Friday, August 29, 2008

Final 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

As the preseason comes to a close around the league, the Dolphins topped the New Orleans Saints Thursday night to finish a strong 3-1 in this year's exhibition series.

Over the next two days, all 32 teams will be forced to trim their 75-man rosters down to the regular season active roster limit of 53. The Dolphins are currently below the roster limit at 72 players, but that still leaves 19 to be trimmed by the August 30 deadline.

It should be noted that the Dolphins' final 53-man roster is not all with the team at present time. There is no doubt the team will scour the waiver wires looking to add depth and talent to the lower end of their roster.

As it would be too difficult a task to predict a complete final roster including players added from the cuts of other teams, I am simply going to predict the 53-man roster based on the players currently with the franchise. I will note, when applicable, when a player on the team is a candidate to get replaced by another team's cut.

Quarterback

In:
Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, John Beck
Out: Josh McCown

If there was ever a position to have a qualifier on a prediction, this is it. There is no question the team would love to trade Beck and if they can get something for him I think they'll jump at it. That would obviously change things and McCown would be the guy to stick as the No. 3 quarterback. I predict that if Beck can't be dealt, he'll stick around as he should have more trade value in the future than McCown would. If Beck is shipped off, McCown stays.

(Side note: You know what I'd like to see? Beck traded, McCown cut, and the Dolphins pick up Jets rookie fifth-rounder Erik Ainge, who could be the odd man out with Brett Favre, Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff.)

Running back

In: Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele
Out: Lex Hilliard

There are no guarantees with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, as the first is one slip-up away from another lengthy suspension and the other is still recovering from a torn ACL. That is exactly why keeping four backs makes sense here, even if it's not preferred. Cobbs is a valued special teams guy and Parmele appears to have the makings of a good backup running back and spot starter. Hilliard has shown almost nothing that says he should make the team, so this should be an easy choice.

Fullback

In: Boomer Grigsby
Out: Reagan Mauia

So he can run through drywall. It's not that impressive, and it sure as hell doesn't make him a good football player. Reagan Mauia has been completely shown up by free agent signing Boomer Grigsby. Grigsby is a better blocker, better pass catcher and a superb special teamer. Sparano has heavily implied he prefers to keep only one fullback and likes one that can contribute in different areas. That says to me that Grigsby has the job and Mauia's out the door.

Wide receiver

In: Ted Ginn Jr., Derek Hagan, Ernest Wilford, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo
Out: Anthony Armstrong, Jayson Foster

There really is only one question for me here, and it's the No. 5 spot. I think Ginn, Hagan, Wilford and Bess are locks, or at least close to it. I'm predicting Camarillo gets the No. 5 job because of his special teams play, though Armstrong has made a case for himself as late. Foster meanwhile hasn't shown nearly enough to warrant a spot. If the team kept six receivers, I'd choose Armstrong for the last spot, but I think five is the way to go and Armstrong heads to the practice squad.

Tight end

In: Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Sean Ryan
Out: Justin Peelle, Matthew Mulligan

I was uncertain this offseason about Martin making the team and to be honest I had hoped he would not. Unfortunately, it seems Sparano has declared him a lock along with the starter Fasano. That leaves one spot left (assuming the team keeps three) and that comes down to Peelle and Ryan. The latter is a Parcells boy and has shown strong blocking skills. He also had a great touchdown grab in the preseason finale. Peelle has been solid as well, coming back from a knee injury that hampered him early in camp. It seems to be a toss-up as to which one will make the team, so I'm going to go out on a minor limb and say Ryan will. That being said, the No. 3 tight end could be replaced before the regular season anyway.

Offensive line

In: Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Trey Darilek, Shawn Murphy, Ike Ndukwe, Matt Spanos
Out: Mike Byrne, Pedro Sosa, Daren Heerspink

As I see it, there are six locks on the offensive line, and those players are the first six I listed above. (Long through Darilek). Darilek is the only non-starter lock, but I consider him one because of his versatility. Not only is he currently serving as backup center where he's played a ton the past two games, but he's also got tons of guard and tackle experience. That will get him to stick.

I figure you have three more spots left after that for a total of nine offensive lineman. Based on who is on the team presently, Murphy, Ndukwe and Spanos seem to be the most logical choices. Murphy because of his draft status, Ndukwe because he is the only backup left tackle (and has guard experience) and Spanos because he has been working as the sole No. 2 right guard before Pedro Sosa was added a few days back.

That being said, Ndukwe and Spanos will not be safe if they survive final cuts, because I would almost put money on them being replaced by players cut from other teams. As I said before, these predictions are based only on the Dolphins' current team and that is the sole reason Ndukwe and Spanos are considered "in" here. I'll be shocked if they are on the team come September 7.

Players most likely to be replaced by other teams' cuts:
1. Matt Spanos
2. Ike Ndukwe
3. Justin Peelle
4. Greg Camarillo

Most likely practice squad candidates:
1. Anthony Armstrong
2. Matt Spanos
3. Pedro Sosa
4. Daren Heerspink

Well, those are my predictions for the Dolphins' roster on offense. We have here a total of 25 players making the team, made up of three quarterbacks, four running backs, one fullback, five wide receivers, three tight ends and nine offensive linemen. That leaves 28 players for defense and special teams, so check out my next entry (it will be above this one on the blog) for those predictions!