The Dolphins will do to their roster what they have done every year at this point — reduce, reuse and recycle players dropped from other teams, a mostly below-water churning that keeps the league office busy.
Miami did its part again Sunday, parting ways with safety Don Jones and receiver Damian Williams to make room for a couple of defensive backs: Brandian Ross (a starter last year for the Raiders) and Sammy Seamster (cut recently by the Ravens).
Truth is, though, that the fate of this team has — and will continue to rest — in the hands of about 30 players who will see the most meaningful action. And beginning Sunday against the Patriots, we will truly learn if those three-dozen players are good enough to get the Dolphins over the playoff hump.
“We’re excited about the season opener,” Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey told reporters Sunday. “Being at home, being in front of our home crowd, [we’re] really excited.”
“It’s a divisional rival. We’re really going to get a test there.”
Hickey, like presumably every other NFL general manager, outwardly exudes excitement and optimism. He has done the No. 1 task demanded of him upon his hiring. He rebuilt an offensive line stained by both a bullying scandal and a team record 58 sacks. Hickey has assembled the most talented roster Joe Philbin has had as coach.
Or to paraphrase Bill Parcells, the groceries have been bought. Now it’s time for Philbin to cook a feast.
“What makes me confident about this team is the guys in that locker room,” Hickey said. “Having the chance the last seven months, my initial reaction was positive, and it’s just been confirmed on every point. These guys are committed to winning, they’re passionate, and they’ve paid the price. They’re excited to take the field at home and go to work.”
He built a roster that eliminated much of Jeff Ireland’s dead weight, and despite an urgency to win now, has gone young. The Dolphins, as of late Sunday, had 12 rookies on their 53-man roster, half of whom weren’t even drafted.
Instead of spending all the way to the salary cap, the Dolphins might sit on most of their remaining $11 million or so in space and roll it over to 2015, when many of their veterans’ contracts balloon. Hickey said likes the “flexibility” that such a cushion provides.
“Our philosophy is, once you get here, whether you are an unrestricted free agent or whether you’ve already been on the roster, whether you are a draft pick or whether you are an undrafted player, we are going to judge you based on merit and what you do here,” he said. “Once they are here, we have competitive environments and you just compete, and that’s how we come to our decisions.”
This and that• Hickey wouldn’t speculate on when Mike Pouncey will return from offseason hip surgery, but did say: “Mike is doing great in his recovery, and we’ll just continue to monitor that as that progresses.”
The Dolphins decided against putting Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list, indicating that they expect him back some time in the next six weeks. Until he returns, Samson Satele will start. Hickey indicated Nate Garner will back up Satele.• The Dolphins run a 4-3 defense but kept eight linebackers. Why? “Obviously, linebackers play a big role in our special teams,” Hickey said. “Even with some of our moves, providing depth in special teams, guys that can help us on fourth down is a key part of that.”
• For the first time as a coach, Philbin will go into the season with just two quarterbacks. Hickey said he’s comfortable with the depth there, but added the situation is “fluid,” suggesting an openness to sign another.
• Caleb Sturgis, at least for now, is their plan at kicker. The Dolphins chose to go with the second-year specialist over available veterans. The reasoning, according to Hickey: “Body of work, but obviously we have confidence in him. He had the groin issue that caused him not to have the full amount of kicks, but we have confidence in him and look forward to him going forward.”
• Defensive end Terrence Fede made a bit of history, becoming the first Marist player to make an NFL team. “The traits that we saw out of Terrence, whether it be from initial quickness to power to motor to production, all of those things,” Hickey explained. “What we saw was a guy that we felt had the traits to translate to the next level.”
• Hickey’s thoughts on tight end Gator Hoskins: “Again, with the body of work, we felt like he had versatility. He’s got really good hands. We liked him coming out of college. So he did a lot of the things that we liked, and we’re excited to watch him continue to grow.”
• Quarterback Seth Lobato, who went through camp with the Dolphins, and former University of Miami receiver Tommy Streeter were among the players added to the team’s practice squad Sunday.