Friday, August 31, 2012

Dolphins Live Cutdown Blog

The Miami Dolphins didn't make any roster moves on Thursday, meaning they will part ways at least 22 players on Friday to get down from 75 players to 53 players by tonight's 9 p.m. ET deadline.

As I've done the past two years, I'll be updating this entry as moves are reported, compiling all the information in one handy location while analyzing how these moves impact the Dolphins roster and keeping track of how many moves are left to make.

Be sure to keep checking back throughout the day Friday and into the weekend for coverage and analysis on all the Dolphins' roster moves. Also, follow me on Twitter as always @phinsspotlight!


12:24am: Center Ryan Cook has been traded to the Dallas Cowboys, according to his Facebook page. The Dolphins will receive a seventh-round pick in return while clearing his $1 million salary off the books. He'll count $100,000 in dead money for the Dolphins in 2012. Undrafted rookie center should make the team as Mike Pouncey's backup, as expected. The Dolphins roster is at 74 players with 21 cuts to go.

1:09am: Not cut-related, but thought I'd post here that Pro Football Weekly reports the Dolphins worked out defensive backs Drew Coleman, Roderick Hood and Donald Strickland on Thursday. The previously unreported defensive backs worked out with wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker, Donte' Stallworth and Brian Tyms, as well as quarterback Matt Blanchard. Hood also worked out for the Dolphins last September.

2:36am: Armando Salguero blogs that the Dolphins will cut players "such as [cornerback] Kevyn Scott, [linebacker] Shelly Lyons, [defensive end] Jarrell Root, [safety] Anderson Russell, [wide receiver] Chris Hogan, and others." This sounds more like Salguero throwing names out there than actually reporting, but none of these would be surprising cuts. For now, I'm going to hold off on including these cuts in my count. Salguero also says its likely that cornerback Quinten Lawrence makes the team which is interesting. I have him on my projected 53-man roster after cuts but obviously he's still in danger even if he survives Friday.

10:06am: Barry Jackson has the Dolphins waiving wide receivers Clyde Gates and B. J. Cunningham as well as defensive end Jamaal Westerman and defensive tackle Ryan Baker. Gates was a fourth-round pick in 2011 and Cunningham a sixth-rounder this year. Cunningham is eligible for the practice squad. Meanwhile, Westerman was a free agent addition from the Jets but consistently worked with the third-team, so not surprising even with Dolphins' lack of pass-rushing depth. Baker didn't have any upside despite spending past three seasons with Dolphins. Roster is at 70 with 17 moves to go.

10:12am: Ben Volin says the Dolphins have waived linebacker Cameron Collins. Undrafted out of Oregon State in 2012, Collins never pushed Austin Spitler for a backup job in the middle and a special-teams role. Has PS eligibility. Roster is at 69 with 16 cuts to go.

10:18am: Looks like wide receiver Roberto Wallace has been cut by Dolphins according to Volin. Looks like Wallace is in a good mood, however, just now tweeting, "All the glory to GOD! Thank you for everything you've done and will do for me. #blessed" Roster is at 68, 15 cuts to go.

11:24am: Dolphins have released linebacker Gary Guyton and have waived cornerbacks Quinten Lawrence and Vince Agnew. Guyton and Lawrence are the first from my projected roster to be cut, so that means at least two guys I didn't have making it will for now. Guyton had a weak preseason and was only kept by myself for injuries, so he's not a shocking cut. Lawrence and Agnew did not earn the fourth corner job that will likely go to a current free agent or waiver claim. Roster is at 65 with 12 cuts to go.

11:50am: Among those that have reportedly "made" the team for now are wide receiver Legedu Naanee, fullback Jorvorskie Lane and defensive end Derrick Shelby. No surprises there. Lane and Shelby played their way onto the roster and Naanee worked as a starter all preseason, so I didn't expect him to go even though he hasn't shown well in games. The only way I see Naanee gone is if the Dolphins land someone like James Jones or another step-in starter via trade.

11:56am: Aaron Wilson of FOX Sports tweets the Dolphins have cut wide receiver Jeff Fuller. Although he has size, upside and experience with Ryan Tannehill and Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, drops continue to be an issue for him. I suspect he's a lock to make the practice squad if he clears waivers. Roster is at 64 with 11 moves to go.

12:16pm: Volin reports cornerback Kevyn Scott has been waived but is expected back on the practice squad if he clears waivers. Not shocking to see the undrafted rookie cut, but that leaves Dolphins with three true corners so the team obviously has work to do here.

12:19pm: Twitter-less Barry Jackson (via Adam Beasley) has the Dolphins waiving guard Chandler Burden. An undrafted rookie out of Kentucky, Burden was an obvious cut. He is practice-squad eligible but is no guarantee to return.

12:41am: According to Rich Campbell of The Washington Times, the Dolphins and Redskins are talking about a potential swap involving running back Steve Slaton and wide receiver Anthony Armstrong. Slaton is expendable because of Thigpen. Armstrong, as you may recall, was with Dolphins in 2008 camp and spent the year on the practice squad before being waived prior to the 2009 season. He broke out in Washington in 2010 with 44 catches for 871 yards and three scores but was limited to just seven catches due to injuries last season. Would be a nice addition to our weak receiving corps, though.

1:04pm: A source with knowledge of the situation tells me the Dolphins have waived offensive lineman Ray Feinga and will likely keep tight end-turned-tackle Will Yeatman instead. I expected Feinga to make the roster as a backup tackle with all the injuries on the line we'd had, but they must like Yeatman's potential more.

2:37pm: Running back/return specialist Marcus Thigpen has made the Dolphins' roster, according to Volin. Thigpen shined as a returner and showed some receiving skills as well, so this is no shocker. Steve Slaton will likely be traded or cut.

2:47pm: Volin says the Dolphins will keep all four quarterbacks through today. My guess is they will take more time deciding which veteran backup to keep, seeing if Matt Moore has trade value and if David Garrard (knee) can get back on the field. I suspect they'll ditch one of the vets by the regular season opener and potentially waive Pat Devlin to put him on the practice squad.

3:08pm: Barry Jackson (the master of the scoop today) has the Dolphins waiving undrafted rookie linebacker Shelly Lyons. Never had a chance. Roster is at 60, seven moves to go.

4:23pm: Offensive tackle Lydon Murtha has been released, per Volin. Murtha had been hampered by a foot injury and was due $1.927 million on a restricted free agent tender. His release is a good sign that Jake Long (sprained MCL) will be ready for the opener.

4:25pm: Volin also has the Dolphins waiving offensive tackle Will Barker. He was working behind undrafted rookie Andrew McDonald at right tackle for most of camp so this is no surprise. Dolphins down to 58, five more to go.

4:54pm: Wide receiver Jeff Fuller has apparently not been released as he is participating in the Dolphins' practice this afternoon. (If he had been cut, he would be on waivers right now and not allowed to participate.) It's possible the Dolphins will cut either Fuller or Chris Hogan after tonight's practice with six moves left to make.

5:06pm: Looks like guard Chandler Burden hasn't been cut as previously reported, either. He is practicing with Dolphins tonight and likely working as the second-team left guard behind Richie Incognito, although he's not necessarily save with seven moves needed by 9 p.m. ET.

7:08pm: Agent David Canter tweets that defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui has been told he will be waived and re-signed to the practice squad tomorrow if unclaimed. The same is true for wide receiver Jeff Fuller and guard Chandler Burden, which is why the were initially reported as released earlier in the day.

7:18pm: Volin tweets that offensive tackle Will Yeatman has made the team. Not surprising with Murtha and Feinga cut, although Yeatman seemed like more of a practice squad guy at this point. If he does make the 53-man roster into the regular season, it's a very impressive accomplishment considering he was converted to tight end in the offseason.

8:12pm: Offensive tackle Andrew McDonald will be waived and re-signed to the practice squad, per Volin. He's the backup right tackle and should continue to work there behind Jonathan Martin once he returns. Pretty impressive considering he wasn't signed with the initial crop of undrafted rookies right after the draft. Instead, McDonald went unsigned until May 14.

9:14pm: Updating a previous item, Volin reports waived cornerback Kevyn Scott was released with an injury settlement and won't be back on the practice squad.

