The Miami Dolphins closed a promising 2014 season with another 8-8 record. With the departures of key players, such as: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Charles Clay, Danelle Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler. Mike Tannenbaum and GM Dennis Hickey did a tremendous job replacing these players with the up and coming Kenny Stills, veteran leader Greg Jennings and promising rookie Devante Parker. They also added Jordan Cameron and Ndamukong Suh. Suh is the big name and should shore up the defensive unit with his run stuffing abilities and always commanding double teams. I will get to more of that later.
Here is a rundown of what to watch for, for each position battle and my projected 53 man roster:
Quarterbacks- Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Mcleod Bethel-Thompson
There really isn't too much to write about here. Ryan Tannehill has steadily improved in his first three season as a starting QB in the NFL. There is no reason to doubt, barring injury, he shouldn't continue to improve on these numbers. He also just secured a 6 year, 96 million dollar deal to keep him as the Dolphins QB for the near future. Matt Moore was also resigned to a 1 year, 2.6 million dollar deal to remain as the primary back up for Tannehill. Moore has show he is capable of coming in to lead this team (see 2011). After that, Bethel-Thompson is going into his second year as an undrafted free agent from Sacramento State. Based on Miami releasing Josh Freeman prior to camp, there is reason to believe they will be running with two QB's come opening week. But do not be surprised to see another camp arm arrive.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Ryan Tannehill 2) Matt Moore
Practice Squad: Mcleod Bethel-Thompson
Roster Spots (2)
Running Backs- Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi, Mike Gillislee, LaMichael James, Damien Williams
This camp battle will be intriguing. Lamar Miller is the undoubted starter come week 1. He had a breakout season under first year OC Bill Lazor. Lamar Miller is well suited for the zone blocking scheme he brings to the table. Miller dazzled with 216 carries, 1099 yards, 8TDs and a 5.1 avg. After Miller was a mess in 2014. Daniel Thomas never lived up to the hype, Gillislee was injured, James was added mid season after his release from the 49ers. Enter Jay Ajayi, a bruising, downhill runner from Boise State. His draft stock fell when there were concerns about his long term knee health. He torched defenses with 347 carries for 1823 yards and 28 TDs his final year in college. I project him as the back up behind Miller come week 1. Damien Williams will also find his way on the roster as a great option out of the backfield on 3rd downs or passing downs in general. That leaves one spot for James and Gillislee. Gillislee is often injured and needs to bounce back strong as a back up and special teams player. But I will give the nod to James, who specializes in kick returns as well as a scat back on certain situations
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Lamar Miller 2) Jay Ajayi 3) Damien Williams 4) LaMichael James
Roster Spots (4)
Wide Receivers- Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, Rishard Matthews, Matt Hazel, LaRon Byrd, Christion Jones, Nigel King, Tyler McDonald, Michael Preston, Tommy Streeter, Damarr Aultman
This is one of the deepest spots on the roster come camp. Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Matt Hazel are the only holdovers from last years roster. Enter savvy veteran Greg Jennings. Jennings is entering his 10th year in the league and he will help these young WRs learn the right way to do things in the NFL. He was/is one of Philbin's favorite players from his time in GB. Kenny Stills was brought in a trade with the Saints. Stills has speed and great hands to help open up the defense. Why would the Saints trade him? We don't know, but we may find out through the grind of summer if there are some concerns with his attitude and or work ethic. Devante Parker was the 1st round pick for the team this year, and I for one, am extremely excited to see what he can do in this offense. Parker is a big bodied receiver and based on reports from camp, catches EVERYTHING. Pairing him with Juice, should provide Miami a great 1-2 punch for many years. The intriguing battle comes for that 5th spot which I believe will come down to Matt Hazel and Rishard Matthews. Matthews was unhappy when the front office made all these moves. Matthews asked for his release or be traded, which the Dolphins did not comply. I will give the nod to Matthews for experience but his attitude needs to be right if he wants to hold off Hazel. The other guys mentioned above are camp bodies, with the possibility of a few practice squad guys. I like what I am reading about Christion Jones as a return man, and Nigel King who is another big bodied receiver. But both will need to prove their worth. I believe Miami will carry 6 come week 1.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Jarvis Landry 2) Greg Jennings 3) Devante Parker 4) Kenny Stills
