The Miami Dolphins have multiple open roster spots that will be decided after Thursday’s preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons but some jobs already have been secured barring trouble in the final tuneup game.
The Dolphins held a kicker competition all offseason and through the preseason between draft pick Jason Sanders and undrafted free agent Greg Joseph and the job has been won by Sanders, according to a source. The only way Sanders doesn’t keep his roster spot is if he struggles in the preseason finale.
Sanders this preseason has connected on all five of his kicks from 49 yards and in. He missed a 53-yarder in the preseason opener. The Dolphins like Joseph, who is 2-for-2 this preseason, with makes from 48 and 54 yards. But Sanders is apparently the guy barring a significant change.
The Dolphins must cut down to the NFL mandated 53-man roster limit by Saturday at 4 p.m. The team will actually begin making those cuts starting Friday, per a source.
And coach Adam Gase, who has contractual control of the roster, along with general manager Chris Grier, executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum and input from the coaching staff will have some interesting decisions to make.
The quarterback room is interesting. The Dolphins have kept two quarterbacks coming out of camp both years under Gase.
But earlier this week the club seemed torn about what to do beyond starter Ryan Tannehill. A majority of the staff was lobbying for Brock Osweiler to win the backup job but David Fales has the backing of some very influential offensive coaches.
Although it would seem a stretch, Gase was actually considering keeping both Osweiler and Fales earlier this week, according to a source. Both players need to perform well in the final preseason game to state a case for staying in Miami.
The logic behind keeping both?
The quarterback position is one of the toughest in which to develop a player.
Fourth-string quarterback Bryce Petty will be cut and is not eligible for the practice squad.
The running back room is interesting in that Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore are on the team and neither is likely to play against Atlanta. Rookie Kalen Ballage has a roster spot saved for him as well because the team likes his potential.
The Dolphins may likely keep another running back and that currently projects to be veteran Senorise Perry. Perry must perform against Atlanta, especially on special teams where he is considered a starter on multiple units.
The tight end position poses an interesting situation. The Dolphins have traditionally kept three tight ends but might be tempted to keep four this year.
Rookies Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe are going to make the team based on potential. Gesicki is actually expected to get extensive playing time and be a starter in certain packages. The club is also expected to keep MarQueis Gray because he has been the third tight end and starts on multiple special teams.
The interesting issue is whether the team keeps a fourth tight end. If that’s the case then A.J. Derby makes it because he is perhaps the most complete combination of blocking and pass-catching tight end on the roster.
Both Gray and Derby have to perform against Atlanta to nail down their spots. A bad game by either could affect their status.
Thomas Duarte, a seventh-round pick in 2016, is not going to make the team but he is practice squad eligible again. He’s been on the practice squad the past couple of years and actually spent time on the 53-man roster late last season.
Gavin Escobar, a five-year NFL veteran, is not expected to make the team barring a series of unexpected circumstances.
The wide receiver room is intriguing only if one considers that there is perhaps one job available. DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant are expected to be on the team although both Parker and Grant have been dealing with injuries -- Parker a broken finger and Grant a concussion.
Although both injured receivers are expected to be ready for the regular-season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 9, there is a decision to be made whether the team keeps a sixth receiver or goes with only five.
The Dolphins were unhappy with the play of the backup offensive line in a blowout loss to Baltimore last Saturday. That’s why it is truly undecided what happens with some of the second-team offensive linemen.
The starting line of Ja’Wuan James, Jesse Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Josh Sitton and Laremy Tunsil is set. Sam Young is expected to be on the team based on his ability to play both left and right tackle in a pinch.
Jake Brendel, who only practiced one day in training camp and the preseason while nursing a calf injury, isn’t going to play against Atlanta either. But it is possible he makes the team despite, you know, not actually earning it this summer.
The defense is interesting.
The Dolphins have a glut of defensive tackles with Davon Godchaux, Akeem Spence, Vincent Taylor and Jordan Phillips. Kendall Langford, drafted by the Dolphins in 2008 and re-signed two weeks ago when William Hayes was injured, has acquitted himself well at age 32.
But as one source put it, “It’s going to be tough,” for Langford to make the team.
Langford would have to have a monster game at Atlanta to be in the conversation.
The fact Hayes, who has missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, began working on the side with trainers Tuesday was good news for the team. But not good news for Langford, because Hayes can play defensive tackle as well as defensive end.
Barring a big trade or injury, Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, Charles Harris, and Andre Branch are all on the team along with Hayes.
The linebacker spot will include Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan, and Jerome Baker as starters with Chase Allen on the team as a backup and special teams contributor. Stephone Anthony and veteran Terence Garvin are also special teams contributors but must play well against Atlanta to solidify roster spots.
Mike Hull might be headed to some sort of injured reserve. And rookie draft pick Quentin Poling’s status seems uncertain.
The secondary is straight forward: Bobby McCain, Reshad Jones, Xavien Howard, T.J. McDonald and Minkah Fitzpatrick are all considered starters. Walt Aikens is on course to make the team as a special teams player.
Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley is expected to make the team but coaches want him to play well Thursday to feel good about him. Same with cornerback Torry McTyer.
The unknown variable is cornerback Tony Lippett, who was a starter in 2016 but hasn’t regained his old form after an Achilles’ tendon injury last year. Lippett is going to get a lot of playing time against Atlanta, according to head coach Adam Gase.
The Dolphins both need and want Lippett to play well so he can be on the team.
The Dolphins have been hoping to find cornerback help from another team but know good cornerbacks don’t typically get cut. Even when teams trim to 53 by Saturday.
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