The Miami Dolphins released their first depth chart of 2023 as the calendar begins to move from training camp practices into preseason games. The Dolphins are hosting the Atlanta Falcons this week, including two joint practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Friday night’s first preseason contest. Both teams are continuing to work their way through the summer process, sorting out their roster plans and building for the regular season in September.
The first depth chart of the year really does not set a lot in stone, though it does give some insight into how the coaching staff is viewing the roster. The presumed starters take their place at the top of each position group, then the rest of the players are slotted in behind them. It also gives us a better idea of where some of the position battles we should be watching are.
For the most part, the coaching staff listed the rookies toward the back end of each position group. The drafted rookies, cornerback Cam Smith (2nd round), running back De’Von Achane (3rd round), tight end Elijah Higgins (6th round), and tackle Ryan Hayes (7th round) are all listed deep on the depth chart, as are the undrafted free agents the team signed. That feels more like the team just placed the rookies at the back, rather than a reflection of how they are performing in camp thus far. For example, Achane is the sixth running back on the depth chart, but he is clearly performing as a top-three option at the position and will not have an issue making the roster.
One of the top position battles this year could be at the wide receiver position, where six players could realistically be battling for two or three spots. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are locks in the top two positions, but behind them is open to anyone stepping in and claiming a spot. The Dolphins listed Cedrick Wilson, Jr., and River Cracraft as the second team receivers, with Braxton Berrios and Robbie Chosen as the third unit. Braylon Sanders and Erik Ezukanma are the fourth pair, with Freddie Swain and Chris Coleman (R) fifth, and Daewood Davis (R) sixth.
Wilson, Cracraft, Berrios, Chosen, and Ezukanma are probably the front runners to make the roster behind Hill and Waddle, but the Dolphins are not likely to keep seven receivers, leading to someone from that group falling to the wrong side of the cut line. Miami listed Berrios as the primary kick and punt returner, which could signal that, despite being on the third team on the initial depth chart, the free agent addition this year should have a clear path to the roster.
Chosen should move ahead of Cracraft during this summer and seems to be the likely third receiver on the field. Ezukanma has had some flashes this summer and could also work his way into a roster spot. Wilson could still be a trade option for the Dolphins if something were to materialize this summer, and listing him as the third receiver now could just be part of the posturing. He has the ability to claim the third spot, a position he was expected to hold last year but was never able to own it, but the rest of the position battle around him could lead to his being pushed down the depth chart again.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Miami has a large battle brewing for the second cornerback position. Xavien Howard will retain the top spot on the depth chart, but the injury to Jalen Ramsey, who was expected to start opposite Howard, will have him fall off the depth chart once the season begins. The coaches are currently listing him him next to Howard, but throughout the summer, someone will have to stop up into that spot.
Miami listed Nik Needham and Kader Kohou the second team cornerbacks, but that also feels like a technicality right now as Needham is currently on the physically unable to perform list and likely will start the season there. Behind them, the Dolphins have Noah Igbinoghene, Justin Bethel, Cam Smith (R), Keion Crossen, Tino Ellis, Eli Apple, Ethan Bonner (R), Mark Gilbert, and Parry Nickerson listed in that order.
Smith will move up and could establish himself as the starter. He has been having a good training camp and, if he can limit the rookie mistakes during the preseason, he has a good opportunity to claim Ramsey’s spot. Igbinoghene has had some good moments this summer and could be finally working his way into a role on the defense, either as the second starter or as a nickel cornerback.
Apple is the interesting one in depth chart. He is buried deep on the list. Is that a signal that he has to battle to work his way into a role, or is it simply the team listed the newly signed Apple near the back of the chart? Nickerson is also newly signed and low on the depth chart. Will they move up over the summer?
The front three for Miami are Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, and Zach Sieler, backed up by Josiah Bronson, Brandon Pili (R), and Emmanuel Ogbah. The third team players are Randy Charlton (R), Jaylen Twyman, and Da’Shawn Hand. The surprise may be Ogbah being listed as the second string behind Sieler, but the team has also be working with Ogbah as a linebacker and could be easing him back in after a torn triceps muscle ended his 2022 season early. Sieler is becoming a strong player on the defensive line, so seeing him listed as a starter should not be a surprise. Ogbah and Sieler will both see plenty of playing time.
Pili has a good spring with the team after signing as an undrafted free agent, which likely lead to his position on the second year, but Twyman has been playing well early in camp and could be moving up the depth chart there. Preseason game performance could decide a battle between the two, either for a larger role on the defense or for a spot on the roster altogether.
Hand was recently added to the roster and should factor in as a depth lineman, likely pushing Bronson for the spot on the second team.
Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, Jr., are listed as co-starters, something the team did last year as well. The second team running backs are Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, while Chris Brooks (R) and De’Von Achane (R) are the third team. Achane will jump up the depth chart and likely take the third spot behind Mostert and Wilson, if he does not move ahead of them as well. The battle for a roster spot could come down to Gaskin and Ahmed. Ahmed held the role over Gaskin last year, and was thought to have the early lead in a battle this summer, but Gaskin has been playing well in camp and seems to have overtaken Ahmed at this point. This battle could go down to to the wire, where Miami could be forced to find a way to keep five running backs - or they could go the other way entirely and only keep Mostert, Wilson, and Achane.
And then there is the question of Dalvin Cook and the possibility he joins Miami.
The Dolphins offensive line will be a battle throughout the summer. Terron Armstead is a lock at left tackle and Robert Hunt is the starting right guard. Austin Jackson appears to be locking down the right tackle position, and Connor Williams should be the starting center - but his snapping issues from last summer seem to be returning this summer and that is a concern. Left guard Liam Eichenberg is still listed in the top spot, but that is definitely in pencil and not pen at this point.
Eichenberg is battling Isaiah Wynn and Kion Smith for the position, according to the depth chart. Wynn could overtake Eichenberg and move into the starting position, but this is a battle that needs preseason games to settle.
Armstead at left tackle is backed up by Kendall Lamm and Geron Christian. Lamm seems locked into the roster as the team’s swing tackle - able to fill in if needed on either side of the line and ready to step in as a starter if needed.
Williams has Dan Fenney and Alama Uluave (R) listed behind him. Fenney could challenge Williams if the snapping issues continue - and Miami could consider moving Williams back to the left guard position he played with the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Dolphins. Miami also flirted with Eichenberg at center during the summer, so if things completely fall apart, they could look to re-visit that move.
Behind Hunt at right guard, Robert Jones and Lester Cotton fill out the depth chart. Jones seems to be on the roster bubble right now, but could prove himself to be a needed depth option during the preseason games.
At right tackle, Jackson appears set to return to the starting lineup, with Cedric Ogbuehi, Ryan Hayes (R), and James Tunstall (R) listed behind him. Miami probably needs one of them to step up this summer to give the team a good feeling of depth behind Armstead, Jackson, and Lamm, but they could also be practice squad options as well.
The trouble with the offensive line in training camp is the lack of full-speed contact. When the preseason games start, the offensive line should start to come more into focus. Will someone breakout and clearly establish themselves as the starter? Will more question marks show up over the next few weeks?