5) Rishard Matthews 6) Matt Hazel
Practice Squad: Christion Jones
Roster Spots: (6)
Tight Ends- Jordan Cameron, Dion Sims, Arthur Lynch, Gerell Robinson, Tim Semisch, Jake Stoneburner
The loss of Charles Clay hurt many of us fans. But the old adage is, out with the old, in with the new. Miami signed Jordan Cameron to a two year contract. Cameron, when healthy, is one of the best TE's in the league. The issue is health. Cameron became Tannehill's favorite target in the red zone in mini camp and should be throughout the regular season. Dion Sims is entering his third season and immediately becomes a focal point in the red zone as well. Having Cameron's 6'5 frame as well as Sims 6'4 frame should scare some defenses in goaline situations. I feel two of the remaining tight ends will warrant a roster spot as well as a practice squad spot. Lynch is coming off an IR rookie campaign but should be given every opportunity to make the roster. Tim Semisch is a huge 6'8 TE but he is a big time project. He played special teams primarily at Northern Illinois but if he can develop, watch for him to push Lynch for that final roster spot.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Jordan Cameron 2) Dion Sims 3) Arthur Lynch
Practice Squad: Tim Semisch
Roster Spots (3)
Offensive Line- Brandon Albert, Ja'Wuan James, Mike Pouncey, Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas, Mickey Baucus, Sam Brenner, Donald Hawkins, Michael Liedtke, Jeff Linkenbach, Jacques McClendon, Dionte Savage, Audrey Walker, J.D Walton
This is the turnstile of this team. The weakest link. This unit stunk when Albert went down in the Detroit game. No major improvements were made, however, I must write about this. The unquestioned starter at LT is Albert. He is still rehabbing but word, and belief is he will be ready to go by week 1. Mike Pouncey is going back to center, thankfully. His numbers as a guard were well below average and having him back at center will proved stability. James, as a rookie, played admirably at both tackle positions. His 16 starts were the first time since Richmond Webb a rookie tackle for the Dolphins played all 16 games. Then comes the mess...Guards. If you watch tape against the week 2 game again the Bills, you will see most of those 7 sacks came up the middle. Miami currently has Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas penciled in as the starters. I hope the additions of Linkenbach and Walton push one of those guys out and or provide great depth to this unit. Jamil Douglas, Miami's fourth round pick should also make the roster. He held his own in camp and should push for a starting spot as well. Everyone else is a camp body in my opinion. Maybe one of these guys will help get Dallas Thomas cut.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Brandon Albert LT 2) Mike Pouncey C 3) Ja'Wuan James RT
4) Billy Turner LG 5) Jeff Linkenbach RG 6) Dallas Thomas 7) JD Walton
8) Jamil Douglas 9) Sam Brenner
Practice Squad: Dionte Savage
Roster Spots (9)
Defensive line- Cameron Wake, Deandre Coleman, Emmanuel Dieke, Ray Drew, Terrence Fede, A.J Francis, Anthony Johnson, Ellis Mccarthy, Earl Mitchell, Kendall Montgomery, C.J Mosley, Jordan Phillips, Derrick Shelby, Ndamukong Suh, Olivier Vernon
Holy depth, Batman! This unit is deep. This is where hard decisions need to be made. Let us start off with what we do know. The starting front four is going to be NASTY. The addition of Suh instantly make Wake and Vernon better. That's hard to believe but we could see some career years from both of them. The interesting story line will be who starts next to Suh. Earl Mitchell coming into his second year with the team seems to be the early favorite, however, depth was added beyond Suh. C.J Mosley, Jordan Phillips, Anthony Johnson and A.J Francis will be pushing Mitchell for more playing time, if not making him expendible. In all honesty, the depth on the DL should allow two starting units to play each week. I see 9 making the roster but could see 10 with Anthony Johnson fighting with Francis. Emmanuel Dieke, Ray Drew could fight for practice squad spot. Let me roll out my two starting DL lineups.
