Dolphins running pack Kalen Ballage exercises patience
The Miami Dolphins have released their first depth chart of the 2019 preseason Monday and, if he’s like many other NFL coaches, Brian Flores will put a fair amount of distance between that ranking of his roster and what the team’s roster will look when it’s ready for the regular season.
But since it’s all we have, I think it would be good to expect this depth chart to offer insight into where players find themselves after two weeks of training camp. And this is where some of those landed and what it means:
Players with arrows up:
Safety Chris Lammons. The Dolphins have more safeties than any team is likely to keep, and several of those are either starters or been starters in the past — such as Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Bobby McCain. But Lammons has coverage skills that also allow him to play cornerback, which he has been doing on third team. He is being given a chance to make a mark on special teams starting with Thursday’s preseason opener against Atlanta at Hard Rock Stadium.
Cornerback Jomal Wiltz. He’s a reserve cornerback and is listed as second team. He has had moments in the offseason camp and OTAs. He hasn’t really gotten any work with starters on defense, but again, he’s getting a long look on special teams.
Linebacker Sam Eguavoen. He’s a former CFL player who is currently beating out Raekwon McMillan for the starting middle or inside linebacker role. The depth chart has Eguavoen as a second teamer but practices have shown a different picture as he has worked mostly with starters. It’s not that Eguavoen is a better tackler or knows the defense better, but his work in coverage has been superior to McMillan’s. McMillan, who is listed as a starter on the depth chart, has been slowed at times by injuries early in camp so he has work to do to overtake one of the more pleasant surprises of camp.
Wide receiver Preston Williams. Interesting guy because he has all the measurable traits of an NFL wide receiver. He’s huge (6-5 and 218 pounds) and runs a 4.53 in the 40. He has good hands. He’s physical. His only on-field problem is he is raw and needs to earn the confidence of the organization. If he earns that confidence and continues to perform in the preseason, it’s hard to see the Dolphins not keeping him on the roster because his ceiling, youth and salary are a huge allure. Williams is already second team, although the depth chart says he’s third team.
Who you gonna believe? The depth chart or me?
Linebacker Tre’ Watson. Another undrafted player, Watson remains a long shot to make the team. He is not a freak athlete. He runs in the 4.7s. But coaches love his heart and passion and preparation. He’s going to get a chance on special teams in the preseason as well as playing with backups where he’s currently listed as a second teamer.
Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel. The team’s fifth-round draft pick is working with the second unit. He has gotten a little run with the starters on occasion. Don’t be surprised if you hear more from him as the team works to juice up its pass rush.
Tight end Nick O’Leary. I have loved this kid since watching him at Florida State. He’s in many ways unremarkable in that he is not fast or big or overly physical. But he’s in many ways consistent and simply makes plays. The Dolphins list “O’Leary or Mike Gesicki or Durham Smythe as the starter on the depth chart. I would love to insert a quote from O’Leary on how he’s doing here, but he hates to speak with reporters. Hates it.
O’Leary has been the most consistent tight end in camp the past two weeks.
What do you think of that, Nick?
Oh, well, never mind.
Cornerback Nik Needham. The rookie out of UTEP is running second team. Occasionally he gets to step in with the starters. He had an interception last week.
Defensive end Jonathan Woodard. He was on the team as a backup last year and he’s growing as a player. So much so that he often runs with the starters, although he’s listed as a backup behind Tank Carradine. The preseason is going to be a big deal for this young man, but so far, so good.
Players with arrows down:
We know the Dolphins had a shift along the offensive line last week. It was seismic as coach Pat Flaherty was dismissed and multiple players who went one direction under Flaherty ended up going another when new coach Dave DeGuglielmo took over.
Jesse Davis went from right guard to right tackle, although he continues to be listed as a guard in the depth chart. The move is not exactly going to shape Davis because he’s going to make the 2019 Miami Dolphins as a guard or tackle.
But the move did have a significant impact on Jordan Mills, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal in May to ostensibly replace Ja’Wuan James as the starting right tackle. Mills, inconsistent throughout his career, has been — surprise! — inconsistent with the Dolphins.
He is listed as the starter at right tackle, but that obviously is not concrete.
The way this is going to be decided is if Davis at RT and someone else at RG — such as Shaq Calhoun, Chris Reed or a player not currently on the team — is better than Mills at RT and Davis at RG.
And let me say this now: The interior of the Miami offensive line is a concern. Calhoun is getting a lot of publicity because he’s an undrafted rookie suddenly playing on the starting unit. And the team has high expectations for rookie left guard Michael Deiter. But both are very, very inexperienced. I saw multiple A-gap blitzes go unblocked in the scrimmage.
(By the way, DeGuglielmo has to address those blitzes because it seemed as if his line hadn’t seen it before. And center Daniel Kilgore has to communicate so well that those young guys are certain what to do. They were not certain during the scrimmage).
For the record, I would not include Deiter or Calhoun in either the arrow down or arrow up category. It’s great they both are running with the first unit. But both need to get much, much better. Neither is really a starting-caliber NFL guard right now.
Maybe in five weeks. But not yet.
Wide receiver Brice Butler. It’s nothing Butler has really done, but the fact is the Dolphins have a bigger, stronger, younger, cheaper version of him coming up in Williams. And so if Williams continues on his current trajectory, Butler is going to be battling numbers to make the roster.
Tight end Dwayne Allen. It’s hard to make the team when you’re not healthy. And after being on the Physically Unable to Perform list earlier, he’s on the field now. But he’s still not really healthy. And he is listed fifth among the team’s six tight ends.
Left tackle Isaiah Prince. This rookie sixth-round pick is a project. He might very well make the team or land on the practice squad. But he’s third team now and it’s not often impressive. Give him 12 months and check back.
Linebacker McMillan. He was the starter last season and finished with a flurry. But he’s currently losing a position battle with a free agent from the CFL. That’s not an awesome look for a 2017 second-round pick. He needs to get healthy, stay healthy and step it up.