Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unlucky 13: Who Won't Be Making the Cut in Miami

The cut-down deadlines are looming in the not-so-distant future, and with 66 players currently on the roster Miami will have to make some tough decisions. 13 players will soon be shown the door to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster limit on Sept. 5.

But who will those players be? It's not hard to figure out the players definitely will make the team, but which of those players on the roster bubble will avoid the axe, and which will be getting unfortunate visits from the Turk?

The following 13 players are the ones I feel will not be on the Dolphins' active roster when the team opens up the regular season in Atlanta on Sept. 13:

Lex Hilliard

Yes, everyone's favorite preseason star will not make the team in my view. He's had some good moments this past month, but he's been vastly overrated by the media and fans. People forget that all of his production has come late in preseason games when he's facing other third- and fourth-stringers.

Yes, Hilliard's a good special teams guy too, but we have other bubble players that are as well, and we have some (like Brandon London and Erik Walden) that are more able to contribute in other ways. Miami doesn't often keep four tailbacks on the roster, and with three far superior ones on the team, there just isn't enough reason to keep Hilliard around.

James Robinson

Robinson has crazy speed, but he's very raw and doesn't have a shot to make the Dolphins' active roster out of the gate. He's worth consideration for a practice squad spot, but nothing more.

John Nalbone

You don't always see fifth-round picks cut, but they certainly aren't locks either. Nalbone is a project after coming out of Division II Monmouth College and hasn't done anything to separate himself from incumbent third-stringer Joey Haynos in the preseason. Haynos is a better red-zone threat at this point and a superior blocker as well, so I think Nalbone's destined for the practice squad.

Mark Lewis

There were a couple times the beat writers singled out Lewis in training camp for fantastic blocks, but we've seen little of him in preseason games. The undrafted guard out of Oregon is the longest shot of any of Miami's offensive linemen and doesn't have a real chance to beat anyone out for a roster spot. He could be signed to the practice squad, or he could get a day job.

Nate Garner

Garner failed to get into a game last year after being claimed off waivers from the New York Jets prior to last season. He currently sits behind Vernon Carey at right tackle, though I expect the team to only keep three tackles and nine linemen total, with Garner being the odd man out. Seventh-rounder Andrew Gardner should wind up with the backup job to Jake Long, while guard Brandon Frye has tackle experience and can be able to double-up there as well.

Ryan Baker

Defensive end is perhaps the Dolphins' deepest position on that side of the ball, making it a monumental task for Baker to work his way onto the roster. Tony McDaniel and Lionel Dotson are both better prospects and should be able to secure the fourth and fifth end spots.

Baker is a candidate for the practice squad, but with five likely on the active roster, it's possible the team won't feel the need to have the position represented on the developmental squad.

Rodrique Wright

A prototypical 3-4 end, Wright seemed like a steal when Miami grabbed him in the seventh round out of Texas in 2006. Since then, he's failed to appear in a game during two of his three pro seasons and didn't show much as a part-time starter in 2007. The Dolphins are stacked at defensive end, and there's finally no room for Wright on the team even as a backup. He has no practice squad eligibility either, so this will likely be the end of the line for Wright in Miami.

Quentin Moses

I'm not going to lie, Moses has looked good at times this preseason. The problem for him is that the outside linebacker position in Miami is very crowded, even when you exclude the enigma that is Matt Roth.

Cameron Wake and Charlie Anderson should earn the top backup jobs, and I'm choosing to keep Erik Walden over Moses for a couple reasons. 1) Walden has had a strong preseason as well and is a stud on special teams, whereas Moses doesn't stand out there; 2) Walden is a little younger; and 3) Moses has been around longer and has largely been a disappointment in the NFL.

I wouldn't object if Moses made the team because the kid does have talent hidden away in there somewhere, but overall I think Walden is the more valuable player.

J. D. Folsom

Folsom has made a few plays late in the team's preseason games, but he didn't even get into their last game against Tampa Bay and I think he might be better suited for the practice squad at this point. William Kershaw (who might not make the team either) is a more seasoned special teams player and can likely contribute more in 2009, whereas Folsom should be able to develop on the practice squad without being snatched up by another team.

Joey Thomas

Thomas hasn't looked bad at times in camp and the preseason, but he was always a long shot to make the team even before Eric Green was released. Nathan Jones is the superior blitzer and special teams player, while Jason Allen, bust as he may be, is a standout special teamer. The Dolphins won't be keeping more than five corners, which once again put Thomas out of a job. He might not land anywhere else, so the Dolphins could come calling during the regular season if they need an injury replacement.

Will Billingsley

Quite possibly the longest shot of anyone still on the roster, Billingsley's impending release is about as certain as tomorrow's sunrise. He's been the lowest corner on the depth chart for the entire camp (though he did move from 8th to 7th with Green's departure) and was the quarterbacks' whipping boy in practice all August. He could get another year on the practice squad, but I suspect the team would prefer a better prospect in that spot.

Courtney Bryan

Bryan is one of those unfortunate guys that's had his NFL career screwed up by getting too much playing time early on. 12 appearances as a rookie in 2007 has rendered him void of practice squad eligibility, thus making it much harder for a fringe player like Bryan to continue to play pro ball because he's either on the active roster or a free agent.

Bryan is a solid special teamer and could always end up with a job in Miami or elsewhere down the line (likely due to injury) but he doesn't have a shot at beating Chris Clemons or Tyrone Culver for a backup safety job in 2009.

Matt Roth

No, I'm not cutting Miami's best run-stopping outside linebacker. I am, however, placing him on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform list to start the season. (You can't add an active player to the PUP list if he doesn't begin camp on it, but Roth can be moved there since he began camp on the Non-Football Injury list.)

Roth's a strong contributor when healthy and I dare say Miami needs him against the run because Joey Porter is so weak on that department, but I can't justify giving him a roster spot after all he's done (or not done) this preseason. I honestly don't know what the deal is with him and his mysterious, invisible groin injury.

By placing him on the PUP list, the team gives Roth six weeks to get his act together and get healthy (if he isn't already). If he still isn't willing to get on the field in October, they will probably place him on injured reserve. He's only hurting himself in a contract year if he doesn't play.

The positive side of a Roth deactivation would be that it gives Miami another roster spot with which to play and lets them to keep one more player that normally would be cut. I'd recently predicted a final roster spot could come down to Lex Hilliard, Brandon London, Erik Walden and Quentin Moses, but Roth off the active roster has allowed me to keep both London and Walden—two very valuable special teams players.

The Lucky 53 (for now...)

I often hear disagreements when I said a certain player should be cut, but I feel that without going through the roster and picking out 53 men to make the team, you can't really get an idea of whether or not a Hilliard or London or Moses anyone else is really worthy of a spot.

That being the case, here are the 53 players that would be making the team if the cuts go as I've outlined above. I encourage you to look at this roster before second guessing any of my cut decisions.