9:32pm: The official list of Dolphins cuts has been released. Only three were still unknown prior to this posting, and those new names are wide receiver Chris Hogan, defensive end Jarrell Root and safety Anderson Russell. Root was waived/injured and will revert to injured reserve if unclaimed. The Dolphins' roster now stands at 53 players as per today's deadline, although more moves are sure to be made, specifically at positions like quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback.

Full Cut List:
  • DT Isaako Aaitui*
  • CB Vince Agnew*
  • DT Ryan Baker
  • OT Will Barker*
  • OG Chandler Burden*
  • LB Cameron Collins*
  • C Ryan Cook (traded to Cowboys)
  • WR B. J. Cunningham*
  • WR Jeff Fuller*
  • OT Ray Feinga*
  • WR Clyde Gates
  • LB Gary Guyton
  • WR Chris Hogan*
  • CB Quinten Lawrence*
  • LB Shelly Lyons*
  • OT Andrew McDonald*
  • OT Lydon Murtha
  • DE Jarrell Root* (waived/injured)
  • S Anderson Russell*
  • CB Kevyn Scott* (injury settlement)
  • WR Roberto Wallace
  • DE Jamaal Westerman
*indicates player has practice squad eligibility remaining


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/2012/08/cutdown-day-will-measure-miamis-tal
Cuts Made: 22     Current Roster Total: 53     Moves Remaining: 0

Thursday, August 30, 2012

53-Man Roster Projection: Final Edition

The Miami Dolphins suffered a scare Wednesday night as the charter plane they were on backed into another aircraft and delayed their trip home several hours.

The week won't get much better for at least 22 Dolphins players, who will have to be cut or moved off the roster in another manner between now and cut deadline to 53 players, which is Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

Because the Dolphins' preseason is officially over with last night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the team's cuts could come at any time between now and tomorrow night and it would not be shocking to see a flurry of activity on Thursday.

Here is my final 53-man roster projection. You can check out my pre-training camp projection here and my preseason midpoint edition here if you'd like to laugh at how wrong I was.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the final 53 I project from the Dolphins' current roster will certainly be different than what we see come Sept. 9 at Houston. After the team gets down to 53, I'd say at least 3-4 players (possibly more) will get cut at a later point to make room for waiver claims.


Starters in italics

Quarterbacks (2): Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore
Released: David Garrard, Pat Devlin

Tannehill is entrenched as the starter now, as shocking as that is to some of us that thought he was so raw he should sit his entire rookie season. The question is what veteran backs him up, and I have to think it'll be Moore. Garrard is an injury risk and is still not back on the field, while Moore doesn't have the trade value he once did after a rough preseason.

Devlin sticks around as the third guy, but I suspect he can be slipped to the practice squad and save the team a roster spot.

Running backs (5): Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Steve Slaton, Lamar Miller, Marcus Thigpen (KR)
Released: none
Reserve/Non-Football Injury: Jonas Gray

Three of these guys are set. Bush is the starter; Thomas has looked good in the preseason despite some minor truancy issues off the field; Miller is a promising mid-round pick.

The question lately has been the battle between Slaton and Thigpen. Slaton has the better history as a 1,200-yard rusher and more ability in the running game, but the team is fairly deep there. Thigpen has impressed since coming over from the CFL, showing nice ability in the return game and some versatility as a receiver on offense.

Until today, I'd been cutting Slaton and keeping Thigpen, but with wide receiver so weak, I'l going to keep five "true" receivers and five backs, including Thigpen, who worked plenty in the slot last night against Dallas and is more of a receiver than a rusher anyway.

Of course, this situation is fluid and one of these backs could be gone if the Dolphins want to add a receiver on waivers as expected.

Fullback (1): Jorvorskie Lane
Released: none

With Ryan Mahaffey and Jerome Messam gone, Lane has had this position to himself and has truly taken advantage. I didn't expect much out of a guy that has been out of the INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE since 2010, but Lane has gotten in shape and has shown nice hands and incredible power running through would-be tacklers.

Wide receivers (5): Legedu NaaneeBrian Hartline, Davone Bess, Marlon Moore, Rishard Matthews
Released: Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, Jeff Fuller, B. J. Cunningham, Chris Hogan

No position on the Dolphins' roster has come under more scrutiny this preseason and no position has been harder to predict. Even projected starter Naanee isn't totally safe after a terrible preseason when he only came out of invisibility to drop passes.

Right now, I still think Naanee is safe along with Bess and Hartline, although Hartline needs to get on the field quickly after missing the last month with a calf injury. Marlon Moore appears to be the current fourth receiver, which would suggest he's the safest of the rest.

Beyond that, I'm keeping only the drafted rookie Mathews, plus "running back" and returner Marcus Thigpen. That means a handful of guys get the ax, including Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, Jeff Fuller, B. J. Cunningham and Chris Hogan. The final three are eligible for the practice squad and we should see at least a few of them back.

Tight ends (4): Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Jeron Mastrud, Michael Egnew
Released: none

Here you have two guys (Fasano and Clay) that are totally safe and two that are totally not. Mastrud makes it for now as a blocker, but he's going to be a strong candidate to be replaced by a waiver claim. Egnew probably makes the team as a third-round pick, but he really couldn't have a worse reputation right now.

Offensive tackle (4): Jake LongJonathan Martin, Lydon Murtha, Ray Feinga
Released: Andrew McDonald, Will Barker, Will Yeatman

Long and Martin are locked in as the starters assuming Long returns from his sprained MCL in time for the opener. Murtha has also been dealing with a foot injury so the depth at tackle is a bit weak right now.

That's why I'm keeping Feinga, who started at left tackle last night and has been working there extensively in camp. Feinga will give the Dolphins a reliable practice body with Long and/or Murtha sidelined.

McDonald would probably be the next likely to be kept as the second-team right tackle, but I see him serving that role on the practice squad. Yeatman and Barker don't seem to have much of a chance and will simply be hoping for a practice squad spot of their own.

Offensive guard (4): Richie IncognitoJohn Jerry, Artis Hicks, Nate Garner
Released: Chandler Burden

Incognito is the lone locked-in starter of this bunch, with no one pushing him at left guard. In all honesty, he's probably the most reliable lineman on the team after Long.

The other starting spot is where the question is. Personally, I've seen enough solid play from Jerry in the last two games to give him the first shot at the right guard job in the regular season, especially when you consider that Hicks has been dinged up and offers basically no upside.

I think Garner sticks despite an ankle injury and some shaky play last year. His versatility is still a plus in practice, especially with other players injured right now. He's not on totally solid ground, but I'd say he's worth a spot on the 53.

Center (2): Mike Pouncey, Josh Samuda
Released: Ryan Cook

Cook drew the start last night against Dallas, but undrafted rookie Samuda is having a great preseason and has been listed as Pouncey's top backup the entire time. I can't envision Cook and his $1 million salary sticking on the bench over Samuda now.

Defensive end (5): Cameron WakeJared Odrick, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby
Released: Jamaal Westerman, Jarrell Root

Wake and Odrick are obviously the no-brainers here. Vernon makes the team because of where he was drafted despite a weak preseason and Shelby makes it as an undrafted rookie after an impressive preseason.

I could envision the Dolphins keeping five rushers with Westerman, but he routinely played with the third team in games and they don't seem to be too impressed with him. I needed more depth elsewhere, so I sacrificed a fifth end here.

Defensive tackle (4): Randy StarksPaul Soliai, Tony McDaniel, Kheeston Randall
Released: Ryan Baker, Isaako Aaitui

Starks and Soliai are a force in the middle of the Dolphins' defensive line. I also think Randall makes the team after a tremendous preseason. He certainly seems to have some upside and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he made McDaniel expendable considering Odrick can play inside as well.

I like Aaitui too, but I'd put him on the practice squad unless we cut McDaniel. Baker on the other hand doesn't have any upside and I'm ready to move on.

Outside linebackers (4): Kevin BurnettKoa Misi, Jason Trusnik, Gary Guyton, Josh Kaddu
Released: Jonathan Freeny, Shelly Lyons

With the starters locked in, the question here is which backups are kept. Lyons and Freeny are on the outside looking in, although Freeny has had a pretty solid preseason from what I've seen.

I initially had Trusnik as the veteran backup and Kaddu as the raw rookie, but I'm keeping Guyton too. He's had a very up-and-down preseason but he has starting experience that is valuable with Dansby and Burnett dinged for much of the preseason.

