The Miami Dolphins joined the rest of the NFL yesterday in trimming their roster to 53. Many figured that the cuts that would be made would be difficult and to some degree that is true. Looking at the Dolphins roster however, it’s clear to see that anyone released from a team that has played so badly really have no one to blame but themselves.
For this team, the roster is more interesting when you look at the players that were kept as opposed to the ones that were cut.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the fact that the Dolphins were so appalled by the play of their corner-backs that they sliced most of their depth leaving a total of three pure CB’s and one hybrid in Jimmy Wilson. The good news for the team is that a few players hit the waiver wire yesterday that could seriously improve and stabilize the roster. For his age, Drayton Florence would be veteran depth corner in the same way that Will Allen worked for the team last year. In Philly, in part due to the younger guys and the salary, Joselio Hanson was released and could push Richard Marshall or supply the team with a quality nickel back. Stacked with a solid DB core, the Eagles also released O.J. Atogwe.
Saturday should bring in some much needed defensive back help but the lack of depth only further puts the decision to trade Vontae Davis in question.
The other side of the ball of course has been the most contentious all off-season. The WR’s. HBO Hard Knocks did a great job of lifting the excitement level with players like Chris “7-11″ Hogan but also put the pressure on guys like Roberto Wallace and Clyde Gates to step up and perform. Gates, a Jeff Ireland selection in round four of the 2011 draft is out of a job today.
The fact that Gates and his world class speed is gone once again gives ammunition to the “FireLand” mafia. The reality is Gates had all of the tools you look for at the position. Speed, ability to use his body against coverage, and good hands. All in college. In the NFL we never got to see the speed or the hands because he couldn’t get free of the line of scrimmage. Gates suffered from the bump and run coverage and unless he could simply sprint up field he couldn’t grasp the concept of NFL physical football. Despite an effort to use that speed on Special Teams, Gates couldn’t use his body to do the shake and bake moves required to make the first two or three guys miss.
While some will look at this as yet another missed talent evaluation of Ireland, I give him credit for realizing the mistake now and cutting his losses and moving on.
Of course Chris Hogan was a late cut announcement that hit the wires shortly before the 9pm deadline. Hogan was the prince receiver of training camp and he developed a following because HBO gave fans that glimpse of the kid that doesn’t quit and as the veterans continually pointed out, was always open. Unfortunately, we only see a small portion of what goes on during the training camp. Hogan may be brought in to the practice squad but for a guy like Hogan, it says a lot that he made it this far. The same can be said for Jeff Fuller who is also likely to land on the PS.
The Dolphins WR’s are a scary group. The good news is that on the day the roster trims to 53, Brian Hartline finally returned to practice. There won’t be much of a Ryan Tannehill/Hartline connection early but if Hartline can finally stay healthy, the two of them could do very well together. Hartline knows how to create space and Tannehill needs a reliable option in the passing game outside of Davone Bess.
While Hartline returns, the Dolphins only kept five on the roster. Legedu Naane is on the bubble depending on what happens today (we will talk about that in our next article) as is Marlon Moore who escaped the cut that sent Roberto Wallace and last week Julius Pruitt to the street. While Jeff Fuller didn’t make the 53, he was at practice yesterday, an indication that he showed enough to make the practice squad. Draft pick BJ Cunningham didn’t make it but 7th round pick Rishard Mathews showed more than enough to believe he has not only made the 53 man roster, but will stick on it. Mathews could see real game action early this season.
For the Dolphins, that’s it. Those are the WR’s they wake up with this morning and outside of Bess, Hartline, and Mathews, it’s not a group that gets you excited.
The offensive line has been a point of contention for what now, 10 years? The right side of the line specifically has been a major issue and the Dolphins got a little boost from the performance of 2nd round pick Jonathan Martin against Dallas. Martin also played some LT which he said “gave him more confidence to play the right side”. I have to assume that the perspective of the left sheds some light on the mechanics for the right. Let’s hope so.