Quarterbacks (3): Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Pat White
Running backs (4): Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lousaka Polite
Wide receivers (6): Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Greg Camarillo, Patrick Turner, Brandon London
Tight ends (3): Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Joey Haynos
Offensive linemen (9): Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Jake Grove, Donald Thomas, Vernon Carey, Andrew Gardner, Brandon Frye, Joe Berger, Shawn Murphy
Defensive linemen (7): Jason Ferguson, Paul Soliai, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Phillip Merling, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson
Outside linebackers (5): Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, Erik Walden
Inside linebackers (4): Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor, William Kershaw
Cornerbacks (5): Will Allen, Sean Smith, Vontae Davis, Nathan Jones, Jason Allen
Safeties (4): Gibril Wilson, Yeremiah Bell, Tyrone Culver, Chris Clemons
Special teams (3): Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney

Now keep in mind, just because a player survives final cuts does not mean he will be on the roster come opening day. Every team claims a couple guys off waivers from other teams' cuts each year, and Miami is sure to do the same. Last year, the team waived three players that survived cuts and claimed three off waivers from other teams.

If I had to highlight a few players that are most likely to be replace but a waiver claim, I would go with Brandon London, Joey Haynos, Brandon Frye and William Kershaw. These are all bottom of the roster guys that could end up being shown the door if an upgrade becomes available on the waiver wire.

Dolphins waive four as preseason winds down

As I predicted in my Dolphins-Bucs game observations, the Dolphins have trimmed a few players off their roster despite already being well under the looming 75-man cut-down limit. Waived are wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, nose tackle Louis Ellis placekicker Connor Barth, while fullback Joe Kowalewski has been waived/injured.

The Dolphins' active roster now stands at just 66 players—14 under the current 80-man limit. Teams must cut down to 75 players by Sept. 1, and to the final 53 players on Sept. 5. The Dolphins won't need to take any action until that final cut day, though we could see more sporadic moves such as these between now and then.

Anthony Armstrong

After initially surviving last year's final cuts (until Brandon London was claimed off waivers), second-year receiver Anthony Armstrong has failed to last until the first round of cuts in 2009.

A burner who is lacking in the bulk department at 5-11 and 175 pounds, Armstrong drew rave reviews from some beat writers during minicamps but faded in training camp. The Dolphins clearly didn't give him much of a chance when it came to playing in the preseason and he was stuck on the bottom of the depth chart all August.

Armstrong has two years of practice squad eligibility remaining, but it remains to be seen if either party is interested in such a reunion. Given how early the Dolphins cut him this year and the fact that Armstrong might be bitter about his lack of opportunity, I suspect this split might be permanent.

Armstrong is a solid deep threat and could land on another team's practice squad, but I don't know how much of a future he has at the NFL level. It's a shame the Arena league folded, because he definitely had the tools to be a stud there. If I were him, I'd give the CFL or UFL a shot. He has the skills to play pro ball, even if it's not at the highest level.

Louis Ellis

Out of the four transactions today, this was the one that surprised me the most. When the Dolphins waived Joe Cohen last week, I thought Ellis was a shoo-in for a practice squad spot. Granted that still could happen, but I would imagine if you liked a guy for the practice squad you'd at least keep him until final cuts.

(For reference, all seven of Miami's initial 2008 practice squad players that attempted camp with the team survived the first wave of cuts, so this does not bode well for Ellis.)

Ellis dominated at Division II Shaw University, but the NFL is a whole different ballgame and it's no surprise that Ellis wasn't ready yet. I do like his potential though, and I'd like to see him back on the practice squad as a developmental guy. Miami doesn't have an immediate need at nose tackle, but they'll need one soon and a young, long-term guy is high on the wishlist.

Connor Barth

Barth was brought in to light a fire under second-year kicker Dan Carpenter, who was struggling in camp after a strong showing as a rookie in 2008. Barth got into a few preseason games with Miami, going 2-for-2 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points. Unfortunately for Barth, the incumbent Carpenter was just as good and has a slightly stronger leg.

It was worth a shot for the Dolphins to bring in another leg to challenge Carpenter, but in the end Barth was unable to lift himself high enough to force the Dolphins to make a change. Miami should be fine with Carpenter in 2009, and Barth should get some looks from other NFL teams down the road. He's also a candidate to re-sign with Miami if Carpenter were to be injured during the regular season.

Joe Kowalewski

Miami brought in Kowalewski to share reps with starter Lousaka Polite during camp after Chris Brown was waived, but he really never had a shot at making the team. The Dolphins typically only keep one fullback on the active roster, and Polite wasn't going anywhere.

Because Kowalewski was waived/injured, he'll have to pass through waivers before reverting to the Dolphins' injured reserve list. His injury is likely minor and he should be let go with an injury settlement in the coming days.

Kowalewski is solid backup fullback material and would have had a more significant pro career to date if he hadn't lost his practice squad eligibility during his time with the New York Jets. It's unknown at this point if Kowalewski impressed the Dolphins enough to garner consideration for re-signing if Polite were to be injured during the regular season.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dolphins vs. Buccaneers: Random Observations

Lightning interrupted the Miami Dolphins' preseason contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night, but the Dolphins' offense was far from electric as the team squeaked past the Bucs to move to 3-0. (Don't you love it when things give you the opportunity for clever little intros like that? Thanks, Weather!)

As I've done with the previous two games, I'm just listing random observations from the game as well as any other comments I feel about a player's ever-changing chance of making the roster. I'll be doing videos again when the regular season rolls around, but for now, this should suffice.

And off we go:

Random Observations
  • Chad Pennington finished with a pretty good line due in large part to a long completion with Brian Hartline, but overall I thought it was a weak performance. The third preseason game is when starters play the most, so it was pretty disappointing to see the offense struggle like it did.
  • On the positive side, Pennington made a great play on the touchdown to Anthony Fasano, as well as on the play-action fake that resulted in a 54-yard completion to Hartline while Pennington was throwing across his body.
  • Chad Henne had what I would consider his worst game as a pro. He and Pennington both sat in the pocket too long at times, while pulling the ball down too quickly and scrambling for a minimal gain at others. I don't know if the coverage was just amazing or what, but the Dolphins' passing game was not impressive overall.
  • The running game never really got going last night either. I'm not concerned about the backs, but the offensive line needs to do their job better.
  • Lex Hilliard (or the second coming of Barry Sanders, if you've been reading Miami papers and fan forums) didn't help himself last night and reminded all of us that he is not in fact a lock to make this team. People forget that his good runs have come in the fourth quarter against guys that are going to be cut soon. This guy is not indispensable.
  • Brian Hartline was impressive, and would have had an even better line if he hadn't gotten a fantastic reception taken away on a bogus offensive pass interference call. There was mutual, insignificant hand contact on both parties; it was the kind of thing that happens on every play in football.
  • It was nice to see Greg Camarillo make a big play, though you could tell his speed was lacking a little bit as he recovers from knee surgery. He's not actually a lock to make the team, but I expect he will. Would I be entirely surprised if Miami kept five wideouts and Brandon London made it over Camarillo? Not entirely. It's not likely, but it's something to consider.
  • Fasano showed once again why he's such a good red-zone threat. Little-seen John Nalbone also recorded a reception, but I thought Joey Haynos was more impressive overall and made some good blocks. I think Nalbone's better suited for the practice squad.
  • Nobody really stood out in a positive way on the offensive line. They did give Miami's quarterbacks good protection at times though, and a few of the sacks allowed were coverage sacks rather than protection mistakes.
  • Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham did a little too much running over Miami's defense. I know it was raining for the third straight game, but these guys have to take better angles and wrap-up on tackles. Akin Ayodele had seven tackles in the game, but that total should have been even higher.
  • Despite the run defense's struggles, I was impressed at times with the following guys: Kendall Langford, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson and Paul Soliai. I'm pretty comfortable with our defensive line. Their job is to create space for the linebackers to make tackles, and they are. The linebackers and safeties just aren't following through on their end.
  • Quentin Moses and Erik Walden each had a few good pass rushes, and it'll be interesting to see if either can secure a roster spot. I don't think both will, but one definitely should. If it were me, I'd give it to Walden because he's a stud on special teams and Moses has done less with more time as a pro.
  • William Kershaw had a solid game, while J. D. Folsom was one of five Miami players that didn't even get into the game. That's pretty telling, and I think Folsom might be headed for the practice squad.
  • The Dolphins secondary did an O.K. job, but I'd prefer to see them make more plays when they're in good position. There were some completions that should have been knockdowns and some knockdowns that should have been interceptions. Still, I'm pretty content with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith seeing significant playing time as rookies.
  • Nathan Jones recorded another sack, rushing through untouched just like he did a few times last year. I'm not quite sure if he's just in the right place at the right time or he has a knack for the thing, but either way it can't be bad.
  • Connor Barth didn't get into the game last night, so the kicking competition appears to be over. He gave it a good run, but he didn't show enough to beat out Dan Carpenter.
  • I can understand the team not wanting to use Ted Ginn, Jr. on returns and if they don't I'm okay with it, but he's certainly better at it than anyone on the team. He's really the only guy we have that can take it all the way.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, Davone Bess was painful to watch last night. The guy just does not have the speed to get around the edge. He certainly doesn't need to be running backwards, because nothing good will come of it. I'd like to see a little more Hartline there.
As the preseason winds down and cuts loom, here are some dates to remember:
  • Sept. 1 - Cutdown to 75
  • Sept. 3 - Dolphins preseason finale at New Orleans
  • Sept. 5 - Cutdown to 53
The Dolphins currently have 70 players on the roster, so they won't have to make any cuts until September 5. That being said, it wouldn't surprise me if the team trimmed a few players off the bottom of the roster between now and the last game.

