The Miami Dolphins visit the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday to close out the 2023 NFL Preseason schedule for both clubs. Starters for both teams will likely see limited, if any, playing time in the game, giving the coaching staff and the fans one last look at the depth players ahead of the roster cut deadline next week. By 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, every team has to drop from their current 90-man roster down to the regular season-mandated 53-man roster.
Every team already has a good idea of how they will build out the roster, but there are always players who can make or break their spot on the depth chart based on their performance in the preseason finale. Who are these roster bubble players for the Dolphins in 2023?
Quarterback - None
Tua Tagovailoa, Skylar Thompson, and Mike White should all make the roster, while Justin Blackman could be a practice squad option, but does not appear to have a path to the 53-man roster.
Running back - Salvon Ahmed vs. Myles Gaskin
There are so many options at running back right now, starting with the potential trade for Jonathan Taylor and continuing through the depth options. Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Jr., and Devon Achane will all make the roster. That leaves Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin battling for what is likely one roster spot. The Dolphins could keep both - as I did in my last Dolphins 53-man roster projection - but five running backs plus Alec Ingold at fullback is using a large portion of the roster for one spot. If Ahmed or Gaskin are released, they likely will be claimed or signed by another team keeping Miami from bringing them back on the practice squad.
Wide Receiver - River Cracraft vs. Robbie Chosen
Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, and Erik Ezukanma all seem like roster locks. Cedrick Wilson, Jr., will likely also make the roster because he has $5 million in guaranteed money due to him this year. Robbie Chosen gives Miami a speedy veteran option as a depth player, while Cracraft seems to be a favorite among the coaches. Does Miami find a way to keep both? Do they try to slide one onto the practice squad? This battle could come down to what Cracraft can do on Saturday.
Tight End - Tanner Conner vs. Elijah Higgins vs. Julian Hill vs. Tyler Kroft vs. Eric Saubert for two spots
Making the assumption that Miami will keep three tight ends - and they could consider only keeping two while using Ingold as a tight-end/fullback/h-back type of player - there are several players who are fighting for those positions. Durham Smythe is locked into the roster. Eric Saubert had seemed to be a roster lock, but now an injury could open up his roster spot for someone like Tanner Conner, who is looking to prove himself after spending much of the summer on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Rookies Elijah Higgins and Julian Hill have both had flashes and could make an argument to make the roster, or they could be headed to the practice squad to continue to develop.
Offensive line - Lester Cotton, Robert Jones, Ryan Hayes vs. Numbers
The Dolphins still have question marks around their offensive line, but most of those are starters or second-team questions. The back end of the group could find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble simply due to numbers, and that includes some talented players who just may not make the roster. At tackle, Miami will have Terron Armstead, Austin Jackson, and Kendall Lamm on the roster, along with Isaiah Wynn who, despite seeing time at guard this summer, could be a backup tackle option as well. At guard, Wynn, along with Robert Hunt, and Liam Eichenberg will be on the roster. Connor Williams and Dan Feeney will make the roster at center, with Feeney able to move out to guard if needed. That brings Miami to eight offensive linemen on the roster, with maybe one spot available. Guard Lester Cotton and Robert Jones and rookie tackle Ryan Hayes could all make a claim on that spot, or Miami could just move forward with eight linemen on the roster, adding depth through the practice squad players. Cotton has felt like a roster lock for most of the summer, but the numbers game has him on the roster bubble now. Jones is injured, which could cost him a spot, or it could force Miami to find a way to get him onto the initial 53-man roster, then put him on injured reserve, giving them the ability to bring him back at some point in the year. Hayes’ draft stock might earn him a roster spot as a developmental tackle, but it feels like he is a practice squad player right now.
Defensive line - Brandon Pili, Da’Shawn Hand, Jaylen Twyman vs. Numbers
Whether Emmanuel Ogbah is listed as a defensive end or a linebacker does not change the defensive line situation much, where Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, and Zach Sieler are slotted as the starters and roster locks. Behind them, there is no one assured of a roster position yet, and Miami needs to have some rotational depth at the position. This is a spot where Miami could look to add someone who gets cut by another team. Brandon Pili feels like he has shown enough to make the roster, while Da’Shawn Hand and Jaylen Twyman could both fight their way into a spot with a strong Saturday. Hand may have the advantage as a veteran, pushing Twyman into a practice squad spot. How many defensive linemen will Miami keep this year?
Linebackers - Mitchell Agude vs. Edge depth and numbers / Aubrey Miller vs. Channing Tindall - Inside
In Miami’s 3-4 defensive scheme, the outside and inside linebackers have different responsibilities and will force Miami to have a deep positional group. On the inside, Jerome Baker and David Long, Jr., will be the primary starters, backed up by Duke Riley. The outside, edge rushing group will feature Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips, with Malik Reed backing them up. Andrew Van Ginkel will serve as a rotational player both inside and outside, maximizing the ways the Dolphins can get him on the field. The inside depth will likely be augmented by either Channing Tindall or Aubrey Miller. Tindall should have the lead, with his 2022 draft stock helping to make sure he maintains it, but Miller has shown flashes that at least put him in contention for a roster spot. He probably ends up on the practice squad, but he is in the conversation. Mitchell Agude feels similar to Miller, having shown enough to be a consideration, but most likely landing on the practice squad, especially when you factor in Ogbah as an edge rusher.
Cornerbacks - Keion Crossen vs. Numbers
Xavien Howard will start on one side of the defense, while some combination of Kader Kohou, Noah Igbinoghene, Cam Smith, and Eli Apple will man the other starting spot, the nickel cornerback role, and primary depth options. Jalen Ramsey will take a roster spot on the initial 53-man roster before moving to injured reserve and Nik Needham will likely start the year on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Jamal Perry and Parry Nickerson feel like practice squad players, at least to start the year, while Justin Bethel is dealing with a leg injury. That leaves Keion Crossen as the bubble player of the group. He is a strong special teams player and probably needs to make the roster for that reason alone, but the numbers game might get him. He could be the addition back to the roster after Ramsey is placed on injured reserve.
Safeties - Verone McKinley III vs. Trill Williams
Miami will have at least four safeties on the roster, with Jevon Holland leading the group and some rotation of Elijah Campbell, DeShon Elliott, and Brandon Jones playing next to him. The question is, if Miami has the roster space for a fifth safety, is it Verone McKinley III or Trill Williams? Keidron Smith felt like a factor in this race earlier in the preseason but has fallen off and is likely a practice squad target. If Crossen makes the roster as a special teams option, that could be a bad sign for McKinley. Williams is making the conversion from a cornerback to a safety this year. Williams feels like he has the advantage, but special teams play will factor into the decision here.
Special Teams - None
Jake Bailey (punter), Blake Ferguson (long snapper), and Jason Sanders (kicker) are all on the roster.