Projected Depth Chart
1A: 1) Cameron Wake DE 2) Ndamukong Suh DT 3) Earl Mitchell DT 4) Olivier Vernon DE
1B: 1) Derrick Shelby DE 2) CJ Mosley DT 3) Jordan Phillips DT 4) Terrance Fede DE
Practice Squad: Emmanuel Dieke
Roster Spots (9)
Linebacker- Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull, Jelani Jenkins, Jeff Luc, Chris McCain, Koa Misi, Spencer Paysinger, Kelvin Sheppard, Jordan Tripp, Zach Vigil
Linebacker play has been inconsistent at best. Gone is Ellerbe and Wheeler, two giant mistakes from 2012 free agent class. In comes a few steady veterans and a bunch of undrafted free agents. Let's dive into what we do know, the starting line up. Koa Misi gets his second crack at MLB, McCain and Jenkins will fill in the OLB roles. McCain was banged up last year but made a huge impact when he was in the line up. He also provides great speed off the end on blitzing downs. Jenkins was a huge surprise when inserted into the starting line up and should contue to grow into a very good player. Sheppard, Paysinger will provide depth and Jordan Tripp should make the roster after a very good camp last year and unfortunate injury derailed his season. That leaves one spot open for one of the undrafted players to make a spot. Hull seems to have the early lead but keep your eye on Luc and Vigil to push for that spot.
Projected Depth chart: 1) Koa Misi MLB 2) Jelani Jenkins OLB 3) Chris McCain OLB
4) Kelvin Sheppard 5) Spencer Paysinger 6) Jordan Tripp 7) Mike Hull
Practice Squad- Zach Vigil
Roster Spots (7)
Cornerback- Brent Grimes, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor, Zack Bowman, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, Brice McCain, Sammy Seamster
This is a unit that was one of the best. Injuries derailed early season success and subsequently derailed at the season end to drop them out of the top 10. Brent Grimes is arguably one of the best corners in the NFL. The youth behind him needs to develop because he is not getting any younger. Jamar Taylor is penciled in as the other starter for the time being. Will Davis has been injury plagued and has been labeled as soft by many. Miami signed Zack Bowman and Brice McCain as depth. Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett were added through the draft. I believe will see 5 of these guys make the roster, one ending up on the practice squad.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Brent Grimes 2) Jamar Taylor 3) Zack Bowman 4) Brice McCain
5) Bobby McCain
Practice Squad: Tony Lippett
Roster Spots (5)
Safety- Reshad Jones, Louis Delmas, Walt Aikens, Michael Thomas, Don Jones, Shamiel Gary, Jordan Kovacs, Cedric Thompson
Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas were a great tandem when Jones came back from suspension last season. I expect both those guys to be starters going forward. This is where it gets interesting, who do you keep behind these guys and how many. 4 of these guys could end up being great special teamers. Michael Thomas had a promising 2013 season with Miami but ended up getting hurt last year. I expect him to make the roster again as well as rookie Cedric Thompson. That leaves in my opinion, Kovacs and Aikens fighting for the final spot on the roster.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) Reshad Jones 2) Louis Delmas 3) Michael Thomas 4) Cedric Thompson
5) Walt Aikens
Roster Spots (5)
Special Teams- Brandon Fields, John Denney, Caleb Sturgis, Andrew Franks
The only battle here is between Sturgis and Franks. Sturgis, the incumbent, hurt his hamstring playing kickball and sat out mini-camp. Frank was as inconsistent as Sturgis and should push him in camp and preseason games. I do believe Sturgis will hold on to the spot come week 1, barring more injuries and inconsistent kicking.
Projected Depth Chart: 1) John Denney LS 2) Brandon Fields P 3) Caleb Sturgis K
Roster Spots (3)
Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for camp updates and articles as we approach the first preseason game. Thanks for reading.