Some of the most likely candidates in my view to be cut before the deadline are: WR James Robinson, WR Anthony Armstrong, G Mark Lewis, DE Ryan Baker, DE Rodrique Wright, CB Will Billingsley, and K Connor Barth. None of those guys has a real chance to make the roster, and it's possible the team won't keep them around until final cuts.

Be sure to check back in the next few days, as I'll take a closer look at the Dolphins' roster and do my best to figure out just who those final 53 will be. Keep in mind though, just because a player survives cuts doesn't mean he's safe. Three players last year initially survived cuts (Anthony Armstrong, Trey Darilek, Rob Ninkovich) only to be waived before the regular season when three players from to other teams' cuts (Andy Alleman, Nate Garner, Brandon London) were claimed off waivers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three ex-Dolphins not unemployed for long

It's not exactly relevant to the Miami Dolphins, but I'm sort of an NFL nerd and like to follow all the happenings around the league. That being the case, I thought I'd offer a little news and analysis on the recent moves of three former Dolphins.

As I'm sure you already know by now, the Dolphins released or waived six players yesterday. Three of those players have already found new homes, with tight end Ernest Wilford re-joining the Jaguars, linebacker Orion Martin being claimed by Detroit and defensive tackle Joe Cohen landing in Oakland.

These players didn't work out in Miami, but could they fare better in their new (or in Wilford's case, old) homes?

Ernest Wilford

Wilford was huge bust for Miami, lasting just one season into four-year, $13 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. He caught three passes for 25 yards in 2008 and was moved to tight end during the offseason before being cut loose yesterday.

According to reports, the Jaguars had wanted to move Wilford to tight end a few years back and intend to utilize him there now. It's probably the right move, as his inability to get separation as a wideout is well-documented. Not to mention, he's been working all offseason the new position and has gained some 20 pounds to facilitate the move, so he's certainly not in any condition to give it another go out wide.

In my view, Wilford wasn't cut by the Dolphins because he had no potential at tight end. Rather, he didn't show enough progression to warrant keeping as a third-string tight end under his extremely large contract. Now that he likely has a very manageable deal in Jacksonville, he should have every opportunity to make the team.

Wilford certainly won't be supplanting 2006 first-round pick in Marcedes Lewis, but the Jaguars don't have to much talent at tight end beyond him. Sixth-round pick Zach Miller (not the one from the Raiders) is a former college quarterback who is currently nursing a knee injury, while journeymen Richard Angulo and Greg Estandia haven't shown much as pros and aren't locks for the No. 3 job.

Wilford certainly has the best hands of any of Jacksonville's tight ends after Lewis. He also has the biggest potential to be a red-zone threat and matches up well with opposing linebackers because of his history at wide receiver blended with his size and speed. Despite his struggles in Miami, he's a hard worker and should continue to refine his blocking technique.

Am I saying Wilford will be a successful NFL tight end, or even that he'll make the Jaguars' roster? No, I'm not. But, just as when he was in Miami, I am intrigued by his potential as a tight end and do think there's a chance he could be productive there. Now that he doesn't have a big contract and big expectations, all he has to do is play ball.

Orion Martin

A former defensive end at Virginia Tech, Martin went undrafted in 2009 and was attempting to make the Dolphins' roster at inside linebacker. He really didn't have a shot to make the team behind William Kershaw and J. D. Folsom, and the writing was on the wall for Martin when he didn't even play in Miami's second preseason game against Carolina on Saturday.

Although he shifted to linebacker for Miami's 3-4 scheme, I have to imagine he'll go back to defensive end in Detroit's 4-3. At 6-2, 260 pounds, he's not really a prototypical 4-3 linebacker. The only thing that makes me wonder is the fact that his signing comes on the heels of an injury to Lions linebacker Darnell Bing.

Assuming he played defensive end, Martin doesn't stand a realistic shot at making the team out of the gate. He's not a great pro prospect to begin with, he's coming into camp late and there are just too many bodies in front of him. Martin does have a shot at earning a practice squad gig, but it's far from a sure thing.

Joe Cohen

A fourth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, Cohen was carried over to the Dolphins' offseason roster in 2009 after a practice squad stint last season. He was fighting for a backup nose tackle job with undrafted rookie Louis Ellis, but when you're fourth on the depth chart at a position that usually has two spots on the active roster, you're not going to last long.

In Oaland, Cohen finds himself in the difficult position many players find themselves in when signed at this time of year. He's joining a new team late in camp and thus is very behind in learning the scheme and impressing the coaching staff.

I don't expect Cohen to make the Raiders' active roster from Week 1, as I imagine the defensive tackles will be Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands, Gerard Warren and William Joseph will secure those spots (though possibly only the first three).

The good news for Cohen is, out of the three other uncertainties—Joseph, Ryan Boschetti and Desmond Bryant—only Cohen and Bryant have practice squad eligibility. Bryant is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Harvard who is coming of an unimpressive college career in the Ivy League and is transitioning from defensive end.

That being the case, I'd have to give Cohen the edge there. He has the talent to be a reserve defensive tackle in this league and should be worthy of a practice squad spot in Oakland.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dolphins cut Ernest Wilford, trade two linemen, part ways with five others

The cutdown to 75 isn't until Sept. 1, but the Miami Dolphins wasted no time doing a little house cleaning after their second preseason game, trimming the roster to just 70 by cutting ties with eight players.

