Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dolphins add seven familiar faces to initial practice squad; other notes

The Miami Dolphins broke 26 hearts during final cuts yesterday, but seven of those players are back to make a fairly solid living on the team's practice squad to begin the regular season.

Six undrafted rookies—quarterback Pat Devlin, running back Nic Grigsby, tight end Brett Brackett, offensive tackle D. J. Jones, guard Garrett Chisolm, and cornerback Vince Agnew—join third-year wide receiver Julius Pruitt on the team's inaugural 2011 practice squad.

It's certainly no surprise to see six of the seven players re-signed play on the offensive side of the ball, as the Dolphins came away from Saturday's final cuts with 27 players on defense compared to just 23 on offense.

That balance shifted a bit today when the team claimed tight end Will Yeatman off waivers from the Patriots and waived rookie nose tackle Frank Kearse. Assuming he clears waivers, expect to see Kearse fill the eighth and final spot on the Dolphins' practice squad.

Now before I get to any analysis of the Dolphins' practice squad additions, let's first review some of the rules and features surrounding the practice squad:
  • Practice squad include up to eight players
  • Players eligible for the practice squad must have appeared in fewer than nine games in any accrued season (for example, Marlon Moore is ineligible because he appeared in nine games in 2010)
  • Players can be on an NFL practice squad for up to three seasons
  • Practice squad players make $5,700 a week, or $96,900 for an entire NFL season
  • Practice squad players may practice with the team and participate in all team activities except playing in games
  • Players can be signed to the active roster at any time
  • Practice squad players can be signed to another NFL team's active roster, but the signing team must keep them on their active roster for at least three weeks

Now, on to the lucky seven!

QB Pat Devlin

When the Dolphins decided to keep only two quarterbacks on the active roster yesterday, Devlin was the most obvious choice to be the third-stringer on the practice squad if he cleared waivers. He knows the offense from his time in camp and is a nice developmental prospect in his own right. His upside is probably only that of a second- or third-stringer at the NFL level, but he's absolutely worth keeping around and was a necessary addition with only two active quarterbacks.

RB Nic Grigsby

Arizona alum Grigsby joins the Dolphins practice squad because the team has only three active running backs after keeping four most of the past few years. I personally don't think Grigsby is a very special talent and he doesn't appear to have the size to carry an NFL load, so I'm inclined to think he's just a familiar face and practice body. I wouldn't expect him to remain here all season.

WR Julius Pruitt

Pruitt originally impressed the Dolphins with his size (6-2, 206) and 4.4 speed back before the 2009 season, but he hasn't been able to translate that to NFL success as he's spent almost all of the past two years on the practice squad. He obviously knows the offense and has experience with his offensive teammates, but if he hasn't made it yet, it's hard to think he ever will. He's a practice body again.

TE Brett Brackett

An undrafted rookie from Penn State, Brackett is an intriguing physical specimen at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds with 4.6 speed, but he didn't stand out in camp and caught only one pass in the preseason. I'm glad he's back for more development, but he currently sits as the Dolphins' fourth tight end and probably isn't close to seeing an NFL field during the regular season.

OT D. J. Jones

The Dolphins kept only nine offensive linemen on the active roster, which means one of the starters is without a true backup. Nate Garner and Ray Feinga would probably be first in line to replace Jake Long in a game, but former Cornhsusker Jones gives the Dolphins a second-team left tackle for practice while Long's game backups work elsewhere. Jones doesn't have a whole lot of upside and may have trouble sticking around all season.

OG Garrett Chisolm

Of all the players the Dolphins cut yesterday, Chisolm (6-5, 312) was a guy I really wanted to see back. He's been through a ton of adversity (both his parents died of cancer in 2010) and he suffered a torn ACL toward the end of last season at South Carolina. Chisolm was just activated from the non-football injury list last week and only appeared in the preseason finale, but the Dolphins must like his potential to give him an extended look. Chisolm is raw and inexperienced, but he has some talent and upside. Expect him to work at guard in practice.

CB Vince Agnew

Nate Ness appears to have cleared waivers, but as it stands the Dolphins have instead added Agnew to the practice squad. An undrafted rookie from Central Michigan, Agnew totaled three tackles and an interception in the preseason. He doesn't boast any astounding physical skills and actually wasn't even all that good in college, so odds are he just sticks around to be that sixth corner for practice purposes.

Numbers Game

Fans that have already ordered a Reggie Bush Dolphins jersey featuring his preseason No. 22 can breathe a sigh of relief, as Bush has confirmed he will not be changing to No. 25, which he wore in New Orleans after wearing No. 5 at USC. No. 25 opened up for the Dolphins yesterday with the release of veteran cornerback Will Allen.

Two current Dolphins that are changing numbers are linebackers Kevin Burnett and Jason Trusnik. Burnett moves from No. 47 to No. 56, while Trusnik takes No. 93 (which he wore in Cleveland) after wearing No. 46 in the preseason. NFL rules state linebackers may only wear numbers in the 50s or 90s during the regular season.

And finally, new Dolphins rookie tight end Will Yeatman will apparently don No. 89, according to the roster on

Moving On

Three players cut by the Dolphins have already found new homes, as quarterback Kevin O'Connell, tight end Mickey Shuler, and outside linebacker Quinton Spears have all been claimed off waivers by other teams.

O'Connell re-joins the New York Jets, where he spent the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons. He provides the Jets with familiar depth behind Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell after rookie Greg McElroy was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated thumb.

Shuler heads to Cincinnati, which will be his third stop in two seasons after being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round in 2010 and joining the Dolphins last September. Coincidentally, Shuler helped replace John Nalbone when he was claimed by the Dolphins last year, and Nalbone was a final cut of the Bengals' yesterday. Shuler has a good chance to challenge undrafted rookie Colin Cochart for the primary backup job behind starter Jermaine Gresham in Cincinnati.

Perhaps the most surprising claim of the three, Spears was plucked off waivers by the Cleveland Browns. A pretty raw prospect from Prairie View A&M, Spears will revert back to his college position of defensive end in the Browns' 4-3 scheme after working at outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4. He profiles no better than the team's fourth or fifth defensive end right now and may have a hard time staying on the active roster all season.

Rosario works out

The Dolphins worked out tight end Dante Rosario on Sunday, according to Aaron Wilson. The fifth-year pro was released by the Denver Broncos yesterday during final cuts.

Originally a fifth round pick out of Oregon in 2007, Rosario occasionally flashed big-play ability during a four-year stint with the Panthers, catching 82 passes for 894 yards and five touchdowns. However, it doesn't bode well that he was beaten out by two late-round rookies for a backup job in Denver, especially considering his familiarity with head coach John Fox from their time in Carolina.

While no signing appears imminent, Rosario certainly seems to possess the talent to be a No. 2 tight end behind Fasano. It is unknown of the Dolphins' acquisition of Yeatman takes the team out of the market for another tight end completely.

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