Middle linebackers (2): Karlos Dansby, Austin Spitler
Released: Cameron Collins

Loud-mouth, overpaid Dansby sticks as a starter. Spitler has had a strong preseason and has not been threatened by Collins who can only hope for a practice squad spot.

Cornerbacks (4): Sean SmithRichard Marshall, Nolan Carroll, Quinten Lawrence
Released: Vince Agnew, Kevyn Scott

With the trading of Vontae Davis, Smith and Marshall are no longer threatened for their jobs, although neither has been that consistent and this is certainly going to be a rough season. Nolan Carroll had a very up-and-down game against Dallas but seems to be in the staff's favor and should have a roster spot.

With Jonathan Wade gone, there is very little experience on the roster for a fourth corner job. If I had to pick from this bunch I'd go with Lawrence, but I suspect the final guy isn't on the roster yet.

Safeties (5): Chris ClemonsReshad Jones, Tyrone Culver, Jimmy Wilson
Released: Anderson Russell, Tyrell Johnson
Injured Reserve: Kelcie McCray

A battle for the starting safety spots never materialized and Clemons and Jones should keep this roles if healthy. (I'm looking at you, Clemons.) I think Culver sticks as a reliable veteran backup, while Wilson remains intriguing enough to keep.

Johnson hasn't done enough to make the team, while Russell had a shaky game against Dallas. With depth needed in other areas like receiver and the offensive line, I can't justify keeping a fifth safety for special teams right now.

Special teams (3): Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
Released: none

What more is there to say here? Nothing. These guys rock.

Practice Squad

The Dolphins will likely get a few of their practice squad players from other teams' cuts, but if I were to make an eight-man practice squad from the Dolphins' cuts above, this is how it would look:
  • QB Pat Devlin — Devlin sticks at the third quarterback but saves the Dolphins a roster spot to use elsewhere but staying on the practice squad.
  • WR Jeff Fuller — Fuller's drops remain an issue, but he has size and upside to go along with a history with Tannehill.
  • WR B. J. Cunningham — Cunningham is a solid but unspectacular prospect. The rookie sixth-rounder has been outperformed by Matthews but should be kept here.
  • OT Andrew McDonald — McDonald has worked himself into the second team and would continue to work behind Jonathan Martin at right tackle in practice.
  • DE Jarrell Root — With only four ends on the active roster, Root sticks as a camp body and a great personality.
  • DT Issaako Aaitui — Aaitui showed promise in the preseason and is worth keeping here if he doesn't make the 53 should McDaniel get cut.
  • CB Vince Agnew — With only four corners kept on my active roster, Agnew sticks around a second straight season for practice depth.
  • CB Kevyn Scott — Like Agnew, Scott provides practice depth with only four corners on the 53-man.
    One thing to keep in mind is that not every cut is eligible for the practice squad. For example, Clyde Gates has too much NFL experience to be eligible, so he is not an option here.

    Stay tuned today and tomorrow as I live blog all the Dolphins' cuts as they happen, plus be sure to follow me @phinsspotlight for the latest news and analysis!

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Dolphins at Cowboys - Live Chat

    Join me starting at 8:15pm ET to chat during the Miami Dolphins' preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys!

    Hard Knocks: Episode 4 Thoughts & Observations

    As the end of the preseason and the regular season near, we're a week away from the finale of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins. After a fairly uneventful third episode following the second episode's arrest and release of Chad Johnson, yesterday's fourth episode returned to a higher level of intrigue and emotion with the trading of Vontae Davis and the first wave of cuts, which took place Saturday.

    Here are my in-depth thoughts and observations about last night's episode...

    •  We already knew veteran guard Eric Steinbach retired before last night's episode, but we got an even clearer picture of his thought process from the behind-the-scenes look. It was obvious he wasn't happy with his performance on the field and it seems his body just couldn't take it, as he indicated it took nearly half of practice every day to get warm. Steinbach seemed genuinely appreciative for the opportunity and disappointed his career was over, but he was also content knowing he gave it one final shot.
    • One of the big surprises of the episode was learning the Daniel Thomas has been in the doghouse quite a bit lately. Head coach Joe Philbin had running backs coach Jeff Nixon send Thomas to Philbin's office after he was 15 minutes late to a lifting session. Once in the meeting, Philbin also revealed that Thomas was fined the previous week for showing up late to the team plane and not wearing appropriate attire. This is the first time we've ever seen Thomas in quite such a negative light and hopefully he can get his act together and mature. I liked what I saw of him on the field in the team's last game and he has the talent to be a big part of the running game, but he needs to get on the staff's good side to get an opportunity.
    • Richie Incognito and Jarrell Root are both absolutely hysterical. Incognito "hacking" into Michael Egnew's iPad and messing with his Facebook was a riot. It's impossible not to like Incognito after seeing him behind the scenes.
    • That being said about Root, he seemed to be on the coaching staff's bad side during practice and even had defensive line Kacy Rodgers accuse him of "eyballing him" after receiving criticism. Joe Philbin had a talk with Root after about the way he responds to the coaches and obviously any time of insubordination or attitude isn't going to sit well, especially for an undrafted rookie.
    • It was nice getting to know undrafted defensive tackle Chas Alecxih through Hard Knocks. He's got a great personality and seems like a very good guy, while his story about being lost at sea earlier this year was incredible. Unfortunately, the NFL game might be too big for him and I'm not sure he's even a realistic practice sqaud candidate at this point, despite what he was told when he was waived.
    • Holy crap, Matt Moore quizzing Ryan Tannehill on the NFL's divisions and Tannehill failing miserably was absolutely hystercial. Tannehill admitted he's never been much of a pro fan and just didn't know, suggesting things like the Chiefs being in the NFC East. I suppose it doesn't matter if he knows what team is in a division as long as he beats them!
    • Nice to see a little Jeff Ireland backstory in this one, probably trying to make him look a little more human. I still don't get the impression he's a real nice guy, however. But I don't care if he's nice as long as he builds the team well.
    • The coverage by NFL Films of the Dolphins-Falcons game was odd, because they really twisted things to make it look like the Dolphins offense was rolling before the drops kicked in and that the defense played tight as well. In reality, it was a horrible mess from beginning to end.
    • The different players getting cut was difficult to witness. Some, like cornerback Marcus Brown and running back Jerome Messam, got angry and defensive, speaking about not getting the opportunities. (Ireland flat-out told Messsam, "well that's why we practice." Ouch.) Chas Alecxih took it well and was grateful for the opportunity and experience. Tight end Les Brown was by the far the hardest to watch, as he got emotional saying goodbye to teammates and tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Brown was clearly a well-liked guy in the facility and everyone was rooting for him, but his play just isn't there. He'll probably turn out elsewhere, but I'm not sure he'll ever be able to handle the physicality of the NFL game.
    • By far the most interesting aspect of the episode was the Vontae Davis trade. We learned the talks originated with a text to Ireland from Colts' GM Ryan Grigson and that the original offer was a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick. Ireland pushed the deal up to a third-rounder and eventually to a second-rounder. He asked for a second and a sixth but settled for a second and a conditional sixth. There was no mention about any other players discussed, although reports indicate that happened as well. I'll give Ireland credit for playing hardball in these negotiations and not settling for anything less than he was comfortable with, as he told Grigson that he was the one giving up the contributing player now and needed sufficient picks in return.
    • It's clear Ireland was willing to trade Davis from the beginning, and Joe Philbin didn't seen surprised or against the move. Philbin at one point said that he liked Davis but wondered if he'd ever get to where they wanted him to be. Defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo was also heavily critical of the penalty Davis committed on his pick-six against Atlanta, calling it an "unbelievable lack of awareness."
    • Ireland telling Davis he was traded predictably closed the episode, and it made for great television. Davis looked shocked by the news, immediately wanting to call his grandma and later asking Ireland what he was traded for. ("A couple picks" Ireland said.) And with that, the former first-round pick was no longer a Miami Dolphin.

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Jake Long suffers knee injury in Monday practice

    As if things couldn't get any worse for the Miami Dolphins, the team suffered a scare Monday in practice when Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long went down with a knee injury, stayed down for several minutes before leaving the field and not returning.

    Conflicting reports have emerged about the exact severity of Long's injury. Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post cites a source indicating the Dolphins "dodged a bullet" and classifying the injury as a "tweak."

