Saturday, August 8, 2009

Updated Final Roster Predictions (Aug. 9)

We're a week into camp and less than 10 days away from the team's first preseason game, so I thought it might be a good idea to revise and update my predictions on how the Dolphins' final roster will shake out.

The team currently has 77 players with open roster spots left by Brennan Marion, SirVincent Rogers and Ethan Kilmer. They will have to cut down to 75 players on Sept. 1 and eventually to the final 53 players on Sept. 5. This is my current projection of that 53-man roster.

Keep in mind, it is almost certain not all of the players on Miami's eventual 53-man roster are with the team now. They will likely claim a few players off waivers from other teams' cuts, and that's a little too difficult to predict.

-The number in parentheses next to each position is the number of players kept at the position.
-Italics indicated a player I predict will win a starting job.

For reference and comparison, you can see my initial predictions here.

Quarterback (3)

Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Pat White
-Cut: none

Comments: Not exactly difficult to predict when no one's competing, is it? Miami's three quarterbacks are already present and nothing will change that in 2009. Given the way White has struggled in camp thus far, I think it's safe to say he won't be threatening Henne for the backup job any time soon.

Running back (3)

Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs
-Cut: Lex Hilliard, Anthony Kimble

Comments: Another position where there isn't much mystery. Brown and Williams are far and away the two best backs on the team, and Cobbs has shown too much ability to lose out to Hilliard or Kimble. The way I see it, the latter two are competing for a practice squad spot.

Fullback (1)

-Kept: Lousaka Polite
-Cut: Matt Quillen

Comments: The Dolphins may have opted to bring in Quillen over recently released Chris Brown, but he's in no better position now than Brown was a week ago. Polite pretty much has the job nailed down, and as the team prefers to only keep on fullback, Quillen doesn't have much of a shot to stick unless he proves to be absolutely indispensable on special teams. He's auditioning for a practice squad spot.

Wide receiver (5)

-Kept: Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Patrick Turner, Brian Hartline,
-Cut: Brandon London, Anthony Armstrong, Chris Williams

Comments: This is one position where my predictions have changed. I initially had Armstrong making the team, but I just can't see Miami keeping six receivers. If Brian Hartline can show ability on special teams, there will be no reason to keep someone like London around. I could be wrong here and the team could keep Armstrong or London as the sixth guy, but it seems unnecessary and thus unlikely.

Tight end (3)

-Kept: Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Joey Haynos
-Cut: Ernest Wilford, John Nalbone

Comments: Fasano's a lock and Martin shouldn't have any trouble making the team given the way he played in 2008. The real battle here is for the third spot, which as I see it is entirely up for grabs. Haynos, as the incumbent, likely has the best chance, but he is by no means a lock. If fifth-round pick John Nalbone progresses quickly enough, he could potentially beat out Haynos. You also can't rule out Wilford here, since he costs less to keep ($3 million) than he does to cut ($4.5 million) and provides the versatility to back up both receiver and tight end.

Offensive tackle (3)

-Kept: Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Andrew Gardner
-Cut: Nate Garner

Comments: Garner failed to get activated as a rookie in 2008, and I'm just guessing the team prefers Gardner and his higher ceiling. The team will likely only keep three pure tackles, so someone had to go.

Offensive guard (5)

-Kept: Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas, Shawn Murphy, Andy Alleman, Brandon Frye
-Cut: Ike Ndukwe, Mark Lewis

Comments: I'm still not sold on Shawn Murphy's seemingly miraculous turnaround, and I have to imagine Thomas will still win the starting right guard job if healthy. Still, the mere fact Murphy is in the mix (and supposedly the front-runner right now) means he should be able to make the team. Ike Ndukwe has pretty much peaked in my view and, while he can play all the line positions, he can't play most of them well. I expect the team will go with the younger prospects in Alleman and Frye.

Center (1)

-Kept: Jake Grove
-Cut: Joe Berger

Comments: It's hard to figure out which interior linemen to cut, and Berger would seem to have an advantage as a former Cowboy. Still, I like the five guards I have making the team and Alleman is more than capable of backing up center as well, so Berger's the odd man out.

Defensive end (5)

-Kept: Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson
-Cut: Rodrique Wright, Ryan Baker

Comments: I think it's a given that Langford, Merling and Starks all make up a three-man rotation at the end spots. I also don't anticipate any surprises with the backups either, as McDaniel and Dotson are likely held in higher regard than Wright and Baker.

Nose tackle (2)

-Kept: Jason Ferguson, Paul Soliai
-Cut: Joe Cohen, Louis Ellis

Comments: The only question mark here is the backup job, and Soliai has to be the favorite. He's been in the team's doghouse a number of times, but he's certainly the most talented of the three competing. He also seems to be having a solid camp and should be able to hold off Cohen and Ellis for the job.

Outside linebacker (6)

-Kept: Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Jason Taylor, Charlie Anderson, Cameron Wake, Erik Walden
-Cut: Quentin Moses, Tearrius George

Comments: It's quite possible the team only keeps five here, but it's difficult to pick those five so I'm playing it safe. With Roth's injury and Taylor's age, it seems possible they could keep six around. Wake and Walden are primarily special teamers right now but have potential as pass rushers, while Anderson was too valuable as a situational guy last year to cut loose.

Inside linebacker (4)

-Kept: Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor, William Kershaw
-Cut: J. D. Folsom, Orion Martin

Comments: Although Torbor is extremely overpaid, I don't see the point in cutting him here and there's really no one to replace him as the top backup. The real battle here is for the fourth and final spot, which is between Kershaw and seventh-round pick J. D. Folsom. Kershaw has more experience on NFL special teams and Folsom's probably better suited for the practice squad at this point, so I'm giving Kershaw the edge.

Cornerback (5)

-Kept: Will Allen, Sean Smith, Vontae Davis, Eric Green, Nathan Jones
-Cut: Jason Allen, Joey Thomas, Will Billingsley

Comments: Some believe Jason Allen will make the team because of his special team prowess, but I just don't see it. While I agree Allen has been strong in that area (and only that area) I simply don't see room for Allen at cornerback without keeping more than is reasonable. Green and Jones are the only of my five kept that could possibly be cut, but both are bigger contributors on defense than Allen and have to get the edge over the first-round disappointment.

Safety (4)

-Kept: Gibril Wilson, Yeremiah Bell, Chris Clemons, Tyrone Culver
-Cut: Courtney Bryan

Comments: With Ethan Kilmer now out of the picture, Chris Clemons has no real competition for the backup free safety job and is close to a lock to make the team. The top four safeties are pretty much set, with Courtney Bryan being the odd man out. It's possible he could make the team as a fifth safety if he proves to be too valuable on special teams to part with, but he's certainly not going to crack to top four at safety and make the cut that way.

Special teams (3)

-Kept: Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
-Cut: none

Comments: All three are uncontested at their positions, so there's nothing to guess here. I would have preferred some competition for Carpenter and I've read he's struggled some in camp, but he was good enough last season that the team must feel comfortable with him.

Practice Squad (8 - made up of our cuts)
-RB Lex Hilliard
-FB Matt Quillen
-WR Anthony Armstrong
-TE John Nalbone
-G Mark Lewis
-NT Louis Ellis
-LB J. D. Folsom
-Will Billingsley

Comments: If Armstrong continues to impress, it's possible he might not even be available for our practice squad. If he is though, I have to imagine he'll be there if he's still willing. Hilliard and Billingsley are here, though ideally I'd like to replace them with more talented players from other teams' cuts. Nalbone and Ellis are some intriguing prospects whose development is certainly worth keeping an eye on.