AFC East Reporter
The Miami Dolphins are a deeply talented team, with the talent to make a Super Bowl run.
They are transitioning to a new system defensively, so while it might be easier to project who they keep or cut on offense, we might be due for some surprises on the other side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is running the unit, and he has a new vision for the players.
Coach Mike McDaniel and GM Chris Grier have been together for more than a year, so perhaps they have a better sense of shared sensibilities about personnel. Perhaps that’ll make for an even more cohesive product in Week 1.
Here’s who we think they’ll have on the team when they cut down to 53 on Aug. 29.
I’m not bumping Thompson off the roster for one bad preseason performance. Maybe he had a pair of interceptions against the Falcons last week, but Miami likes him as a developmental prospect. Given Tagovailoa’s health concerns and former Jet White’s newness to the system, Thompson makes sense for this roster. Now, if he continues to stink all preseason long, then maybe he will be in danger.
Running Backs (4)
Jeff Wilson Jr.
FB Alec Ingold
The Dolphins would have benefited from adding Dalvin Cook to this group — probably more than the team that actually landed him in the Jets. Alas, Miami has what is has: speedsters in Mostert and rookie Achane along with a bigger back in Wilson.
Both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed can make this roster. At most, the Dolphins will keep five RBs total. For now, however, I’m going to prioritize the other skill positions, because 1) Miami boasts three starting-caliber tailbacks and 2) McDaniel really likes the passing game.
If the Dolphins feel equally confident in Gaskin and Ahmed, they can probably risk losing one through waivers. But given the running back depth league-wide, the Dolphins can probably put both players on the practice squad.
Cut: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Chris Brooks
Wide Receivers (6)
Cedrick Wilson Jr.
A team should be so lucky to have this group of wideouts. It’s a dangerous bunch, from top to bottom. Even Ezukanma is doing his preseason thing, where he develops all the hype. That preseason performance is one of the many reasons why I’m taking him over River Cracraft, a player the Dolphins like but … just don’t have space for. Cracraft is the toughest cut in this group. The other wideouts don’t seem to be pushing for a roster spot.
Cut: River Cracraft, Braylon Sanders, Keke Coutee, Chris Coleman, Daewood Davis
[Related: NFL all-hype team: Which players have stood out in training camps, preseason?]
Tua Tagovailoa: Dolphins are “legit contenders” in the AFC
Tight Ends (4)
This team carried five tight ends last year. I’m willing to bet that was partially because Mike Gesicki wasn’t the best fit for this offense. So the Dolphins felt like they were almost keeping an extra receiver — just at the tight end spot. Let’s go with four tight ends this year.
Smythe will lead the unit. Saubert will be a blocker and special teams player. And then it’s an interesting battle between Higgins, Kroft and rookie Julian Hill. Given that Hill is more of a blocker and Saubert is on the roster, the Dolphins will try to stash the youngster on the practice squad, where he’ll develop his tools as a pass-catcher.
Cut: Julian Hill, Tanner Cooner
Offensive Linemen (9)
The Dolphins will carry one more OL at the start of this season than they did at the start of last season — and that’s a testament to the shaky play and the injuries at the position.
One player who seems to be in the hunt: former Raiders guard Lester Cotton. He could bump someone like Robert Jones off the roster.
Cut: Lester Cotton, Geron Christian, Cedric Ogbuehi, Kion Smith, Ryan Hayes, James Tunstall, Alama Uluave
Interior Defensive Linemen (4)
Pili went undrafted out of USC but has impressed in camp. It wasn’t pretty in the preseason opener, admittedly — he graded as the third-worst defender, per PFF. So if he can’t show up on game day, then he won’t stick around. But for now, he has impressed enough at practice to hold onto a roster spot in the interior. He’ll have to fend off Jaylen Twyman, a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Cut: Josiah Bronson, Da’Shawn Hand, Jaylen Twyman, Randy Charlton
Chargers, 49ers, Dolphins highlight preseason Herd Hierarchy
Andrew Van Ginkel
This is a fun group, isn’t it? Ogbah, Phillips, Chubb and Van Ginkel return for another year — this time in a new system they all seem to love. That said, it’s actually a familiar defense for Chubb, who has played for Fangio before. Those top four are locks.
Reed, meanwhile, is on the bubble. He finished his first preseason outing with two pressures (including a QB hit) and two tackles. Perhaps he can keep pushing that bid for a roster spot.
Cut: Cameron Goode, Garrett Nelson, Mitchell Agude, Randy Charlton
David Long Jr.
The inside linebacker spot doesn’t feel very complicated. All four players seem like locks, and it doesn’t seem like the roster is constructed to accommodate a fifth.
Cut: Aubrey Miller, Mike Rose
Speaking of talented units, this cornerback room is impressive. Ramsey just had surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee and could miss four months. If not for that, this would probably be the best CB unit in the NFL. It helps that Cam Smith has been a stud at training camp. Eli Apple, one of Miami’s under-the-radar offseason signings, has played well, too. Even Igbinoghene seems to be improving. Maybe the former first-round pick will never be a starting-caliber cornerback, but he does seem to be a good depth option. The return of Ramsey and Nik Needham, the top slot corner who’s rehabbing an Achilles tendon tear, will be welcome.
Reserve/PUP: Nik Needham
Cut: Tino Ellis, Ethan Bonner, Keion Crossen, Jamal Perry, Parry Nickerson
[Related: Why every Dolphins player is feeling new DC Vic Fangio’s impact]
Holland is looking to make the Pro Bowl after landing on the All-Rookie Team in 2021. He certainly has the talent to be one of the best players at this position. Jones will start alongside Holland. Elliott is a solid depth option. Bethel makes the roster for his special teams role.
But then there’s Williams, who is fighting with Elijah Campbell for a roster spot.
Cut: Elijah Campbell, Bryce Thompson Keidron Smith, Myles Dorn, Verone McKinley III
Kicker Jason Sanders
Punter Jake Bailey
LS Blake Ferguson
The team did not bring in competition for any of these players. They’re good to go.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.
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