Wide receiver/tight end Ernest Wilford, running back Anthony Kimble, nose tackle Joe Cohen and linebackers Orion Martin and Tearrius George were all let go, while rookie wide receiver Chris Williams was also waived/injured. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for an undisclosed 2010 draft pick.

Ernest Wilford

Signed to a big contract last offseason, Wilford proved to be the biggest bust of the Bill Parcells' first year in Miami. He struggled to get on the field during his first season with the Dolphins, appearing in seven games (starting none) and catching just three passes for 25 yards.

The Dolphins attempted to move Wilford to tight end in the 2009 offseason, hoping to take advantage of his good hands and his speed which, while poor for a wide receiver, might even be good for a tight end. However, it seems Wilford's transition just wasn't impressive enough, and the team decided to take the cap hit and part ways with the disappointing signing.

It's a shame to see Wilford cut, because it puts a definitive end to a disappointing tenure in Miami. He was a hard worker and never complained about his role, but he just wasn't good enough and signing him to that contract was a mistake on management's part. I thought he had the potential to present some matchup problems at tight end, but obviously his blocking was inadequate.

The Dolphins really aren't losing anything here (except a little cap space) because Wilford wasn't going to contribute anyway. There were too many receivers in front of him, and he was unlikely to surpass Anthony Fasano or David Martin at tight end.

Andy Alleman

A third-round pick by the Saints in 2007, Alleman now joins in third team in as many seasons. He was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins after final cuts last season and went on to appear in 15 games, including four starts after Justin Smiley was lost for the season.

Alleman is a versatile player who can play all three interior line positions, but obviously the team didn't think he had enough potential to develop as a starter and valued a future draft pick more. His departure bodes well for guys like Joe Berger, Shawn Murphy and Brandon Frye, with Berge becoming the lone backup to Jake Grove at center.

Ikechuku Ndukwe

The writing was on the wall when the team kept playing Ndukwe at tackle during training camp, where he is simply overmatched at this level. Ndukwe is a versatile guy and a solid interior lineman, but lately I felt he had reached his ceiling as a pro and doubted his ability to make the team.

The Dolphins are losing a versatile lineman with starting experience, but not one with much upside. Donald Thomas has already established himself at right guard, while youngsters Shawn Murphy and Brandon Frye have more potential than the 27-year-old Ndukwe. He also wasn't needed at tackle, where guard Brandon Frye (a tackle at Virginia Tech) and rookie seventh-rounder Andrew Gardner can hold down the fort behind Jake Long and Vernon Carey.

Chris Williams

Dolphins fans were a little too high on Williams, with some assuming he had the return job all but locked up after he saw extensive looks in the first two preseason games. Williams showed some good moves and blazing speed at times, but he was too inconsistent and didn't catch balls cleanly enough to warrant keeping as the primary return man.

According to Edgar Thompson of the Palm Beach Post, Williams has suffered two broken bones in his hand and has been waived/injured. If he clears waivers, he'll revert to the Dolphins' injured reserve list. He will likely be released with an injury settlement sometime down the line, possible in the next few days.

I don't feel like the Dolphins are losing too much here and I never expected Williams to make the roster as some did. If I had to guess, I'd say Patrick Cobbs will return kickoffs in the regular season, while Davone Bess or Brian Hartline will handle punts. The team seems to prefer Ted Ginn, Jr. to focus solely on offense, though he is certainly the most dynamic returner on the roster.

Anthony Kimble

Undrafted out of Stanford in 2009, Kimble was one of the longest shots to make the roster so it's no surprise to see him cut here. He saw little playing time in the preseason, with his most notable moment coming when he let a pass from Pat White bounce of his chest and get intercepted against Jacksonville. He seems unlikely to have much of a pro career.

The Dolphins are set at running back, with Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs leading the way. 2008 sixth-rounder Lex Hilliard has had a strong preseason, but it's unknown at this point if he'll be able to secure a spot on the active roster as the fourth running back. I don't expect Miami to keep four running backs and six wide receivers, so Hilliard could be battling Brandon London for one special teams spot.

Joe Cohen

A fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2007, Cohen missed his entire rookie season with the 49ers with a torn ACL. He spent part of last season on Miami's practice squad.

Cohen was a long shot to make the team, as Jason Ferguson and Paul Soliai likely have the two nose tackle spots locked up. Cohen's release does bode well for undrafted rookie Louis Ellis, who should be headed for the practice squad after final cuts.

Orion Martin

Martin was attempting to make the transition from defensive end to inside linebacker for the Dolphins, but was unable to leave a lasting impression. He didn't have a real shot of surpassing William Kershaw or J. D. Folsom for a spot on the roster.

With Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor locks at inside linebacker, it remains to be seen if the two remaining players will be able to earn a spot on the active roster. At this point, I think Folsom is destined for the practice squad, while Kershaw will either earn a spot as a special teamer or be let go entirely.

Tearrius George

A former CFL defensive end, George was picked up by the Dolphins in the 2009 offseason. He was previously a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2008 offseason and training camp.

George was always going to have a tough time making the team, as he was competing at a very crowded outside linebacker spot. His departure makes the competition a little thinner, though guys like Erik Walden and Quentin Moses still have their hands full trying to make the team.

Conclusion

There aren't really any surprises here, as none of the players Miami parted with were indispensable and most had almost no shot of making the team. The Dolphins did well to deal a couple of their interior linemen (likely for a late-round pick in 2010) rather than just cutting them outright.

As it stands, the Dolphins have just 70 players and are 10 under the current 80-man roster limit. They now have some wiggle room if they want to add a player in the next week or so, though they might just stand pat.

The first cutdown (to 75) is on Sept. 1, and Dolphins will not need to make any moves at that time. Final cuts will take place on Sept. 5, and the Dolphins will need to clear 17 spots to get down to the 53-man regular season limit assuming they don't add anyone else before then.

These moves make the final roster picture a bit clearer in some places, so stay tuned for my predictions of which players will be the next to get the axe and which will be playing for the Dolphins in 2009!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dolphins vs. Panthers: Random Observations

The Miami Dolphins were forced to battle the elements of a South Florida summer for the second straight week, but they prevailed yet again as they beat the Carolina Panthers 27-17 and advanced to 2-0 in the preseason.

Once again, I won't be doing a video recap of the game as I do in the regular season. Instead, I'll just list my observations of players' performances and any stock changes from after the game.

Enjoy!