The biggest surprise is that John Jerry made the team. The Dolphins pushed him hard over the last two weeks giving him the reps to make him or break him. It appears that he may be turning a corner. Time will tell but the Dolphins see his talent, it’s the effort and improvement that are brought into question. While Jerry sticks, Lydon Murtha did not.
Murtha has a load of talent and versatility that most lineman could only dream of possessing. Able to play up and down the line with both physical ability and precision, Murtha is a line coaches dream. Unfortunately, Murtha could never stay healthy. This fact alone finally caught up with him in Miami. The Dolphins have waited and waited for him to mature into the lineman I described but the injuries simply prohibited from progressing at the speed the Dolphins need and it let to yesterday’s cut.
While Murtha is a bit of a disappointment, the feel good story of the season has to be TE Will Yeatman. Poached off the New England Patriots practice squad last year, Yeatman couldn’t contribute as a TE. Joe Philbin and company decided to move him down to tackle where he could use his blocking ability better. It worked. Yeatman grew a lot after the move and his upside potential at the position and his athleticism earned him a spot on a roster position that many automatically figured would be his demise.
While Yeatman made a successful move to tackle, so far, the TE position itself is far from improved. Anthony Fasano still holds the top of the depth chart but his performance this pre-season leaves more than enough to be desired. Fasano has never reached his potential. He is far too inconsistent. Coming from Dallas, Fasano ws expected to be the Dolphins Jason Witten. He played tough like Witten and showed all the promise in the world. Yet his up and down performance makes him an option that far too often doesn’t provide the results you look for. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the drafting of his back-up thus far has been a joke.
Michael Egnew fits the profile of the west coast offense TE. Big, fast, and able to get open. Egnew can do that. What he can’t do is catch the ball. Not inconsistently, almost not at all. Egnew has struggled in practices as well as pre-season games and yesterday it was rumored that he was cut. Perhaps a rumor slipped to the media by someone on the team to wake him up. Egnew is simply lost and if HBOHK episodes are any true indications of this kid, he is playing scared. You can teach young player the mechanics and you can even teach them how to catch. If they can’t get over their own inner fears, they are not going to become productive.
For some reason, perhaps lack of options, Jeron Mastrud has made it through another training camp to earn a spot on the 53.
Sticking on the offense yesterday was to be a question of what QB the Dolphins would cut. They opted to keep all four. The truth is they like what they have seen in Pat Devlin and David Garrard is coming back from his injury. Matt Moore…well he is trade bait right now and it’s entirely possible that he could be moved by the opening weekend.
In the back-field Javorskie Lane held the FB spot while the Dolphins opted to keep all of their remaining runners. Marcus Thigpen makes the roster based on his special teams play while Steve Slaton, a rumored trade option yesterday is hanging on for now.
Defensively, it was a safe bet that Jarrell Root would be gone but seeing undrafted free agent Derrick Shelby make it was inspiring. Shelby looked good this camp and in pre-season and even took some first team reps in one of the games. Kheeston Randall also showed that he deserved a spot on the roster. Rookie Josh Kaddu has a lot to learn at the LB position but the Dolphins felt they had enough to work with and released FA LB Gary Guyton who did not bring the veteran leadership or play the Dolphins expected.
The Dolphins didn’t find much from their AFC East rivals in free agency. While Guyton was released after spending years with New England, LB Jamaal Westerman, a former Jet also under-performed and found his way onto the street as well.
It’s easy to look at the Dolphins roster and ask where the talent is. The question however isn’t where it’s at, it’s whether or not these guys can develop under Joe Philbin and his coaching staff. Can they buy into the team first mentality that is being implemented? Can they step up and become leaders instead of waiting for someone else to stand up instead?
The roster is far from over and some of those guys lucky enough to make the roster and listed above, very well may find themselves out of a job in a matter of hours.