    However, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday night that an MRI was still to take place and that the injury was an MCL sprain. There could be truth to both reports, although an MCL sprain is technically a stretch and/or tear of the ligament and could put Long's availability for the Sept. 9 season opener in doubt.

    In fact, a report from the Miami Herald says the Dolphins fear the injury could cost Long "1-to-3 weeks." The season opener at Houston is smack in the middle of that prognosis at 13 days away.

    After Long's injury in practice, rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin moved to the left side, while guard Artis Hicks moved to right tackle and John Jerry stepped in as the starting right guard, where he has worked and excelled recently in Hicks' absence due to injury.

    Such a setup would certainly not be ideal for the Dolphins, however. Martin has struggled mightily as the starting right tackle this preseason and probably wouldn't fare any better on the blind side despite playing there extensively at Stanford. The veteran Hicks has plenty of experience at tackle but has proved himself to be a weak starting talent, while Jerry remains a poor scheme fit and an inconsistent producer.

    The Dolphins' depth is even thinner right now with minor injuries to Lydon Murtha (foot) and Nate Garner (ankle), who can play both guard and tackle. An extended Long injury could open the door for someone like Ray Feinga or Andrew McDonald to make the 53-man roster, with Will Barker and Will Yeatman remaining long shots.

    Free agent options could be explored as well, with names like Kareem McKenzie (a former starter and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants) and Chad Clifton still on the market. Head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman obviously have an extensive history with Clifton from their time in Green Bay, although the 36-year-old veteran has had injury issues of his own.

    While the Dolphins are unlikely to win many games in 2012 given all the roster's holes and simply not enough avenues to fill all of them this season, losing Long for an extended period of time would be a crushing blow not only to the team's already-challenged offense as well as another hurdle for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has little to work with right now and was already facing tough pressure from opposing teams even when Long was part of the unit up front.


    Dolphin waive Julius Pruitt, get down to 75 players

    Nearly three years after signing  as an undrafted free agent out of Division II Ouachita Baptist, wide receiver Julius Pruitt's tenure with the Miami Dolphins is likely at an end.

    Needing to make one roster move to get down to 75 players by today's deadline, the Dolphins chose to waive Pruitt while trimming their much-discussed wide receiver battle to a 10-man race.

    Compared to Saturday's wave of cuts, It's a surprising move to be sure, as Pruitt had worked as a second-team receiver for all of training camp and looked to have an edge on the competition for one of the final spots at the position. He was also a good special-teamer as one of coordinator Darren Rizzi's best gunners.

    However, it seems his special teams prowess just wasn't enough and the Dolphins felt more comfortable moving on with younger talent. Pruitt is ineligible for the practice squad heading into the 2012 season and although he'd certainly refined his technique over the years in Miami, he likely just didn't offer enough upside.

    The Dolphins head into the final week of the preseason with only two real locks at the receiver position in Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, although Hartline has been unable to get on the field all month with a calf injury.

    Beyond that it's a true mess, as free-agent addition and camp starter Legedu Naanee has not had a good preseason and has five sub-par seasons with the Chargers and Panthers on his resume. Marlon Moore seems to be one of the safer receivers, while Roberto Wallace gets a little help from Pruitt's release as well. Both Moore and Wallace are excellent special-teamers.

    Then you have disappointing 2010 fourth-rounder Clyde Gates, drafted rookies Rishard Matthews and B. J. Cunningham, undrafted rookie Jeff Fuller and former college lacrosse player Chris Hogan. While none is a lock to make the roster, all have cases that can be made. Gates has blazing speed and return ability; Matthews has had a great preseason; Cunningham had the best collegiate career; Fuller has upside and a history with Ryan Tannehill; Hogan seems to have a knack for route-running and getting open.

    If I had to guess right now, I'd put Naanee, Hartline, Bess, Moore, Wallace and Matthews on the active roster and Cunningham, Fuller, plus maybe Hogan on the practice squad. It will certainly be an interesting week with the preseason finale Wednesday and the final cut-down looming at 9 p.m. ET this Friday.

    Hopefully this coming week provides Pruitt with a new opportunity in the NFL and the Dolphins some clarity on the wideout position.

    Check out the projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Dolphins send Vontae Davis to Colts for two draft picks

    In a move that had been speculated about over the past week but not one that many of us that follow the team actually believed, the Miami Dolphins have traded cornerback Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a future second-round pick and conditional sixth-round pick.

    The deal comes after Colts' owner Jim Irsay spent the week hinting on Twitter about a big trade in the works and some had speculated Davis could be the player involved. The Colts ranked 31st in the NFL in opponent's passer rating in 2011 and projected starter Jerraud Powers injured his knee in the team's most recent preseason game.

    As it stands, there is no confirmation of which draft these picks will be in, although I would suspect both are for the 2013 NFL Draft. There is also no word on the conditions of the sixth, but a good guess is it's tied to Davis' starts for the Colts in 2012.

    Miami's first-round pick out of Illinois in 2009, Davis started 36 of 44 games played in three seasons with the Dolphins. He hauled in nine interceptions and racked up 32 pass deflections, including four-interception seasons in 2009 and 2011.

    However, maturity has also been an issue for Davis, who was suspended by the team at one point last year for reportedly showing up to practice drunk/hungover.

    As anyone that has been watching Hard Knocks knows, Davis did not show up to training camp in shape, drawing the ire of the defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo and the rest of the Dolphins' coaching staff while losing his starting job to free-agent acquisition Richard Marshall.

    Specifically, Davis had trouble getting through some training camp practices without becoming winded and was even chided by head coach Joe Philbin for not being able to hold his bladder during a 75-minute session.

    Although Richard Marshall hasn't looked great in the preseason and Sean Smith's strong camp hasn't fully translated to the field either, Davis didn't earn back his job in the games with a personal foul penalty against the Panthers and a pick-six that was called back because of his own pass interference.

    That all being said, seeing a 24-year-old talent and former first-round pick like Davis shipped out is never an easy thing and it's certainly hard to like this move right now, not even taking into account the Dolphins' recent struggles with second-round picks. One has to assume if the Dolphins were willing to trade Davis, they seriously must question his long-term upside, motivation and conditioning.

    Prior to this preseason, Davis had clearly been the Dolphins' most talented and consistent corner. His departure greatly weakens an already questionable secondary for the 2012 season in a pass-happy NFL. Marshall and Smith remain question marks in terms of starting talent and effectiveness, while there is little depth to speak of and Smith is a free agent in the offseason. It's been suggested since the trade was made that the Dolphins are high on Nolan Carroll, but the 2010 fifth-rounder with four career starts is hardly a solution.

    As I've been saying recently and as this move really indicates, the Dolphins are not expecting to compete in 2012 and will be simply hoping to see some progress from their younger core of players, including rookie starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    The Dolphins will head into the 2013 offseason not only with a likely high first-round draft pick of their own, but also two second-round picks, two third-round picks and a bevvy of cap room to build around their potential franchise signal-caller.

    Check out the projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


    Discuss this article on the forum here!

    Saturday, August 25, 2012

    Dolphins make 10 roster moves in first wave of cuts

    Last night, I was preparing an article for Saturday about the 13 roster spots the Miami Dolphins had to clear and the most likely players to be shown the door. Unfortunately for me, the Dolphins didn't waste much time and have already cleared 10 players off the active roster.

    The Dolphins entered Saturday with 88 players on the 90-man roster, necessitating 13 spots cleared to get down to 75 for Monday's deadline at 4 p.m. ET. With 10 moves made today, the Dolphins need only clear three more spots between now and then.

    The lone "non-release" of today's transactions involves running back Jonas Gray. An undrafted rookie from Notre Dame that came out of college with a torn ACL, Gray never participated in training camp. He moves from the Active/Non-Football Injury list to the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, clearing a spot from the Dolphins' roster.

    The NFI list works the same as the PUP list, meaning Gray can be activated six weeks into the regular season. I suspect the Dolphins won't look for him to contribute in 2012, however, so I'd expect him to stay on NFI all year and potential come back to compete in camp in 2013.

    The nine players release by the Dolphins were, in alphabetical order, defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, tight end Les Brown, cornerback Marcus Brown, safety Tyrell Johnson, cornerback Trenton Hughes, linebacker Josh Linam, fullback Jerome Messam, defensive end Jacquies Smith and cornerback Jonathan Wade.

