This is a year that will be much simpler than years past in regards to dissecting the back end of the 53-man roster. With a month to go until the Dolphins begin training camp, here is a look at the depth at each position.
No surprises here. Many will push for Brandon Doughty to make the team after Tannehill finally proved he is not ironman. But there are needs elsewhere on the roster and Doughty (or possibly even Fales) will likely begin the season on the practice squad.
Running Back (4)
Here is where we find our first surprise. Adam Gase has repeatedly mentioned that he prefers his three-headed monster at running back to lead the way at the position, hinting that they could possibly be the only ones on the roster.
The reason for this decision is the health of Jay Ajayi. When he was drafted, he was picked late in the draft after many teams were scared off due to his knee issues. The consensus was that Ajayi could provide a few years of quality play but the NFL hits and pressure on his knees would cause him to end his career much earlier than expected.
Add that to the fact that Adam Gase would like to give Jay Train 350 touches this season and that spells a very risky situation for the Miami offense. The team must ensure that there is quality depth behind the potential pro bowler.
That is where Smith comes in. If Ajayi were to go down, I’m not sure Gase would automatically slide Williams or Drake directly into the starting role (although possible). Smith is essentially a Jay Ajayi clone; he is a bruising back that hits the holes hard and has good size.
If Gase wanted to leave Drake and Williams in their specific roles, he could slide Smith in with the starters and not change his style of play much at all. There will be a dropoff, but that is the decision that Gase will have to make.
Wide Receiver (5)
This is a large topic of discussion around the Miami area is the possibility of a fifth and sixth receiver. It comes down to Isaiah Ford and Leonte Carroo, and with the amount invested into selecting Leonte Carroo, the team cannot give up on him just yet, so he gets the nod.
Essentially, the receiver room consists of four players, as Jakeem Grant will not see the offensive side of the ball often. He will merely be the return specialist for the team, and can play slot WR in a pinch if necessary.
Isaiah Ford will likely begin the season on the practice squad and be the first receiver called upon should there ever be a need for one. Then there is the emergence of Drew Morgan, who was making play after play in OTAs. But with such a crowded room, it will be difficult for Morgan to make it to the field during his rookie season.
Tight End (3)
This should not surprise many. Thomas should have a solid season catching many touchdowns in the redzone. Fasano provides one of the league’s best tight ends to play in a double-tight formation. Marqueis Gray is a solid player with adequate skills in both passing and blocking.
Offensive Line (10)
Laremy Tunsil, Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey, Jermon Bushrod, Ju’Wuan James
Sam Young, Isaac Asiata, Anthony Steen, Kraig Urbik, Terry Poole
Last season, Sam Young was the lone backup tackle, as both Tunsil and Bushrod could slide over if needed. That very well may happen again this season, but Tunsil and James have sustained a good amount of injuries over their careers. For that reason, I put Poole on here; to serve as an insurance policy at the tackle position.
Â In regard to interior offensive line, Anthony Steen, Ted Larsen and Kraig Urbik can play any of the three positions which provides a very critical asset to a team (especially a team with Mike Pouncey at the center of the offensive line). Mike Pouncey is slated to start the season, but if that does not happen, there is a good amount of depth at the position to cover his void left at center.
Edge Rusher (5)
This is a very talented group. With Wake and Branch slated to start, Harris and Hayes provide one of the league’s better backup edge rushers. The skillset that each player brings makes this group very lethal.
Near the end of games, on obvious passing downs, Harris and Wake will be on the field. This gives the team to very fast rushers off the ball that will get to the quarterback in a heartbeat. Should there be an obvious rushing situation, William Hayes is one of the best run-stuffing defensive linemen in the game in 2016 and Andre Branch provides great size and veteran abilities to hold down one side of the line.
Terrence Fede will be one of the members on the team that spends nearly all of their playing time on special teams. He will be getting after punters and kickers for much of his time. But his time might possibly come this season if injuries led to his climb up the depth chart.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Last season, there were only three defensive tackles on the roster. This season, the hope is that essentially one of Godchaux and Taylor will step up and prove to be the better option to rotate with Suh and Phillips.
The other of the Godchaux/Taylor duo will spend much of their time on special teams trying to block field goals and get to punters.
The main difference among the linebacker predictions for the Dolphins is the 7th position. It really comes down to personal preference. Every starter will have a backup that plays a decent amount of snaps. The 7th spot is really for special teams and stepping in for emergency situations throughout the game.
For me, that player is Deon Lacey. His road to the NFL is like that of Cam Wake, beginning in the Canadian Football League. He has good size for the position and was one of the premiere linebackers in the CFL a season ago. Deon Lacey will be a very talented special teams member.
With Walt Aikens moving back to cornerback, the CB room got a lot m or Foggy. With the weak depth at safety I predict Michael Thomas will stay at safety and let Bobby McCain keep his nickel position. Aikens will be a heavy special teams contributor for much of the season, which is good news for the Dolphins as he has proved to be a vary crucial for our special teams over the years.
Should one of the top four corners come down with an injury, Aikens slides right into the rotation and will get some playing time at CB. As coach Gase said, you cannot have too many cornerbacks. So I predict that he begins the season with six corners.
With Thomas serving as the primary backup safety, Hendy rounds out the bottom of the depth chart as a safety that very well might play more than expected.
A notable exclusion is T.J. McDonald, who cannot suit up for the Dolphins until the second half of the season begins. Until then, Nate Allen must hold down the starting spot opposite of Jones. Maurice Smith will likely be the lone safety that makes the practice squad as a last-resort option at the position.
There should be no surprises here. John Denney will soon (in the next few seasons) lose his job to a younger and cheaper player, but until then, Denney will remain the longest-tenured member of the Miami Dolphins.
Andrew Franks certainly took positive strides last season and should keep improving. He certainly has the leg power and (after what weâ€™ve seen last season) confidence from his coaches. He should be kicking a little more often on those â€˜iffyâ€™ calls around the 50-yard line. Matt Darr has come in and done a solid job since arriving in the league and looks to do so again in 2017.
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