  • The wildcat was hit-or-miss against Carolina, but we saw a couple examples of how successful it can be when executed properly. The team clearly doesn't view that package as "trick" or "gadget" plays, but rather just like any other part of their offense.
  • Chad Henne had an impressive performance and is looking more and more like a leader on the field. He's also got a laser arm that Miami hasn't had in a decade.
  • The Dolphins' top running backs were good as usual and got more help from the offensive line than they did against Jacksonville. Nothing to worry about there as line as the line does their job.
  • Patrick Cobbs had a quality game all around and you can see why he's a Sparano favorite. His long reception on the wildcat was very reminiscent of one his touchdowns in Houston last year. He's not feature back material, but he's a versatile guy you love to have on your team because he does a lot of little things well.
  • Lex Hilliard was more impressive last night than I've ever seen him since he was drafted. He ran hard and showed off some good moves, even if it was against the Carolina third-stringers. The problem is, I don't know if there's a spot for him on the team. He might go the way of Jalen Parmele and get picked up by another team if he keeps running like that though.
  • Good job by recently-signed fullback Joe Kowalewski on the touchdown grab. He probably isn't going to supplant Lousaka Polite for a spot on the roster, but he's got some potential at fullback and could be worth bringing back in the future or in the event of injury.
  • We didn't see as much of the receivers as we did last week. No one really stood out there, though it's not a real cause for concern because the offense moved the ball.
  • Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline each had their ups and downs, which is to be expected from rookies. Both should play in 2009, but I don't anticipate a ton of production from either early on.
  • For the second straight week, Jake Long got beat badly by a rusher. Last week it was Quentin Groves, this week it was rookie Everette Brown. Granted, both of those guys are talented players, but we pretty much never saw that kind of thing last year. I'm inclined to think this sort of thing is an aberration and not cause for concern. Long should only get better.
  • The notion that Shawn Murphy had a chance to win the right guard job hasn't been more laughable than it is now. Donald Thomas is a monster out there and was a key part of many of the team's big plays last night. If he stays healthy, he's going to be a good one.
  • Connor Barth and Dan Carpenter continue to split the games about evenly, but I'd like to see Barth get a chance to kick a field goal from a longer distance. Both of his conversions so far this preseason have been under 30 yards, though this is likely because the halves each would play have been predetermined.
  • I thought the defense did okay against the run, outside of that ridiculous scoring play by DeAngelo Williams. The weather seemed to play a part in some missed tackles as some guys' hands just seemed to slip off the ball-carriers, but you have to tackle better than that regardless of the conditions.
  • The Dolphins are going to need a young, long-term answer at nose tackle in the next year or two, but overall I am very content with the entire defensive line and feel it's one of the most sound units on the team. Ferguson's still got it and the defensive end is very deep.
  • I was impressed with some of the younger guys fighting for spots on the defensive line, such as Lionel Dotson, Louis Ellis, Ryan Baker and Tony McDaniel. At least a couple of them should make the team and rotate in. I have my fingers crossed Ellis can be developed as the nose tackle of the future on the practice squad. Ferguson was a seventh-round pick once upon a time!
  • Nice to see Joey Porter make some plays against the run, because that's been a huge hole in his game in recent years. We're going to need Porter to be more of a complete player, especially if the shenanigans with Matt Roth continue.
  • Good showing by Quentin Moses, though I don't know if it'll be enough to justify keeping him after he's been pretty much invisible for a few years now.
  • Cameron Wake was cheated out his second sack in as many games, but what's important is how he played. He's looked good on special teams and show good pass-rush ability, and I'm becoming more optimistic about his every day.
  • I was a little perplexed with the cushion Miami's defensive backs were giving Carolina receivers in this game. I can understand Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas struggling in coverage, but Will Allen had some busted plays as well. No one did anything to pass Sean Smith, that's for sure.
  • After a shaky performance in his preseason debut, first-round cornerback Vontae Davis had a very strong showing this week. He made some plays in coverage and really put his strength and athleticism on display with some good tackles at the line of scrimmage. You have to love his physical tools and can see why Miami drafted him.
  • Gibril Wilson, as advertised, continues to be a little rough in pass coverage and better against the run. It's a somewhat odd pairing with the similar Yeremiah Bell, but hopefully the front seven takes the pressure of them.
  • Chris Clemons was in the right place at the right time as he recovered a fumbled punt, but he also had some missed tackles on special teams. He'll make the roster, but he needs to get better on special teams because that's where he'll be playing most of the time.
  • After flashing some speed against Jacksonville, returner Chris Williams took a step back last night. He's got the ability to take one back all the way, but he hasn't been consistent enough to earn a roster spot. Remember, since he won't be playing on offense (like Bess last season), Williams will have to earn a spot purely as a returner, which makes his task much harder.
  • As athletic and fast as he is, Chris Williams sure goes down easy once you hit him. That's what happens when you weigh 170 pounds in the NFL.
  • With his speed, I'd always wondered why Anthony Armstrong didn't get more of a chance to return kicks. He had one chance last night but didn't do much with it. I consider him a long shot to make the team at this point.
  • We haven't really seem recent CFL pickup James Robinson given a shot, and he doesn't really have a shot to make the team. Still, with his blazing speed, I'd like to see him get an opportunity to return kicks.
Miami (2-0) will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers (1-1) this Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. The game will air nationally on FOX.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In-game tweeting during Dolphins-Panthers game

Just like last week, I'll be tweeting during the Miami Dolphins-Carolina Panthers preseason game tonight. You can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/phinsspotlight and reply to any of my tweets to discuss the game as it happens!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dolphins release CB Eric Green

Just two days after a constant torching by Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Troy Williamson, the Miami Dolphins have released cornerback Eric Green. The team had signed the former Arizona Cardinals defensive back to a two-year, $6 million contact on March 12.

Background

A Florida native, Green played college football for the Virginia Tech Hokies. He earned second-team Freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News in 2002.

Green was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round (75th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played in 12 games as a rookie (starting five) and recorded 41 tackles and an interception.

Green appeared in 39 games for the Cardinals over the following three seasons, racking up 117 tackles, 26 pass deflections and an interception. He became an unrestricted free agent following the 2009 offseason.

The Miami Dolphins signed Green to a two-year, $6 million contract in the 2009 offseason in an effort to replace former starting cornerback Andre' Goodman, who left for the Denver Broncos in free agency.

Though initially projected as a starter at cornerback opposite veteran Will Allen, Green's value decreased after the Dolphins selected corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith in the 2009 NFL Draft's first two rounds

Green had reportedly struggled in training camp and eventually lost the first-team job to the rookie Smith. He also had a poor showing in the team's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 17, which proved to be the last straw for the Dolphins.

Green's departure leaves the Dolphins with seven cornerbacks fighting for five spots. Following his release from the Dolphins, Green headed back to the NFC West by signing with the San Francisco 49ers.

Analysis

Boy am I glad I posted my Dolphins-Jaguars game observations when I did! Following Green's horrendous performance against Jacksonville, I stated my belief that Green was close to being released. I didn't expect the move to come this soon, but it's not surprising to see it happen.

There's no real loss here because Green's wasn't playing well enough to make positive contributions anyway. Sean Smith is looking better and better by the day, while Vontae Davis should be as suitable backup as a rookie and Nathan Jones has already proved himself a good dime back and pass rusher out of the secondary.

The biggest beneficiary from the Green release is Jason Allen. The 2006 first-rounder has largely been a disappointment since entering the league, and I'm not convinced he'll ever be a productive player on defense.

That being said, Allen has turned into a quality special teams player, and that should be enough to keep him on the roster as the fifth cornerback. He'll have to fend off Joey Thomas and Will Billingsley, though I'd given Allen the edge right now. He likely won't see much time on defense with four corners ahead of him and Tyrone Culver proving to be a good dime/quarter player last season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dolphins vs. Jaguars: Random Observations

It wasn't pretty, but the Dolphins prevailed in their 2009 preseason opener last night, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 12-9. The team will take on the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, Aug. 22, when they'll have the extra motivation of trying to win one for my birthday.