    Les Brown is one of the obvious notable names here, as the former accountant that didn't play college football drew attention on Hard Knocks in recent weeks. Unfortunately, almost all that coverage was about his struggles, in particular the blocking department, and he just isn't ready for the NFL game.

    Alecxih, Hughes, Linam and Smith are the true undrafted rookies of the bunch. None showed much of anything in camp and barely saw the field during the preseason, so it's no surprise to see them cut. Messam seemed a quality prospect from the CFL, but had knee issues and the move to fullback killed his chances.

    Marcus Brown, Johnson and Wade represent the cuts with prior NFL experience. Johnson represents one of the Dolphin's more disappointing free-agent acquisitions, as the former Vikings' starter was signed to compete for a starting job but never came close, while Wade was seen as the favorite for the fifth corner job but was done in by a terrible preseason.

    All of the cuts except Johnson and Wade are eligible for the practice squad, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see none of them kept there, either. Most players the team likes for the practice squad are kept all the way until final cuts, so being released a week early doesn't bode well for their chance.

    Notable positions not trimmed include wide receiver, the offensive line and linebacker. The Dolphins have nine receivers still under contract and nearly all of them are still in the competition for a backup spot, so it makes sense the team isn't ready to send any packing just yet. Offensive line depth is always valuable in practice and there are still a few nagging injuries at linebacker necessitating more bodies.

    As for the three remaining roster moves to make before Monday, some likely candidates for release in my view include offensive tackles Will Barker and Will Yeatman, defensive end Jarrell Root, linebacker Shelly Lyons and cornerback Kevyn Scott. Safety Kelcie McCray, who has been out most of camp with a fractured foot, is a candidate for injured reserve.

    (Update (8/26): Undrafted rookie safety Kelcie McCray was indeed placed on injured reserve on Saturday, leaving the Dolphins with 77 players and two more move to make by Monday. I suspect McCray will stay on I.R. all season, since the Dolphins could have exposed him to waivers and given him an injury settlement if they didn't want to hang onto him.)

    I'll have coverage of the Dolphins' forthcoming roster moves when they happen, as well as a live chat and observations write-up from Wednesday's preseason finale and the final cut down Friday night.

    As always, check out the updated projected depth chart here and the updated future free agents list here.


    Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

    Dolphins-Falcons Game Observations

    Another week, another ugly preseason performance by the Miami Dolphins. More so than the previous two weeks, the Dolphins' roster holes were exposed in what is supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season with the starts playing into the third quarter.

    Here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Falcons on Friday.


    Offense
    • Ryan Tannehill has more ups and downs in this one, but I still saw a lot of promise. He used his athleticism well on a few rollouts and scrambles and made some nice throws, including a mid-route across the middle to Davone Bess and one across his body to Jorvorskie Lane. At this point, I'm not worried about Tannehill's development, but rather the lack of talent round him.
    • Matt Moore didn't stand out in this one against the backups and had another bad fumble, which was his issue last year. He certainly hasn't done anything to win the job over the rookie.
    • Of all the backs, I thought Daniel Thomas looked the best. He showed nice power inside and seems to have a knack for spinning out of tackles and gaining more yardage. I'd expect him to factor into the running game greatly this season.
    • Aside from Davone Bess, who showed reliable hands and a nice rapport with Tannehill, absolutely none of the receivers stood out. Not every throw to Legedu Naanee was perfect, but he had a few miscues of his own and simply does not look like a starter. A handful of other guys had some bad drops, including Julius Pruitt, Jeff Fuller, Charles Clay and Anthony Fasano. It was never more apparent in this one that Tannehill's weapons on offense are sorely lacking.
    • Clyde Gates made a great catch that was ruled out of bounds but looked in from what I saw. He also made a heads-up play on a tipped ball from Tannehill that should have been intercepted. This guy seems destined to be cut, but I can't understand it.
    • Jake Long had some struggles against John Abraham, although the holding penalty on his was a weak call. Jonathan Martin, on the other hand, was absolutely horrendous and got bowled over a few times by Kroy Biermann and others. It's too early to call him a bust, but his play is seriously ugly and he could be the worst right tackle in the league as a rookie.
    • John Jerry didn't embarrass himself in this one, and I'd say he's earned a longer shot as the starting right guard. That's due in part to Artis Hicks just offering no upside, so we might as well see what Jerry can do.

    Defense
    • Cameron Wake was his old self and looked tremendous in his return from a minor back injury. Unfortunately, he once again seems to be the only guy on the roster than can really put pressure on the quarterback. Jared Odrick is the next-best guy and he's not even a pure pass rusher. Meanwhile, Olivier Vernon seemed to get neutralized at the line often despite a half-sack, Derrick Shelby didn't stand out in this one as he had in previous games, and Jamaal Westerman really didn't play until the third-stringers were in, although he did make some plays.
    • The Dolphins' interior line was once again solid and didn't let Atlanta do much on the ground. Randy Starks in particular had a nice game, as did Kheeston Randall, who played what seemed to be a full three quarters. Tony McDaniel and his $3 million salary are looking pretty expendable right now.
    • Gary Guyton probably had the best game of the linebackers, but he was still fairly inconsistent and missed two big interception opportunities. I don't think he's done a lot to make the team, but with the Dolphins' lack of depth and some nagging injuries to starters, he could stick.
    • Jason Trusnik and Austin Spitler didn't embarrass themselves except when they were caught mismatched in coverage. Both seem like good bets to make the team. Josh Kaddu is more uncertain because he's more raw.
    • Richard Marshall really struggled with the Falcons' elite receivers in this one, and Vontae Davis didn't have a great day either. He was beat by Julio Jones on a near-touchdown, missed at least one tackle that I saw, and was appropriately flagged for pulling down the receiver on his pick-six. Sean Smith was easily the best corner of the day, as he didn't get embarrassed in coverage and made a great play on fourth-and-two when he set the edge, came off his blocker and made the tackle on the ball carrier.
    • Nolan Carroll probably did the best of the backup corners, and Jonathan Wade probably did the worst. At this point, I'd guess only four players from the current roster stick around.
    • Reshad Jones got exposed in the Falcons' aerial attack, while Chris Clemons was rather invisible. the Dolphins probably won't face many passing games that are better this season, but it still shows these guys aren't there yet.

    Special Teams
    • Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields both had nice days as usual, as did long snapper John Denney, who made a stop and was always around the ball on punts.
    • Marcus Thigpen had a few nice returns and actually made a brilliant (although perhaps unintentional) play when he caught a kickoff out of bounds and forced a penalty on the Falcons after Joe Philbin challenged the initial ruling. It was a close play, as the rule states that if you catch the ball while straddling the sideline, it's a kickoff out of bounds, but Thigpen's left foot was possibly still in the air when he caught it and thus he would have "stepped" out of bounds and been marked at the one-yard line. Thigpen also returned the Dolphins' only punt and I'm feeling like he has a legitimate chance to make this team over Steve Slaton.

    Conclusion

    For much of the offsesason when asked how the Dolphins would fare this season, I'd said six-to-eight wins was probably about right. Now, I'm starting to think that might be too optimistic.

    The Dolphins clearly lack talent on the offensive side of the ball, greatly limiting the weapons for a rookie quarterback that isn't going to be elite right off the bat. Combine that with shoddy protection and you have a recipe for a lot of punts and a tired defense.

    The defense too isn't perfect. Most of the front seven is solid, but the team still only has one apparent pass rusher and the secondary is still shaky, which is only made worse by the team not putting pressure on the quarterback.

    Dolphins fans should probably prepare for a losing season and some ugly football in 2012, but if you expect it, you'll be less disappointed. It'll take a while for Tannehill to develop and the roster to be reshaped with tons of cap space in 2013, so I'm not concerned about the long-term future and I'm willing to put up with a bad 2012 season as long as the young guys show progress.


    Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Dolphins vs. Falcons - Live Chat

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Eric Steinbach retires from football

    A day after Hard Knocks viewers were treated to a conversation between guard Eric Steinbach and Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin that seemed to indicate the veteran was contemplating retirement, Steinbach made it official and announced that he will indeed be retiring from the NFL.

    It's hardly a shocking move, as Steinbach indicated to Philbin on Hard Knocks that he wasn't playing up to his standards and wasn't entirely healthy. At this point, he was a long shot to make the Dolphins' roster as he wasn't pushing for a starting job.

