin Coleman appears to have secured the starting nickel corner spot (for now). Nik Needham and 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene are the next guys up should injuries strike with the starters. Undrafted rookie Trill Williams has impressed in camp and is a practice squad candidate if he doesn’t show enough on special teams to make the initial 53-man roster.
Jevon Holland played with the 1st-team unit for the past several practices. His place with the 2nd-team on this depth chart is likely a formality, though a heavy rotation between veterans Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe, 2020 third-round pick Brandon Jones, and Holland should be expected depending on matchups week-to-week. If Miami keeps five safeties, Clayton Fejedelem should stick around given his value on special teams.
Status quo here. Sanders returns as Miami’s reliable All-Pro kicker, free agent signee Michael Palardy has reportedly done a great job in training camp, and Blake Ferguson returns as Miami’s long snapper. Jakeem Grant is listed as the team’s starting kick returner and punt returner (no surprise there), though it’s worth noting that if Grant is cut or traded given the logjam at wide receiver, Waddle is listed as the next man up at both spots.
This article was written by The Phinsider Staff Writer, Justin Hier. For more from Justin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @HierJustin.