As the Dolphins lurch through the monotony of training camp, you will not find many genuine battles for starting jobs. That’s limited mostly to defensive tackle, possibly right guard and perhaps running back.
But what you will find is compelling competition toward the bottom of the roster. Assessing the races by position, heading into Saturday’s second preseason game at Tampa:
But Matthews still must hold off Armon Binns, who has fallen off after a strong start to camp, and Damian Williams, who has flashed talent throughout camp but didn’t have a catch in the preseason opener. The Dolphins could keep six, which is even more realistic if they retain only two quarterbacks.
Then there’s the issue of what to do with Marcus Thigpen, who’s listed as a receiver (he plays the slot) but also can play running back. Thigpen would be expendable if Landry wins the punt and kickoff return jobs. Landry made a case for that with a 48-yard punt return against Atlanta.
Thomas has averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in his first three seasons, and his performance in camp had been pedestrian before being sidelined by a hamstring injury the past 10 days. Gillislee also remains out with a sore hamstring.
The Dolphins overlooked Thomas’ uninspiring work in recent years because they liked his potential as well as the notion of having a big back. But Thomas, the Dolphins’ tallest and heaviest back at 6-1 and 235, doesn’t always play like one. Philbin likes Gillislee, and his pass-blocking has been solid, but there remain too many carries for marginal gains.
If Mike Pouncey begins the season on the physically unable to perform list — which is no sure thing because it would sideline him the first six games — then he would not count against the 53-man roster. Under that scenario, if the Dolphins keep nine, that would include the current starters, plus Shelley Smith, Billy Turner, Garner and either Fox, Sam Brenner, David Arkin or someone claimed off waivers.
If Francis isn’t healthy enough to start the season on the 53-man roster, then Miami figures to keep two from among promising prospect Anthony Johnson, Kemal Johnson, Garrison Smith and Isaako Aaitui or players who will be cut from other teams.
If the Dolphins keep nine defensive backs, that would leave two spots from among safeties Don Jones (recently dropped from second to third team), Michael Thomas and Jordan Kovacs and cornerback Jalil Brown, who was impressive during the offseason program.