I'm not going to be doing videos for the preseason, but instead just listing some random observations I had about certain players during the game. I was going to do a sort of "stock watch" thing as well, but after I wrote the quick hits, I realized most of what I would say in the stock watch was already there.

Now, the quick hits. Here comes the header:

Quick Hits
  • This one certainly looked like a preseason game. The offensive line was a mess at times, there were some busted plays, and the fourth quarter was played by a lot of guys that will be working fast food in September. Those rough patches are to be expected and isn't really cause for concern unless it persists throughout the preseason.
  • The offensive line certainly isn't there yet. The pass protection was troubling at times and the running game was never able to get going.
  • Speaking off the offensive line, while Shawn Murphy got the start at right guard, Donald Thomas seemed to play most of the first half, while Murphy didn't play not until much later. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If he's healthy, I can't imagine Thomas not winning the job.
  • Despite getting no help from the offensive line, the Dolphins' backs ran hard. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams looked good and should be fine.
  • It was nice to see Ted Ginn, Jr. have the performance he did. He made some quality catches, ran good routes and drew a big pass interference call like a veteran. The third year is when most NFL wideouts break out, so keep an eye on Ginn in '09.
  • Chad Henne was shaky at times, but I still see him as starter material. He looks like a leader on the field and throws a good ball. He should be fine.
  • Nice to see Ernest Wilford make a play there. You had to feel good for the guy, even if it did come in a preseason game. We got to see a glimpse of the kind of stuff he can do as a pass catcher from the tight end position and I'm intrigued by his potential there. Still, with that contract, he'll have to be more than just a third tight end to make the team.
  • I saw Anthony Armstrong really going all out on some special teams plays, even getting in on a tackle. He needs to play well there, because his biggest competition is Brandon London and that's what London does best.
  • It's certainly a change of pace to have an athletic guy like Pat White behind center, but he's a long way off from contributing and being ready to run an offense.
  • You have to feel for guys like Anthony Kimble. He had virtually no chance to make the team anyway, but to see a guy really mess up his one chance by dropping a pass and causing an interception is rough. Guys in his position have to be flawless during the few times they get on the field.
  • Lex Hilliard runs hard, but it's hard to evaluate his performance when he's was facing the Jaguars' third-team defense. He has no chance to crack the top three backs and is really auditioning for his own practice squad spot, but running like that helps.
  • Chris Williams got an extended look at both return spots, and he had his ups and downs. He certainly has home-run potential with that speed though. I just don't know if he'll be able to prove enough to earn a roster spot solely for his return skills, because he's not going to be playing on offense.
  • I expect Connor Barth to give Dan Carpenter a legitimate run for the kicking job, and the fact he got into a game shows you it's a real competition. Camp legs rarely play in the preseason.
  • I thought the first-team defensive line did a good job. Tony McDaniel played well and should earn some playing time in rotation during the regular season.
  • Vontae Davis had a very rough night, though it's nothing to worry about this early on.
  • Eric Green was brought in as a potential starter, but he was pretty awful last night and I'm close to predicting him to be cut. If he can't show anything on defense, there will be no reason not to keep Jason Allen as the fifth corner for his special teams ability.
  • I think J. D. Folsom might have a real shot at beating out William Kershaw, who wasn't particularly impressive on defense. I still think Folsom is more practice squad material at this point, but he's making the most of his opportunity.
  • I'm wary of Gibril Wilson's coverage skills, but it's nice to see him acting like a leader in the secondary.
  • Sean Smith (a favorite of mine and the guy I projected us taking in the first round) has performed above and beyond expectations. He's got great ball skills. There's no doubt in my mind he's going to start opposite Will Allen, especially with the struggles of Green and Davis.
  • Nice showing by Cameron Wake. It's impossible to know at this point how his CFL performance translates to the much tougher NFL, but he's a physical specimen, plays extremely hard and looks like he has potential as a pass rusher. He won't be asked to do much as a rookie anyway.
Remember - I'm tweeting during games now and did so last night, so you can get this kind of analysis as things happen in-game. (And who would want to deny themselves that.) You can find in-game analysis and all kinds of little blurbs of Dolphins news and info throughout the day at www.twitter.com/phinsspotlight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In-game tweeting starts tomorrow

I'm not a big fan of Twitter when it comes to our personal lives (seriously, who cares if we're going shopping or making a grilled cheese sandwich?) but it certainly has its uses when it comes to the sports world.

One of those uses (and perhaps the best use) is the ability to instantly post little pieces of analysis of sporting events as they happen, which I plan to start doing during tomorrow night's preseason contest between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.

So what exactly does that mean? Well, if you follow me at www.twitter.com/phinsspotlight during tomorrow's games, you'll see posts of my observations and analysis during the game. I'll also answer any questions posed to me there, so feel free to send those in as well.

This is something I'm likely going to do from here on out for Dolphins games, so log on during the game tomorrow for quite possibly the most intelligent analysis of a Dolphins game ever in the history of this planet. And also, lots of modesty.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dolphins sign FB Joe Kowalewski

With only one fullback on the roster following the departure of rookie Matt Quillen, the Miami Dolphins have signed former New York Jets tight end Joe Kowalewski to a contract.

Background

A Syracuse, N.Y. native, Kowalewski played for his hometown Syracuse Orangemen in college. Originally a defensive end and linebacker, Kowalewski was moved to tight end for the 2002 season and finished his collegiate career with 33 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns.

After going undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft, Kowalewski received tryout offers from the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. He opted for the Jets, and was eventually signed by the team on May 15.

After spending his entire rookie season on the Jets' practice squad, Kowalewski made the team's active roster in 2007. He went on to appear in 13 games, starting two and catching five passes for 18 yards and a score.

Kowalewski was waived by the Jets on April 28, 2008, and spent the entire season out of football. He remained unsigned until being picked up by the Miami Dolphins on August 11, 2009. He likely signed a one- or two-year deal for the league minimum.

Though primarily a tight end in his professional career to date, Kowalewski will play fullback for the Dolphins. He has been assigned No. 40, which he wore during his time with the Jets.

Analysis

It's no surprise to see the Dolphins add a fullback here, as at least one more was needed to prevent starter Lousaka Polite from being overloaded in camp. Running back Lex Hilliard has the ability to fill in at the position, but the team seems to prefer him at tailback.

Kowalewski has tight end size at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He's a solid blocker but doesn't offer much in the passing game outside of your occasional short or goal-line reception.

What's interesting about this signing is that, unlike Chris Brown or Matt Quillen, Kowalewski is not eligible for the practice squad. He lost that eligibility playing in 13 games for the Jets in 2007. It can be a difficult obstacle in a player's career, when they just aren't good enough to get on an active roster, but talented enough to be worthy of a practice squad spot.

But if Kowalewski can't be placed on the practice squad, why is he here? After all, even though Chris Brown and Matt Quillen had no chance of beating out Polite and probably weren't going to make the roster, at least they could be groomed on the practice squad and serve as a backup from there.

As I see it, there are two reasons for the Kowalewski signing. First, he was brought in to back up Polite during camp and allow Hilliard to play his normal position.