    Steinbach was signed by the Dolphins on July 26 after a workout in the first day of training camp, having sat out the entire 2011 season on the Cleveland Browns' injured reserve with a back injury. The 32-year-old had worked primarily as the backup left guard for the Dolphins in training camp and sat out last Friday's preseason game with a knee injury.

    Once he is moved to the reserve/retired list, the Dolphins will have 88 players on their 90-man preseason roster after Monday's release of fullback Ryan Mahaffey. That means the team will have to shed 13 players to get down to 75 by next Monday, Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. ET barring any additional roster moves before then. Final cuts to 53 players must be done by Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. ET.

    Steinbach's departure comes as good news to fellow guards John Jerry and Nate Garner, who will see a little less competition for roster spots over the next week.

    Jerry, who entered camp as the third-team right guard, has been ridiculed by the coaching staff for his weight and conditioning but is coming off an impressive showing against the Panthers and has been working with the starters in place of a dinged-up Artis Hicks.

    Personally, I'd much rather see Jerry start at right guard in 2012, as Hicks offers no upside and was a poorly thought-out plan from the beginning. Jerry might not be a great fit for the zone-blocking scheme, but even the coaching staff has acknowledged his potential and it might be worth it to see if he can progress this year.

    Garner worked as a backup right guard ahead of Jerry for most of training camp, but has dealt with an ankle injury suffered in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. Although he struggled at tackle in spot duty last season, Garner offers nice versatility off the bench with experience at all five offensive line positions.

    Hard Knocks: Episode 3 Thoughts & Observations

    While the third episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins wasn't quite as dramatic as the previous one thanks to the absence of any arrests and releases, NFL Films and HBO once again delivers a quality program and offers us some additional insights to the Dolphins' roster as we rapidly approach the first wave of cuts next Monday.

    Here are my observations from the third episode of Hard Knocks...
    • I found the "leadership council" meeting between Joe Philbin and veterans Reggie Bush, Karlos Dansby and Jake Long to be a little awkward and pointless. What exactly does being a leader have to do with Chad Johnson beating his wife? Why don't the players just lead by example and lead on the field? And what in the hell is Dansby doing in this meeting? Leaders don't spout off stupid opinions to the media about wife-beating ex-teammates. Leaders also don't show up to camp at 270 pounds just because of the lockout.
    • The focus on John Jerry was probably the most intriguing part of the episode from a pure football standpoint. It started out extremely negative when position coach Jim Turner killing him in coaches meetings, but they also admitted they liked him upside a lot. Combine that with his great play against Carolina and his working with the first team this week, and it seems Jerry isn't quite off the roster yet. Jerry might not be an ideal fit for the zone blocking scheme, but if veteran Artis Hicks isn't any good, why not roll with Jerry and see if he can keep improving?
    • On the other side of the coin, Eric Steinbach sure sounded a lot like a guy that is heading toward retirement and that proved to be true Wednesday as he announced just that. Steinbach was working solely as the second-team left guard and didn't seem to be a threat to Hicks on the right side. He'd also missed time with a knee injury and didn't play against Carolina.
    • Undrafted rookie guard Chandler Burden needs to be given a practice squad spot solely based on his impression of Jim Turner during the rookie show. I feel similarly about undrafted defensive end Jarrell Root, who is an absolute riot with his commentary during the game.
    • David Garrard is still on crutches and it's looking more and more like he'll never play for the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill being named the starter. Even if he's ready by the Sept. 9 season opener or soon after, he appears to be a real injury risk and I'm inclined to believe the Dolphins will keep Matt Moore as Tannehill's backup for 2012.
    • Vontae Davis is looking better in camp, and even though his penalty against Carolina was stupid, I at least admire his fire. As long as he doesn't check out mentally after his demotion and the criticism he's received, he'll be just fine. Davis is far too talented to be a third corner for long.
    • It appears footwork and consistency are some of the issues the team had with Matt Moore in practice. That being said, I find it hard to believe that Tannehill truly outperformed him and camp and I imagine it's frustrating to Moore the team can't even give him a straight answer on why he didn't win the job. The team needs to just say, "Tannehill's the future and he seems good enough to start, so that's what we're doing."
    • It's only been five days since the game, but a few things this show reminded me of are that Jonathan Martin looks like a freaking disaster at right tackle and rookie wideout Rishard Matthews had himself a nice game. Love his effort getting into the end zone late in the game.
    • It's incomprehensible that tight ends coach Dan Campbell has to tell rookie tight end Michael Egnew to block for the ball carrier in the middle of the game. Maybe it's just his face, but Egnew always looks like he has a bad attitude and is one more critical word away from openly weeping.
    • One thing missing from this episode that would have been nice to see was clarity on the 4-5-6 receiver situation. It's impossible to predict right now and this episode unfortunately did not address it.

    Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    53-man Roster Projection: Preseason Midpoint Edition

    My initial 53-man roster projection came in late July at the start of training camp, and just two preseason games in, it's amazing how things have changed.

    Ryan Tannehill has gone from a raw rookie destined to ride the bench to a Day One starter. Projected starting receiver Chad Johnson had his career rejuvenation derailed by an arrest for domestic assault. Some players have fallen out of favor while unknowns have stepped up and staked claims to roster spots.

    As we head into the second half of the preseason, it's time to update the 53-man roster projection, whittled down from the 89 players currently under contract. The Dolphins will cut down to 75 players by Monday, Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. ET and eventually to 53 players that Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. ET.

    Feel free to make your own predictions and share them in the comments, on the forum, or at my facebook discussion group. There is certainly to plenty of differing opinions on who will and won't make this team and it's always interesting to discuss with other fans.


    Starters in italics

    Quarterbacks (2): Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore
    Released: David Garrard, Pat Devlin

    With Tannehill named the starting quarterback and likely on a fairly long leash as the future at the position, the Dolphins will almost certainly part ways with one of their two high-priced veterans. My guess is they will keep Moore and reach an injury settlement with Garrard, whose health remains a concern and a liability if he's your only backup.

    Devlin can probably be slipped to the practice squad just like last season, saving the Dolphins a roster spot to use elsewhere.


    Running backs (4): Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Marcus Thigpen (KR)
    Released: Steve Slaton
    Reserve/Non-Football Injury: Jonas Gray

    Bush, Thomas and Miller are all locks to make this roster. Up until last week, I assumed Slaton was the favorite for a potential fourth spot, with a lot of that depending on how ready Miller is to have a role on offense.

    From what I've seen, Miller should be just fine as the No. 3 back, making Slaton expendable. That's why I'm predicting they keep CFL signing Thigpen instead. Thigpen showed good hands and moves in last week's preseason game at Carolina and has remained atop the depth chart at kick returner all offseason, so he seems to have a legitimate shot.


    Fullback (1): Jorvorskie Lane
    Released: Jerome Messam

    With the release of Ryan Mahaffey yesterday, the Dolphins' fullback battle is down to two. Lane has been listed as the start since camp began and has been working with the first team all preseason, so he's got the clear edge over Messam, who is more of a halfback hybrid and has lingering knee issues. How much the Dolphins utilize a true fullback remains to be seen, but Lane is the guy for now.


    Wide receivers (6): Legedu Naanee, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess (PR), Marlon Moore, Jeff Fuller, Chris Hogan
    Released: Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, Julius Pruitt, Rishard Matthews, B. J. Cunningham

    This is easily the most difficult position to project. Even with Chad Johnson's release, I think I have the top three set in Naanee, Hartline and Bess. That is of course assuming that Naanee maintains the starting job he's earned with a great camp despite doing nothing in two preseason games, and that Hartline can get back on the field sooner rather than later from his calf injury. Bess is locked in as the slot receiver.

    Projecting the potential fourth, fifth and sixth receivers is an absolute mess. Moore seems to be next on the depth chart right now, while I'm also cutting "Ankle Weights" Wallace. The team just seems to be down on him and I'm not sure he makes it.

    Gates certainly doesn't seem to be a leader for a spot despite his blazing speed, which is unfortunate given the promise we all thought he had as a rookie fourth-rounder in 2011. Pruitt just doesn't have the upside and loses out to Moore and Wallace despite a solid camp.

