Miami Dolphins Roster Cuts In Focus
By Brian Miller
As promised here is a more focused look into the roster cuts made yesterday by the Miami Dolphins. The team will still makes some subtractions and additions over the course of the next few days and possibly following the first game of the season when vested veterans contracts are no longer guaranteed for the season. The Dolphins did not make any monumental surprise moves yesterday but some of the decisions that were made leave some remaining questions.
Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks – It’s always easy to start here. The Dolphins kept Chad Henne and Matt Moore as expected but the fact they cut both of the remaining QB’s was a bit odd. Welcome to the new NFL. 4 teams kept only 2 QB’s this year. Part of that reason is because of the addition of one extra game day player and the removal of the emergency third QB. The Dolphins will likely work out another QB and will likely put Pat Devlin on the practice squad.
Running Backs – It was a bit intriguing for this unit yesterday. Many felt that Larry Johnson would get a shot and that Lex Hilliard was on the edge. Hilliard stays and Johnson goes. Not a really major deal except that the Dolphins have opted to go into the season with only three tailbacks. Daniel Thomas is still an unknown and Reggie Bush has durability concerns. The Dolphins may feel that Lex Hilliard is ready should one of the starters go down.
It was not a “polite” day for Lousaka Polite. After four sub-par pre-season games in which Polite’s blocking was again questioned, the Dolphins parted ways with their short yardage specialist. Polite was a fan favorite in Miami but when it came down to it, he didn’t contribute much on special teams and a FB needs to be a solid blocker. He was not. The Dolphins will stick with rookie Charles Clay for those duties heading into the season.
Tight Ends – The Dolphins opted to stick with only one back-up TE. Traditionally most teams do not carry more than two or three at the most but for Miami, it’s a bit surprising given the lack of talent at the position. Anthony Fasano is the starter but Jeron Mastrud is hardly a leading candidate to be a number 2 on most teams. The Dolphins may be interested in looking at the waiver wire where former Panther TE Dante’ Rosario was released by Denver. Rosario is a pass catching TE who could help open the seam routes in two tight end sets.
WR’s – The Dolphins decided to keep six. Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace both made the roster after narrowly escaping the chopping block last year at this time. If the Dolphins are going to continually keep six WR’s it may make sense to get them all playing time. Brian Daboll wants to run more five wide sets so it goes without saying that you need another WR. It’s still hard to tell which one of the bottom two is the better wide-out. Possibly the reason they decided to keep them both.
The cuts also mean that un-drafted free agent rookie Phillip Livas is also looking for work. The Dolphins will turn their punt return duties over to Davone Bess while Clyde Gates will likely become the front runner for KO duties. With the NFL rules moving kick-offs to the 35 yard line, kick return specialists are no longer needed.
Oline – Joe Berger made the cut so Mike Pouncey will have a back-up at Center. Berger also plays guard as well so there is flexibility there. The surprise came when the Dolphins placed Lydon Murtha on IR with a torn ligament in his toe. The depth of the Dolphins offensive line was not good coming into yesterdays cut day and the starting right side had enough questions to have fans and media speculating a change on that side of the unit.
John Jerry looks to buy another year or a few more weeks at least after many thought his days in Miami were over. Jerry, a third round pick last year, has struggled with both run blocking and pass blocking…as well as pulling. Nate Garner is the only back-up tackle as the Dolphins went with three. Jake Long on the left and Marc Columbo on the right. Given Jake Longs injury history, the Dolphins should be looking to the market for a viable option to either start on the right where Columbo has been horrible or at least solid depth in case the team loses Long for any period of time.
The guard position fared no better. Rey Feinga made the team, and rightfully so. Feinga has been impressive with his growth and is turning into a solid project. Vernon Carey will man the right guard spot while Ritchie Incognito will man the left. The Dolphins kept only one other guard, that was Jerry.
Coming out of cut day the Dolphins have a back-up center, a back-up tackle, and two back-up guards. Their Oline is very thin.
On the defensive side of the ball, the loss of Will Allen surprised some. The aging veteran looked good in his last outing as a Dolphin on Saturday against the first team Dallas Cowboys. It still wasn’t enough as the team decided that Allen simply didn’t fit in their plans. A long three years ago, Allen was the best cornerback on Miami’s roster.
The loss of Allen meant the team could keep rookie Jimmy Wilson who has displayed an amazing ability to hit people. Now he needs to work on the mechanics of the game and learn the speed of the NFL. All of Miami’s rookies made the final roster yesterday. Nolan Carroll who was on the bubble also made the roster but will have to step up his game if he plans to be here all season long. Benny Sapp will also return. Sapp is a corner who can make good defensive plays but he can’t catch a ball to save his life and the Dolphins need a ball hawking corner. Will Allen was a ball hawking corner. A little surprised they kept Sapp over Allen.
At the safety position fans are chanting Brandon. Merriweather that is. The two time Pro-Bowler was released by the Patriots yesterday and would immediately become the impact free safety the team has been looking for. But I wouldn’t count on it. Jeff Ireland likes to turn over acorns but he is also very frugal and will examine every aspect of a decision before he makes one. Then of course there is the question of the current safeties. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons both made the roster of course and are still neck and neck in the starters battle. The coaches have been thrilled with the play of both players this training camp…another reason why I believe the team won’t look at the former Patriot. Tyrone Culver gets the other safety spot to back-up Yeremiah Bell.
Linebackers were not much of a surprise either. The Dolphins kept 10 LB’s this year including Ikaika Alama-Francis, Austin Spitler, and Marvin Mitchell. Mitchell could be a guy that loses his roster spot over the next few days. The Dolphins will have a deep rotation this year with Cameron Wake, Jason Taylor, and Koa Misi getting lots of work while the middle see rotations between Kevin Burnett and AJ Edds. Spitler should become a solid special teams player this year.
At DT/NT Miami opted to part ways with free agent pick-up Ronnie Fields and instead decided that 7th round rookie Frank Kearse was the better option to back-up Paul Soliai. It should be noted that Soliai is still playing on his franchise tender of 12 million this season and the Dolphins have yet to discuss a long term deal that would significantly cut that number.
Rounding out our roster look is the DE’s where the Dolphins kept six. Including surprise keeper Ryan Baker. Baker has displayed a very strong work ethic and it obviously is paying off. His play on the field is improving as well. The team also kept Phillip Merling who I predicted would be traded yesterday. It is still a possibility as the team simply has too many high quality players at the position and not enough space on the field to play them. Randy Starks remains as expected and will also provide depth at the NT position, perhaps the reason the Dolphins could afford to let Fields go.
Jared Odrick, Kendall Langford, and Tony McDaniel will form a nice rotation throughout the games.
All in all, nothing surprising. No cuts that appeared to be money driven or cap driven, no major moves that leave you guessing. The Dolphins are thin at Oline and were thin at Oline going into yesterday so little changed in that area.
It’s what happens now that will have the most impact on the season. Will the Dolphins find adequate depth or will they look at possible starting caliber players? With over 800 players sent to the streets yesterday, Jeff Ireland has a lot of acorns to kick.