Mike Pouncey was one of former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland’s best draft picks. Daniel Thomas was one of his worst.
Accordingly, Thomas is now gone. And Pouncey is back — at least on the active roster.
The Dolphins removed Pouncey from the physically unable to perform list Saturday, indicating they expect him on the field some time in the next six weeks.
He had offseason surgery to repair an injured hip, and some thought he might miss the first two months. Instead, it appears he will miss substantially less time. That’s good news for a team with lingering questions about a revamped offensive line.
There’s no ambiguity about Dennis Hickey’s thoughts on Thomas, however. The current general manager moved on from the team’s second-round draft pick in 2011. Thomas was beaten out by not one, but two undrafted rookies in running backs Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa, who both made the team.
That decision closed the book on a Dolphins career of unfulfilled promise. Ireland, fired this offseason, moved up 17 spots to take Thomas in 2011. Coveted for his size, Thomas never became a bruiser. His final rushing numbers in three years for Miami: 1,312 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, eight touchdowns.
A hamstring injury kept Thomas out of the first three preseason games, and Williams clearly outplayed him even when he was healthy. Thomas’ best hope was that the Dolphins would keep four running backs — and they did.
But in perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, Miami kept Darkwa, the Tulane talent who led the Dolphins with 112 rushing yards this preseason. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
Should they survive the roster churning that will occur in the next few days, Williams and Darkwa would join Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller in the team’s backfield.
The Dolphins went heavy with skill-position players, keeping six receivers: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams. The odd man out was Marcus Thigpen, the team’s kick returner in each of the past two season. Landry and Williams are expected to handle those duties, assuming the team does not claim someone waived in the past two days.
At tight end, Gator Hoskins made the initial 53, but he’s not yet in the clear. The Dolphins have worked out a few players who might vie for his job, including undrafted Central Arkansas rookie Chase Dix and Jacob Maxwell, a rookie free agent from Louisiana-Lafayette.
As for the offensive line, Jason Fox was one of 10 blockers who made the cut, including Pouncey. Guards Sam Brenner and David Arkin, most notably, did not.
There were no major shockers on defense, mainly because there were so few battles. Cornerback Kevin Fogg was as close to a surprise cut as there was, considering the team’s numbers at that position. The Dolphins have just four pure corners, although Jimmy Wilson, Michael Thomas and Don Jones are versatile.
On the injury front, defensive lineman Kamal Johnson (meniscus) was placed on injured reserve, making official what most assumed: Anthony Johnson is on the 53-man roster.
Johnson is a talented defensive tackle out of LSU, but went undrafted after red flags were raised in the spring. He will join Earl Mitchell, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks in the trenches.
“Thankful to be a part of the 53[-]man roster for the @MiamiDolphins,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will continue to work hard and remain humble to help this team.”
Johnson was one of five undrafted rookies to make the Dolphins. The others were the two running backs, Hoskins and linebacker Chris McCain.
The Dolphins needed to cut just 19 players to get down to their 53-man limit because of Kamal Johnson’s injury and both Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones are suspended, and not on the active roster.
Other defensive players cut Saturday: defensive linemen Isaako Aaitui, Tevin Mims, D’Aundre Reed and Garrison Smith; linebacker Andrew Wilson; and safety Jordan Kovacs.
On offense, the Dolphins parted ways with quarterback Seth Lobato; receivers Kevin Cone and Matt Hazel; tight ends Kyle Miller and Evan Wilson; and guards Evan Finkenburg and Tony Hills.
Smith, Lobato, Hazel and Aaitui are among those with a chance to return as practice-squad players.
The Dolphins also waived kicker Jake Rogers, meaning the job still belongs to Caleb Sturgis — assuming they don’t sign a veteran to replace him. Sturgis missed much of the preseason with a groin injury, and wasn’t great as a rookie.
A look at the Dolphins’ 53-man roster after the last round of cuts Saturday:
Quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore; running backs Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller, Damien Williams, Orleans Darkwa; wide receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams; tight ends Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Gator Hoskins: offensive linemen Branden Albert, Daryn Colledge, Mike Pouncey, Shelley Smith, Ja'Wuan James, Samson Satele, Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jason Fox, Nate Garner.
Defensive linemen Cameron Wake, Earl Mitchell, Jared Odrick, Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, Anthony Johnson, Terrence Fede; linebackers Koa Misi, Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Jason Trusnik, Jelani Jenkins, Chris McCain, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Tripp; defensive backs Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Louis Delmas, Jimmy Wilson, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Don Jones, Walt Aikens, Michael Thomas.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis; punter Brandon Fields; long snapper John Denney.