    Late-round rookie Matthews and Cunningham probably haven't done enough to earn a roster spot and could be vying for one place on the practice squad if Hogan doesn't make the team.


    Tight ends (4): Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Jeron Mastrud, Michael Egnew
    Released: Les Brown

    Third-round rookie Egnew certainly didn't make this easy, and seems to be having about as bad a start as you can have. I was seriously close to projecting him to be cut, which is a rarely in the NFL for a guy drafted so high but does happen on occasion.

    In the end, I kept four tight ends, with Fasano and Clay both having significant roles in the passing game. Mastrud sticks around for blocking and Egnew doesn't dress on game days. Both won't have secure roster spots and will be sweating even after final cuts.


    Offensive tackle (4): Jake Long, Jonathan Martin, Lydon Murtha, Ray Feinga
    Released: Will Yeatman, Andrew McDonald, Will Barker

    Martin appears entrenched at right tackle despite his rough start, while Murtha makes it as a top backup for both sides. I like Feinga's versatility at tackle and guard, so I'm keeping him around.

    Yeatman doesn't seem to be quite there after his conversion to tackle, while Barker doesn't offer any upside and McDonald is probably better suited for the practice squad, where he can work behind Martin on the right side in practice.


    Offensive guard (3): Richie Incognito, Artis Hicks, Nate Garner
    Released: Eric Steinbach, John Jerry, Chandler Burden

    Incognito is entrenched at left guard, but that's about the only thing that's certain at this position. Hicks has been handed the starting right guard job but hasn't had a good preseason and has no real upside. However, I think he keeps the gig and ends up having the versatile Garner behind him.

    My guess with Steinbach is that if he doesn't earn a starting job, the team won't pay the veteran to be a backup. Steinbach has been hurt some during practice and has been working solely behind Incognito at left guard, never once sniffing a competition with Hicks on the right side.

    As for Jerry, he's made things interesting by working with the first team in Hicks' absence at practice the past few days. I'm still inclined to believe he'll ultimately be cut, however, because he just doesn't fit the blocking scheme and offers no versatility as a backup.


    Center (2): Mike Pouncey, Josh Samuda
    Released: Ryan Cook

    Undrafted rookie Samuda has been listed as Pouncey's top backup all preseason and he's made the most of it with some great play on the field. He seems a near lock to make the roster, while Cook and his $1 million salary get the boot.


    Defensive end (5): Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, Jamaal Westerman
    Released: Jacquies Smith, Jarrell Root

    With Wake and Odrick entrenched as starters, the question here is whether the Dolphins keep four ends or five. After seeing how much Vernon struggled against Carolina, I'm inclined to believe they keep five with Westerman, although he could end up being replaced by a waiver claim.

    One guy that's really exciting is the undrafted rookie Shelby, who has had a great preseason and looks promising as a backup. I'd say he's already locked up a roster spot and might even be worth a look ahead of Vernon on defense.


    Defensive tackle (4): Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel, Kheeston Randall
    Released: Ryan Baker, Isaako Aaitui, Chas Alecxih

    Starks and Soliai are having a great preseason and look to be the strong point of the Dolphins' defense in 2012. The depth is the question, as McDaniel and his $3 million salary certainly aren't safe as a rotational player. I love what Randall has done in the preseason so I really don't see him getting cut, and McDaniel stays for now because neither Aaitui nor Baker has stepped up.


    Outside linebackers (4): Kevin Burnett, Koa Misi, Jason Trusnik, Josh Kaddu
    Released: Gary Guyton, Jonathan Freeny, Shelly Lyons

    Trusnik is having a very strong preseason and looks to be entrenched as a backup across the linebacker unit. I also don't see the team parting ways with fifth-rounder Kaddu, who is raw but is certainly worth keeping considering the team's lack of depth.

    The biggest name among the cuts is certainly Guyton, but he won't be worth keeping if he doesn't win a starting job and he's having a poor preseason thus far. Guyton has been tried and failed as a starter in the NFL and the Dolphins will want to stay younger.


    Middle linebackers (2): Karlos Dansby, Austin Spitler
    Released: Cameron Collins, Josh Linam

    Dansby returns as a starter for the third straight year, while special-teamer Spitler backs him up. Spitler is having a very nice preseason and shouldn't be feeling any head from undrafted rookies Collins or Linam.


    Cornerbacks (4): Sean Smith, Richard Marshall, Vontae Davis, Nolan Carroll
    Released: Quinten Lawrence, Jonathan Wade, Vince Agnew, Marcus Brown, Trenton Hughes, Kevyn Scott

    There are still a lot of question marks here. Will Smith be able to translate his strong camp to the regular season? How will Marshall do in his first season in Miami? Will Vontae reclaim his starting job or stay dejected by his demotion?

    Regardless of the answers to those questions, the top three here should be set in some form or another. The question is whether or not the Dolphins keep four or five corners and who else will stick. I'm going with Carroll sort of by default, because I really don't see anyone else here worth keeping. This will remain a fluid situation after final cuts.


    Safeties (5): Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver, Jimmy Wilson, Kelcie McCray
    Released: Anderson Russell, Tyrell Johnson

    While neither is a proven starter, Clemons and Jones are essentially unchallenged for the jobs this year. There is a school of thought that says Culver could be cut to save money, but I see value in keeping him around as the most experienced safety on the team.

    Wilson still has a bit of promise and should stick as a backup safety that can also play corner and special teams. I'm also keeping McCray, who has been out most of camp with a fractured foot but has a lot of promise.


    Special teams (3): Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
    Released: none

    What more is there to say here? Nothing. These guys rock.


    Practice Squad


    The Dolphins will likely get a few of their practice squad players from other teams' cuts, but if I were to make an eight-man practice squad from the Dolphins' cuts above, this is how it would look:
    • QB Pat Devlin — Devlin sticks at the third quarterback but saves the Dolphins a roster spot to use elsewhere but staying on the practice squad.
    • WR Rishard Matthews — An intriguing draft pick, Matthews is worth keeping around for a longer look.
    • WR B. J. Cunningham — Cunningham hasn't really stood out, but I see the Dolphins keeping two receivers on the practice squad and Cunningham is the only option of my receiver cuts. Hogan getting cut could change that.
    • OT Andrew McDonald — McDonald has surprisingly worked himself into the second team and would continue to work behind Jonathan Martin at right tackle in practice.
    • DE Jacquies Smith — Smith is a fairly accomplished undrafted rookie from Mizzou and stays for practice depth.
    • LB Cameron Collins — Collins will work on special teams and behind Dansby and Spitler in the middle of the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme.
    • CB Quinten Lawrence — A converted receiver, Lawrence reportedly did well on the Chiefs' practice squad last year and can continue to tune his craft here.
    • CB Vince Agnew — With only four corners kept on my active roster, Agnew sticks around a second straight season for practice depth.
      One thing to keep in mind is that not every cut is eligible for the practice squad. For example, Clyde Gates and John Jerry have too much NFL experience to be eligible, so they are not options here.


      Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

      Monday, August 20, 2012

      Ryan Tannehill named Dolphins' starting quarterback

      It's amazing how quickly things change.

      In late July, Ryan Tannehill was a rookie first-round quarterback embroiled in contract negotiations. He was a raw prospect out of college that wasn't even present when training camp began. He was destined to sit for a year as two veteran quarterbacks battled it out for the Miami Dolphins' starting "stopgap" job in 2012.

      Three weeks later, David Garrard is out with a knee injury that leaves his future with the team in doubt; Matt Moore has gone from the incumbent starter to the bench after an unimpressive preseason; and the raw first-rounder has been named the Dolphins' starting quarterback to begin his rookie season.

      The news was announced by Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin on Monday, ending the quarterback controversy that many didn't even expect to take place. With the 0-2 Dolphins slated to host the Atlanta Falcons this Friday, it was a necessary announcement as the third preseason game is typically a "dress rehearsal" of sorts for the starters.

      Despite the early predictions by many (myself included) that Tannehill would sit as a rookie, it's certainly no surprise at this point to see the rookie named the starter given the way the preseason has gone and how Garrard has fallen out of the mix.

      Tannehill did little to embarrass himself in two preseason appearances, including one start. He showed a strong arm, good accuracy, athleticism and decision-making despite not getting much help from his supporting cast. On top of that, he has yet to turn the ball over this preseason, which can't be said for the veteran Moore.

