The regular season doesn't begin for just over four months, and the Miami Dolphins team we see today might be quite different by then.
The Dolphins will hopefully add a veteran or two at key positions of need (outside linebacker and free safety), and you never really know what guys are going to come out of nowhere and surprise people.
That being said, I thought I'd look at the Dolphins' current roster, which consists of 74 active players, two unsigned restricted free agents, and eight unsigned draft picks, and see how I'd whittle it own to 53 at this point in time.
If the season began today, these are the 53 players I think would make the Dolphins' active roster.
Quarterbacks (3): Chad Henne (starter), Tyler Thigpen, Pat White
Released: Chad Pennington
Pennington is obviously much more talented than White, but I don't expect the team to give up on their 2009 second-round pick no matter how ill-suited he is for the NFL.
Instead, I think at this point, the Dolphins would have to let Pennington go, as Thigpen would still have trade value in 2011 as a restricted free agent.
Obviously, the team is likely to try and deal someone before the 2010 season rolls around, so a cut may not be necessary by then.
Running backs (5): Ronnie Brown (starter - tailback), Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, Lousaka Polite (starter - fullback)
Released: Kory Sheet, Tristan Davis, Rolly Lumbala
The Dolphins will be absolutely stacked at running back in 2010, with two quality starters and two solid backups/special teamers. I expect all four to make the team, but if they decided to keep only three, I think Hilliard would be the one let go.
Polite isn't going anywhere after a fantastic 2009 season, and the team typically only keeps one fullback, so Lumbala will draw the short straw unless he proves to be absolutely outstanding on special teams.
Wide receivers (5): Brandon Marshall (starter), Greg Camarillo (starter), Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Patrick Turner
Released: Ryan Grice-Mullen, Taurus Johnson, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace
With Ted Ginn, Jr. out of the picture things become a bit clearer in the receiver picture, and it opens the door for 2009 third-round pick Patrick Turner to secure a roster spot despite being a total disappointment as a rookie.
I'd say Turner will have a battle on his hands and isn't safe just yet, but there is little talent on the roster to push him. Poor man's Davone Bess, a.k.a. Ryan Grice-Mullen, is the best shot to make the roster out of the bunch, but remains unlikely.
Tight ends (2): Anthony Fasano (starter), Joey Haynos
Released: John Nalbone, Kory Sperry
The Dolphins failed to land a long-term starting prospect in this year's tight end-heavy draft, so it looks like they'll be rolling with Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos at 1-and-2 once again. There have been rumors of a David Martin reunion, but nothing has materialized on that front thus far.
The real battle here is between Sperry and Nalbone, but that's assuming the team keeps three tight ends. Nalbone has been disappointing after being drafted in the fifth round last year, but Sperry doesn't offer a ton of upside either. I'm predicting the Dolphins go with just two tight ends to begin the season.
Offensive linemen (9): Jake Long (starter - left tackle), John Jerry (starter - left guard), Jake Grove (starter - center), Richie Incognito (starter - right guard), Vernon Carey (starter - right tackle), Andrew Gardner, Nate Garner, Joe Berger, Donald Thomas
Released: Ray Feinga, Andrew Hartline, Andy Leavine, Lydon Murtha, Justin Smiley, Dimitri Tsoumpas
The starting tackle spots (Long and Carey) and center (Grove) are all set, but there should be some intriguing battles going on at guard.
It appears third-round rookie John Jerry will work at left guard, where his primary competition will be Nate Garner. I've been high on Jerry all offseason and I suspect the Dolphins would prefer the versatile Garner off the bench.
This of course assumes veteran starter Justin Smiley won't be around, as I just can't see him sticking after being barred from offseason workouts and added to the trading block this offseason. I expect him to be released soon, with the possibility of him being dealt for a late-round pick looking less and less likely.
Meanwhile, another battle at right guard should ensue, with free-agent acquisition Richie Incognito looking like the favorite and Donald Thomas and Dimitri Tsoumpas looking to push him. Incognito has some maturity issues, but he's got the most upside and talent of the bunch, so I expect him to win the job.
