Will Davis thinks he has done enough to make the team.
And certainly, he hopes that’s the case.
But he can’t say for sure. None of the 10 or so Miami Dolphins players truly on the bubble can. NFL teams must slice their rosters from 75 players to 53 by Saturday afternoon.
And waiting, as they say, is the hardest part.
“You never know what’s going to happen, so you might as well ball out with that last little touch if there are any questions in the air,” Davis said Tuesday. “They don’t come down here [from the front office] and tell us what they’re thinking. It would be way easier for peace of mind.”
There might be a reason the Dolphins have been so tight-lipped about their plans: They have contacted other teams to gauge their interest in trading for Davis. It is unclear what the Dolphins would accept as compensation or if they would definitely cut him if they can’t find a trade partner.
With that background noise comes Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Davis, the third-year corner, is expected to play a lot. Maybe even start.
A third-round pick in 2013, Davis hasn’t been at his best this preseason. He has allowed two-thirds of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed and hasn’t come close to cracking the starting lineup.
Then again, perspective is in order. Ten months ago, his knee was a shredded mess.
And two weeks ago, it still would balloon after a particularly intense practice. He has had the knee drained several times since the start of training camp July 30.
“The first couple weeks, it was swelling up pretty good,” said Davis, who tore his ACL in November. “We pushed it going into the last game, and it’s been good so far. No signs yet of it swelling up again. The last time I drained it was before the second [preseason] game. It’s been good so far.”
He added: “I’m not trying to stick needles in my knee every game.”
You never know what’s going to happen. They don’t come down here [from the front office] and tell us what they’re thinking.”
Dolphins cornerback Will Davis, who is on the bubble of making the final roster
So yes, the knee has made marked improvement. But no, he’s not 100 percent. He still doesn’t have the explosive spring in his step when he closes on a receiver. And he might not for some time.
The Dolphins know this. So when they finalize the roster — and to be clear, all but a handful of spots have long been decided — they will grade his performance on a curve.
Joe Philbin, about to begin his make-or-break fourth season in Miami, said the team will consider both Davis’ play so far and their projection of his play a month from now when ultimately deciding his fate.
“Obviously, he is coming off an injury and we’ve seen development over the last five weeks and so we think there will be some more development there from a physical standpoint,” Philbin said. “Then obviously the performance, you’ve got to weigh all those things when you make a decision.”
To translate Philbin: In the short term, they might need to carry a player who is admittedly operating at just 90 percent of his ability.
There’s no magic formula to picking a roster. Most teams keep at least three tight ends. Some even keep three quarterbacks.
The Dolphins might not do either. But they will almost certainly carry at least nine offensive linemen, particularly with the health concerns surrounding Branden Albert and Jason Fox.
Jacques McClendon, a journeyman guard who has faded since getting work with the starters early in training camp, knows the math. His best hope of sticking is to be Lineman No. 9.
“I’ve done enough to put myself in contention,” McClendon said. “That’s all you can ask for. I’ve gotten opportunity, and opportunity is all you can ask for in this league. Nothing’s promised, nothing’s given. I knew coming here that I’d have to fight and scratch and claw. I survived one cut. Let’s see if I can survive another.”
Davis’ best hope of surviving another cut (assuming he’s not traded) is if the Dolphins go with an unbalanced roster.
Philbin said he would “absolutely” be OK with carrying 27 defensive players (and just 23 on offense, plus kicker, punter and long snapper) “if those are the 53 best guys and that’s the way it unfolds. I would have no problem with that.”
Davis could be that 53rd player if the Dolphins keep seven corners. The opportunity is there. He just needs to earn the roster spot Thursday — even if he already believes he has done enough to lock down the job.
“I think going into it, everybody should,” Davis said. “You shouldn’t go in cautious. Play your game, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Does Davis think he’s on the team?
“Definitely in my mind, yeah.”
Check back Saturday — if not sooner.
Miami Herald sports writer Armando Salguero contributed to this report.