Secondly, I believe Kowalewski is "auditioning" for consideration in the event of a Polite injury. Essentially, he'll get an extended look from the Dolphins staff in hopes he can impress them to the point where they'll look his way again should Polite go down in the regular season.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dolphins bring in well-traveled wide receiver, kicking competition

With four open spots on the roster entering today, the Miami Dolphins moved to remedy that by signing wide receiver James Robinson and second-year placekicker Connor Barth. Both likely signed two-year contracts for the league minimum.

James Robinson

Robinson (6-3, 193) played his college ball at Butler Community College in Kansas. From there, he went on to play two seasons for the Miami Morays/Florida Frenzy of the National Indoor Football League.

Robinson attended training camp with the Arena League's Las Vegas Gladiators in 2007, but was released on March 20. He landed with the South Georgia Wildcats of af2 later that year, racking up 77 catches for 1,168 yards and 27 touchdowns his rookie season.

Robinson's impressive performance in af2 landed him a spot on the practice roster of the Toronto Argonauts in 2007. He then went on to play for the AFL's Kansas City Brigade in 2008, catching two passes for 11 yards and a score.

After the 2008 AFL season, Robinson re-joined the Argonauts and make the team's active roster. He hauled in 25 passes for 381 yards and a touchdown during his first season with the Argos.

Robinson began the 2009 CFL season with the Argos, catching five passes for 56 yards. He was released by the team on Aug. 5.

Robinson, who first practiced with the Dolphins on Monday, will wear No. 14 for the Dolphins. He becomes the 10th receiver on the Dolphins roster, replacing undrafted rookie Brennan Marion (torn ACL), who previously donned No. 14 before his injury.

Connor Barth

A Virginia native, the 23-year-old Barth enters his second NFL season following a stint with the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie in 2009. He initially lost out to Nick Novak in the placekicker competition in Kansas City last preseason, but was re-signed on Oct. 21.

Barth performed well for Kansas City as a rookie, going 10-for-12 on field goals and 24-for-24 on extra points. Both his misses came in a Week 15 game against the San Diego Chargers, which the Chiefs lost by one point.

Although he was expected to compete for the Chiefs' placekicking job again in 2009, the team opted to go with rookie seventh-rounder Ryan Succop and consequently released Barth on July 28.

Barth joins fellow second-year man Dan Carpenter as one of two placekickers now on the roster, which stands at 78 players after today's two signings. The team has two more open roster spots they can fill before they reach the current 80-man limit.

Analysis

Say hello to Todd Lowber, v2.0.

Robinson bears a striking resemblance to the former Dolphins wide receiver (waived June 1) as a prospect. He possesses good size at 6-3 and nearly 200 pounds, but is lacking in the route-running and hands departments.

However, Omar Kelly reported today that Robinson ran a 4.29 40-yard dash during his workout with the Dolphins. After that kind of showing, it probably took less than 4.29 seconds for the Dolphins to offer Robinson a contract.

Despite his blazing speed, Robinson is an extremely long shot to make the team. He was very inconsistent in the CFL, and the fact that he was let go by a league with a much lower talent level than the NFL doesn't bode well for his chances of thriving at this level.

With Robinson's physical tools, he's likely competing with players like Anthony Armstrong and Chris Williams for a spot on the team's practice squad. I certainly wouldn't call him the favorite though, as Armstrong's been around for a year now, is having a good camp, and runs pretty well himself.

Now on to Barth.

As I said in my Aug. 9 final roster predictions, I would prefer the team having some competition for Dan Carpenter at placekicker. Looks like I got my wish, as Barth is just that.

Barth doesn't possess the leg Carpenter does, posting only four touchbacks during his time with Kansas City and averaging nearly six yards less on kickoffs than Carpenter did last season.

Nevertheless, Barth is a fairly accurate placekicker, and that has to come first when evaluating the position. According to some reports coming out of camp, Carpenter has missed more kicks already this year than he did all of last year.

Now I'm not saying Barth's going to win the job. Carpenter's probably the better all-around player and is certainly the favorite as the incumbent. Despite his recent struggles, Carpenter was more than adequate last season, and that has to count for something.

Still, Barth's no slouch and it's nice to see the Dolphins used one of their four open roster spots on some competition for Carpenter. At the very least, they'll get a closer look at another kicker in the league, which will come in handy should Carpenter suffer an in-season injury.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

FB Matt Quillen becomes third player to leave team this week

Okay, now this is just getting ridiculous.

First it was undrafted offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers. Then safety Ethan Kilmer. Now, recently signed fullback Matt Quillen has become the third player in the past week to walk away from the Miami Dolphins.

Quillen was the newest member of the Dolphins, signing just three days ago after the team waived fullback Chris Brown. A New Mexico product, Quillen was competing for a backup fullback/special teams job and auditioning for a potential practice squad spot.

With the departures of Rogers, Kilmer and Quillen, plus Brennan Marion going on injured reserve, the Dolphins are four under the current 80-man roster limit. If they don't add anyone else, they'll need to release just one player to reach Sept. 1's 75-man limit.

That being the case, the team figures to fill at least a few of the spots with camp bodies, even if they don't get all the way back up to 80 the rest of the preseason. Another receiver seems likely, as does another fullback, as Lousaka Polite is the only one left on the roster.

Second-year fullback Chris Brown, who was waived to make room for Quillen, cleared waivers and is now a free agent. It is possible he could be brought back, though it's unknown at this point if either party is interested in a reunion.

In all, none of these departures has really hurt the team, as none of the players involved were likely to stick around past the final cuts anyway. It's also likely a coincidence that it has happened this many times in such short span, as each of the players that has quit did so for personal reasons.

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.

Notes:
-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)

-Kept:
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)

-Kept:
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.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Safety Ethan Kilmer quits team

A day after undrafted rookie SirVincent Rogers quit the team and opted for retirement, another Miami Dolphin has followed suit. This time, it's safety Ethan Kilmer, who the team signed as a free agent in January.

Background

A former walk-on at Penn State, Kilmer saw action at wide receiver, cornerback, safety and special teams with the Nittany Lions. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of 2006 NFL Draft.

Kilmer recorded 19 tackles while playing in every game for the Bengals his rookie season. The highlight of the season, and perhaps his career, came in a game against the New Orleans Saints, when he intercepted a Drew Brees pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

Injuries forced Kilmer to miss the entire 2007 season, and he spent the first half of the 2008 season on injured reserve before being let go by the Bengals in October. He spent the rest of the season out of football.

The Dolphins signed Kilmer to a two-year contract on January 20. He was competing for a role on special teams while also battling fifth-round pick Chris Clemons for the backup free safety job behind Gibril Wilson.

Analysis

Without knowing all the facts at this point, it's hard to know what exactly Kilmer's reasons were for quitting. He has been on injured reserve the past two seasons, so it's possible his body just wasn't going to allow him to play at a high enough level. It's also possible Kilmer just didn't like his prospects in the NFL at this point and decided to move on.

This isn't a huge loss for the Dolphins as I considered Kilmer the underdog for the backup free safety job all along. If things were close between Kilmer and Clemons, the team was always going to opt for the younger and Miami-drafted player.

Despite being a fifth-round pick, I for one believe Clemons has the potential to be a starter down the line. He should at least be sufficient as a backup in his rookie season, especially considering he's not likely to see the field much except on special teams.

