The Miami Dolphins head into their 2023 preseason finale with some questions that need to be answered and several players looking to move to the good side of the roster bubble. With the deadline for roster cuts coming on Tuesday, requiring teams to drop from their 90-man preseason roster to the 53-man regular-season limit, today’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is an important one for the Dolphins and the individual players.
Miami is planning to begin the game with their starters. Prior to Thursday’s practice, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was asked if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would play in today’s game, to which he replied, “My plan has been, in the back of my mind, the starting point was more than a series, less than a half for all the starters. That is dependent on today’s practice and overall you’re just trying to prepare guys for the regular season. I had in the back of my mind if all things were even, Tua would play on Saturday, but that’s something that I’ll revisit with the coaches after we’ve completed this practice and kind of solidify that. But he’s been prepared to all week. I told him that after the last game. He’s prepared as though he is playing and we’ll revisit that after today’s practice.”
With a chance to see the starters play at least a series tonight, as well as questions about the depth positions on the roster, there is a lot to watch for Miami tonight.
Who will claim the open starting cornerback position?
Xavien Howard as the starting cornerback on one side of the field is a lock. The other side of the defense, however, has a Jalen Ramsey shaped hole on it. Ramsey’s knee injury this summer will likely have him sidelined until December and has led to a battle to be his replacement involving Kader Kohou, Cam Smith, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eli Apple. Smith could claim the spot despite being a rookie, but an injury slowed his march toward the top of the depth chart, and Kohou and Igbinoghene have not made it easy. Apple is most likely destined to be the veteran backup, but a strong performance tonight might push him into the lead.
The most likely scenario seems to be Igbinoghene starting, Kohou working as the nickel cornerback, and Smith continuing to develop until he surpasses Igbinoghene. Will that be how Saturday night plays out, or will someone firmly establish himself atop the depth chart?
Who will claim the fourth running back position?
Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and De’Von Achane are all roster locks at running back. Behind them, Salvon Ahmed would seem to have the lead to claim a potential fourth position, but Myles Gaskin has had a strong training camp and looked good in the first preseason game. Chris Brooks has an outside shot to make the roster but feels like a practice squad player.
Does Miami have the roster space to keep five running backs, holding on to both Ahmed and Gaskin? Do they only keep three and try to get at least one of them onto the practice squad? Can someone’s performance on Saturday answer all the questions?
Will a tight end or two solidify roster spots?
Durham Smythe is on the 53-man roster. Everyone else in the position has something to prove still. Eric Saubret has been slowed by injury late in camp, Tanner Conner spent most of training camp on the physically unable to perform list, Tyler Kroft has not really stood out, and rookies Elijah Higgins and Julian Hill have had moments but they both still need time to develop.
Someone needs to step up and claim a position on the depth chart. Tonight’s game may be the last chance for that to happen. Even with the Dolphins appearing to see tight ends as a sixth offensive lineman rather than a primary receiving option, someone needs to make an impact to earn their spot on the roster.
How do the depth defensive linemen play?
Behind Miami’s starting defensive linemen, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, and Zach Sieler, the Dolphins need some players to prove they are prepared to be rotational options and can step up if an injury occurs. Rookie Brandon Pili would appear to have the best chance to claim a spot, with Da’Shawn Hand, Jaylen Twyman, Josiah Bronson, and Jamal Woods all looking to prove they are needed on the roster.
They should all see plenty of playing time tonight, giving them the snaps needed to prove themselves.