Defensive lineman (8): Kendall Langford (starter - left end), Randy Starks (starter - nose tackle), Jared Odrick (starter - right end), Phillip Merling, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Paul Soliai, Ryan Baker
Suspended: Jason Ferguson (eight games)
Released: Lionel Dotson, Travis Ivey Tony McDaniel, Vince Oghobaase
With Randy Starks moving into the starting nose tackle spot, rookie first-round pick Jared Odrick will probably take Starks' spot in the three-man rotation at defensive end with Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling. It's hard to say right now who will start between Merling and Odrick, but my money is on the rookie. Either way, they will both get a ton of playing time.
I finally have the team cutting ties with 2008 seventh-rounder Lionel Dotson, who has done little in two seasons with the team, and backup Tony McDaniel, who wasn't impressive in 2009 and was arrested in February for domestic violence. I like Alama-Francis' upside better than either of those guys, though I wouldn't put it past undrafted rookie Vince Oghobaase to win a roster spot either.
With Jason Ferguson suspended the first half of the season, Soliai should stick around as the top backup to Starks at nose tackle. Meanwhile, Baker's versatility at nose and end should help him stick around as well.
Linebackers (9): Cameron Wake (starter - weakside linebacker), Karlos Dansby (starter - mike linebacker), Channing Crowder (starter - moe linebacker), Charlie Anderson (starter - strongside linebacker), Koa Misi, Quentin Moses, Chris McCoy, Tim Dobbins, A. J. Edds
Released: J. D. Folsom, Brian Johnston, Austin Spitler, Reggie Torbor, Erik Walden
It'd be nice to add a veteran to the outside linebacker mix, but Wake and Anderson are currently penciled in as the starters. Second-round rookie Koa Misi should push for playing time immediately, while Moses sticks around as a backup and rookie Chris McCoy as a project.
Meanwhile, Dansby is a lock to start inside and should be joined by Crowder in a reduced role. Edds' coverage skills could get him some time on defense as a rookie, while Dobbins should stick as a top special teamer in place of high-priced backup Reggie Torbor, who I expect to be cut.
Cornerbacks (5): Vontae Davis (starter), Sean Smith (starter), Will Allen, Jason Allen, Nolan Carroll
Released: Evan Oglesby, A. J. Wallace, Ross Weaver
The Dolphins should have a strong cornerback unit in 2010, with promising second-year players Vontae Davis and Sean Smith returning and veteran Will Allen coming back from a knee injury. I anticipate Jason Allen will stick around as well due to familiarity and special teams skills.
The battle here is for a potential fifth cornerback job, with veteran Evan Oglesby being pushed primarily by fifth-round rookie Nolan Carroll. Oglesby doesn't have any upside, which is why I like Carroll to stay as a project.
Safeties (4): Tyrone Culver (starter - free safety), Yeremiah Bell (starter - strong safety), Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones
Released: Jonathon Amaya, Nate Ness
Yeremiah Bell is the lone returning starter here, and it could be a three-way battle between Clemons, Culver, and the rookie Jones to take over at free safety for the departed Gibril Wilson.
All three guys should stick around, as they all offer some versatility at both safety positions. Jones is pretty good for a fifth-rounder and could end up winning the job.
Special Teams (3): Dan Carpenter (placekicker), Brandon Fields (punter), John Deneny (long snapper)
There are currently no players in camp to push any of these three players, and it looks like they all should have no problem keeping their jobs in 2010.
With all the moves made by the other teams in the AFC East, I think Miami has a solid roster here and I like their depth at a lot of positions.
On offense, the passing game should be much improved with Brandon Marshall's addition, which should also help alleviate the lack of a play-making tight end.
The offensive line should be strong, as the returning starters are all top-notch and the new guards should do well in the unit. The team also has some quality, versatile backups in Joe Berger and Nate Garner.
The defensive starters look good as well, although the lack of proven veterans at outside linebacker and free safety are a bit concerning. I'm unsure if the Dolphins plan to add someone like Adalius Thomas or O. J. Atogwe, but if they do not, they'll need to hope Koa Misi can make an impact early and that someone pulls ahead of the pack at safety.
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