A few other things to consider in my mind:
  • With Kilmer being the second player in as many days to quit the team, one has to at least entertain the possibility that the Dolphins could be one reason for this. Is the team or staff doing something that is turning off these players from the game? It's impossible to say at this point, though I would consider the scenario unlikely. Players around the NFL do occasionally quit for various reasons, and usually those reasons are personal more than anything else.
  • With Kilmer leaving, Clemons is essentially uncontested for the backup free safety job. While it's true they could bring in someone else, it's likely they'll pick someone up off the street that would have a realistic chance of beating him out. Competition brings out the best in everyone, so ideally this rookie would at least have someone to battle. Let's hope he has enough self-motivation to succeed without it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miami Dolphins make fullback swap; OT SirVincent Rogers leaves team

Despite already being under the 80-man roster limit, the Miami Dolphins made a minor roster move today, swapping out second-year fullback Chris Brown for undrafted rookie Matt Quillen.

Background

Brown, a second-year converted tight end out of Tennessee, was a member of Miami's practice squad for the final part of last season after being let go by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was re-signed to a future contract by the Dolphins in January.

Quillen (6-0, 250) joins the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie out of New Mexico. He spent the past 3+ seasons starting at fullback for the Lobos, gaining a reputation as one of the conference's top lead blockers. He finished his collegiate career with 131 rushing yards, 105 receiving yards and one rushing touchdown.

Quillen, who wore No. 31 for the Lobos, will don No. 40 in Miami.

Analysis

Brown had little chance to make the active roster, as Lousaka Polite is pretty much entrenched as the starting fullback and the staff prefers to only keep one player active at the position.

Unfortunately for Quillen, the same goes for him. He has little chance of unseating Polite barring an absolutely exceptional camp showing, and is really competing for a spot on the practice squad. That is definitely an attainable goal however, since the team only keeps one on the active roster and prefers to have a backup on the practice squad.

If Quillen wants to be that guy, however, he is going to have to show he has potential at fullback as well as make his mark on special teams. An undrafted rookie going this long without being signed typically isn't a good thing, and it could mean Quillen is an extremely borderline pro prospect. There very well might be a fullback on the practice squad, but by no means does Quillen have that gig secured.

SirVincent Rogers leaves team

According to Armando Salguero, undrafted rookie offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers is gone after leaving the team. Interestingly, Sparano says Rogers left during the team's practice, which pretty much makes it impossible for Rogers to change his mind as the staff won't be having that sort of behavior from an undrafted rookie.

The loss of Rogers isn't very significant, as he had little chance of beating out Andrew Gardner or Nate Garner for a backup tackle job anyway. Not to mention, if his heart isn't into pursuing a professional career, he really had no shot.

The Dolphins' official website has deleted Rogers from the roster, but I'm holding off for a bit so I can find out for sure what happened. It is possible they did outright waive him, but since he opted to leave the team, Miami has the option of placing him on the Reserve/Left Squad list.

Such a move would still give the Dolphins an extra roster spot, but would also allow Miami to retain Rogers' rights should he ever come back. It would also prevent Rogers from forcing his way off the roster and signing with another team. (This is similar to why tight end Jared Bronson was placed on the Did Not Report list rather than simply released.)

Regardless of what was done with him, Rogers is no longer counting toward the Dolphins' 80-man roster limit. The roster spot vacated by wide receiver Brennan Marion, who reverted to injured reserve today as I explained would happen, has also not been filled. Thus, the Dolphins only have 78 players on their 80-man roster and have two open spots they can fill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

WR Brennan Marion suffers torn ACL

The Dolphins suffered their first significant injury of the year today, losing undrafted rookie wide receiver Brennan Marion to a torn ACL. He will miss the entire 2009 season.

Background

A two-time All-Conference USA selection at Tulsa, Marion set an NCAA record as a junior in 2007 with 31.9 yards per reception. He suffered a torn ACL in his last collegiate game against East Carolina on January 6, 2009.

Still recovering from his injury less than four months prior, Marion went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent. Despite being less than eight months removed from the injury, Marion opened the Dolphins' training camp on the active roster and fully participating in practice.

Analysis

Though devastating for Marion's professional career and heart-breaking given the path he took to get this far, the injury has little to no immediate impact on the Dolphins' upcoming season. Marion was an extreme long shot to make the team, as I had him eighth out of nine (ahead of only fellow undrafted rookie Chris Williams) on the receivers depth chart.

What is unfortunate for Marion and the Dolphins is that he won't be able to work on the practice squad this season, which is where I thought he had a chance to end up. He's certainly raw and clearly wasn't fully healthy, but he showed some talent as a deep threat at Tulsa and could have been a worthwhile project for Miami.

Expect a roster move to come shortly, with Marion being waived/injured and someone else being signed to fill the roster spot. The team reportedly worked out former Ravens receiver Edward Williams (a Brandon London clone at 6-4, 215) on Tuesday.

Also, remember that if you see a report of Marion being waived or released, they got it wrong as you cannot outright release an injured player. Marion will be waived/injured, meaning he will revert to the Dolphins' injured reserve list if he clears waivers as he should. (This happened with Tab Perry last year and it took the media a while to figure it out. If only they came here for good info!)

It's possible Marion could be released with an injury settlement at some point, but it's not a given. He is signed through next season at the minimum salary, so it's entirely possible the Dolphins could keep him around in 2010 and give him another chance to prove himself.

Unfortunately for Marion, that shot is a lengthy rehab away and his chance at a professional career has greatly suffered from this injury. It would make a heck of a story if he's able to recover and establish himself in the NFL, but it's a long, difficult road and no one will blame him if he isn't able to do it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dolphins waive OG J. D. Quinn, deactivate TE Jared Bronson

With draft picks Pat White and Chris Clemons signing contracts on the eve of training camp, the Dolphins needed to clear two spots to get down to the 80-man limit. To that end, the team waived undrafted rookie guard J. D. Quinn and placed undrafted tight end Jared Bronson on the Reserve/Did Not Report list.

A former Oklahoma Sooner who transferred to Montana, Quinn was signed in early May after going undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft. Bronson was signed with the team's original crop of undrafted rookies out of Central Washington on April 30.

Neither move comes as much of a surprise. The Dolphins have a large number of guards on the roster, and neither Quinn nor Oregon's Mark Lewis had/have much of a chance to make the squad, so it makes sense to let one of them go at this point.

Bronson's specific situation is more unclear without talking to someone with direct knowledge of the situation, but it's not hard to guess what's happened. Every so often you'll have an undrafted rookie change his mind about pursuing a professional career (because they are an extremely borderline prospect) and just opt to not show up. Virginia Tech nose tackle Kory Robertson did just that after signing with the Dolphins last year.

Bronson will not count toward the team's 80-man roster limit while on the Did Not Report list. The reason for not outright releasing him is to prevent Bronson from "forcing" his way off the roster by not showing up just so he can sign elsewhere. This way, should he ever change his mind about playing, he can't simply go to another team as Miami still owns his rights.

Roth placed on PUP list

The Dolphins made another transaction today, placing starting outside linebacker Matt Roth on the Active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform list. According to head coach Tony Sparano, Roth failed his conditioning test due to an illness.

On the Active/PUP list, Roth still counts toward the active roster and should be activated in a day or two when he's feeling better and is cleared to practice.