      As many of you know, I was a proponent of Tannehill sitting for a year since he was drafted in April. Despite having knowledge of Mike Sherman's offense from their time together at Texas A&M, I felt he lacked sufficient starting experience at the collegiate level (compared to someone like Andrew Luck) and might be better served sitting and learning for a year—especially during a season in which the Dolphins were unlikely to contend for the playoffs and were still missing key pieces.

      After seeing Tannehill play, however, I'm inclined to believe that he won't be ruined by starting a rookie, even if it takes two or three years for him to perform at a very high level compared to other NFL quarterbacks. He's a natural leader with a good grasp of the offense and seems to have no issue commanding the team on the field.

      In all honesty, my biggest concern with Tannehill starting lies not with the quarterback himself, but rather the pieces (or lack thereof) around him. The running game has been nonexistent this preseason and the right side of the offensive line made up of guard Artis Hicks and rookie tackle Jonathan Martin has been a disaster in the early going.

      One criticism I did have for Tannehill in last week's start against Carolina was not always knowing exactly when to move around and step up in the pocket. Combine that with questionable pass protection and things could certainly be rough for the Dolphins' offense early on.

      The Dolphins also lack a true No. 1 receiver and arguably have the worst depth at the position of any team in the league. This is far less of a concern to me than the offensive line is though, as good quarterbacks tend to elevate the play of their receivers over time and Tannehill should be able to rely on his tight ends and pass-catching backs early on.

      It's an exciting time for the Dolphins as the future is starting much sooner than many of us expected. While the Dolphins are sure to have their tough times in 2012 and will probably be battling just to crack .500 in the standings, it is certainly nice to have a reason for optimism looking toward the future and having a quarterback prospect that appears to have all the tools needed to be elite and turn the team back into a winner.


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      Dolphins waive fullback Ryan Mahaffey

      The Miami Dolphins have trimmed their roster a little earlier than the first cut-down, waiving fullback Ryan Mahaffey on Monday.

      Mahaffey's release gives the Dolphins 89 players under contract on their 90-man offseason roster. The team will have to cut down to 75 players by 4 p.m. eastern time on Monday, Aug. 27 and then finally to 53 players by 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. The team's regular season schedule begins Sept. 9 at Houston.

      Undrafted out of Northern Iowa in 2011, Mahaffey attended training camp with the Baltimore Ravens as a rookie and later went on to appear in five games for the Indianapolis Colts last season, catching one pass for five yards.

      The Dolphins signed Mahaffey to a two-year contract on June 12, but he failed to establish himself in training camp and did not make an impact in either of the team's first two preseason games.

      Former Indoor Football League and Texas A&M standout Jorvorskie Lane will continue to work with the first team as he has done all of training camp, giving him the best chance to make the team's roster if they do decide to keep a player at a position that has rapidly fallen out of style in today's NFL.

      CFL All-Star Jerome Messam—a sort of hybrid halback/fullback—continues to work behind Lane and doesn't appear to have a good chance to make the team. Despite his success as a rusher up north, Messam hasn't received a single carry in the preseason yet while catching two passes for eight yards. He's also coming off a knee injury suffered last year and has had multiple surgeries this offseason.

      It will certainly be interesting to see what happens at this position for the Dolphins in the coming weeks. With Charles Clay officially moved to tight end, the Dolphins have seemingly been without a starting talent at fullback for some time but appear to greatly favor Lane, who has sat atop the depth chart all training camp.

      That being said, I'm skeptical that Mike Sherman's former Aggies pupil has what it takes to play in this league, considering he received no NFL interest when he went undrafted in 2009 and was actually relegated to playing in an indoor football league considered lower in talent level than the Arena Football League.

      The fullback position has been a dying breed in the NFL of late, so it remains to be seen if Lane or anyone else at the position will have a substantial role in the Dolphins' offense this season.

      Check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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      Saturday, August 18, 2012

      Dolphins-Panthers Game Observations

      The first start for rookie first-round quarterback Ryan Tannehill was underwhelming, and despite a late comeback attempt, the Miami Dolphins fell to 0-2 in the preseason with a 23-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers last night.

      Here are my observations from the game...


      Offense
      • Ryan Tannehill wasn't nearly as sharp in this one, but he wasn't terrible, either. Playing against the first-team defense for the first half, Tannehill did well to not turn the ball over and made some nice throws. I'll also say that he got ZERO pass protection. Matt Moore wasn't any better against the Panthers' second-team defense. I honestly think Tannehill probably earned the start in Week 3 more than Moore did.
      • The running game failed to get going early on, marking the second straight game the team hasn't established it at all. I'm far more inclined to blame the offensive line than the team's running backs, however.
      • CFL signing Marcus Thipgen, making his preseason debut, was pretty solid as a receiver out of the backfield despite two late drops. He was so impressive than I'm starting to wonder if he's worth keeping as a fourth running back/kickoff returner over Steve Slaton.
      • I wasn't all that impressed with Jorvorskie Lane's blocking in this one, either. The Dolphins don't have a true starting fullback talent on the roster, but Lane appears to have the job by default. I'm skeptical he'll maintain that far into the future, though.
      • None of the early receivers really impressed, though that was due in part to the sputtering offense and pass protection. I think it's interesting that anointed started Legedu Naanee has now essentially been invisible for two preseason games despite what was supposedly a strong camp. Also disappointing to see Roberto Wallace fail to step up after a pretty good preseason opener.
      • The receivers playing later—Rishard Matthews, Jeff Fuller, Chris Hogan—all had some nice plays. Hogan had a drop but otherwise caught the ball well and had a great broken tackle on one play. He also made a play on special teams, making a great tackle on a kickoff. I'm not sure he's all that worthy of a roster spot, but I wonder if his feature on Hard Knocks will make him harder to slip to the practice squad.
      • Michael Egnew caught one ball but also had another drop. He's certainly not doing much to convince the team he should be on the roster, even though third-round picks are rarely cut.
      • Plain and simple: Artis Hicks and Jonathan Martin are a disaster at right tackle. Neither one can run block and Martin is a huge liability in pass protection right now. Lydon Murtha wasn't any better on the left side, so it's not like he's a much better option than Martin. I don't forsee any changes coming this year, so it's probably going to be a rough time for the quarterback and running game.
      • John Jerry saw some action earlier in the game, but he didn't impress. Seeing a 360-pound offensive lineman get pushed completely on his back is just sad. On the other side of the coin, undrafted rookie Josh Samuda can certainly hold his own at center and looks totally worthy of a roster spot.

      Defense
      • There wasn't much good about the first-team defense, but Paul Soliai and Randy Starks were reliable as always. Along with Jared Odrick, this area appears to be one of the team's few strengths. I also liked what I saw of Kheeston Randall and Ryan Baker, which could make the injured Tony McDaniel and his $3 million salary expendable.
      • Rookie Olivier Vernon was a disaster in his first start, failing to play the run well, generating no pass rush and committing an offsides penalty. Undrafted rookie Derrick Shelby, on the other hand, continues to show he belongs with another great game. Jamaal Westerman also had a nice lick on the quarterback and might have a better shot to make the team considering how bad Vernon was.
      • Jason Trusnik and Gary Guyton struggled in their starts, proving the Dolphins have very little depth at linebacker if Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett get injured. Guyton, I think, is playing him off the roster. Rookie fifth-rounder Josh Kaddu had an up-and-down game, but with this team's depth, I'd certainly keep him on the roster to develop.
      • Vontae Davis made a few good plays, but getting into fights with Steve Smith on a number of occasions and drawing a 15-yard penalty won't endear him any more to the staff. Sean Smith struggled as well, although he made a great play on an interception that was called back on an iffy pass interference penalty. In general, the pass coverage wasn't great for the Dolphins, but having no pass rush can put unfair pressure on them.
      • The safeties were typically late getting to the ball and are far from a settled spot, although Chris Clemons did have a nice forced fumble and recovery on Mike Tolbert. Tyrell Johnson played the run well, but I don't think he's earned a spot.

      Special Teams
      • Dan Carpenter nailed a 52-yarder on his only field-goal attempt and Brandon Fields is a machine as a punter. Absolutely nothing to worry about in this department.
      • Marcus Thigpen averaged 30 yards on three kickoff returns and could end up keeping the job if he proves to have enough upside on offense to supplant Steve Slaton on the bottom of the depth chart.

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