Barry Jackson

Dolphins roster battles taking shape

Miami Dolphins CB Jordan Lucas (21) and DB Larry Hope (33), hold CB Maurice Smith (2) in a drill during training camp at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fl, August 3, 2017.
Miami Dolphins CB Jordan Lucas (21) and DB Larry Hope (33), hold CB Maurice Smith (2) in a drill during training camp at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fl, August 3, 2017.

A quick look at percolating Dolphins roster battles, with teams required to cut from 90 players to 53 by Saturday afternoon:

Backup defensive back positions: On the team: the four starters, third-round rookie Cordrea Tankersley, Michael Thomas (special teams ace and No. 3 safety until T.J. McDonald’s eight-game suspension ends) and cornerback Alterraun Verner (who could still overtake starter Byron Maxwell).

McDonald doesn’t count against the 53 until his suspenion ends.

That’s seven, leaving two or three spots among Walt Aikens (proven special teams player who had a back problem earlier in camp and has never been a factor on defense); undrafted rookies Torry McTyer (flashed early, less so recently) and Maurice Smith (can play safety or corner and has spent some time with the second team) plus three unproven second-year players who weren’t anything special this month: Jordan Lucas, A.J. Hendy and Lafayette Pitts (who particularly struggled Thursday).

The Dolphins privately have spoken highly of Smith, who has a very good chance to make the 53. And Aikens’ special teams acumen raises his value.

Backup defensive linemen: If sixth-rounder Vincent Taylor sticks on the 53 (and that appears likely), that leaves eight defensive linemen with secure jobs and one or two jobs to fill among Terrence Fede (had a strong preseason), journeymen Nick Williams and Julius Warmsley and promising undrafted rookies Praise Martin-Oguike and Cameron Malveaux.

One source said Fede’s production, combined with his special teams value, makes him a clear front-runner for one opening. Martin-Oguike and/or Malveaux could both be stashed on the practice squad.

Punter: Arizona State rookie Matt Haack has outperformed Matt Darr, is $150,000 cheaper and more importantly, keeping him would eliminate the need for Miami to spend to re-sign Darr next spring, when Dolphins cap space will be limited and Haack would cost only $550,000. Haack has emerged as the favorite.

Backup offensive linemen: Four starters are set, plus likely both the winner and loser of the Jesse Davis/Anthony Steen starting guard battle, with Steen able to play backup center and Davis worth developing. That’s six.

That would leave three jobs among Sam Young (inconsistent but the only veteran backup tackle option on the roster), undrafted Virginia rookie Eric Smith (has impressed team brass), Isaac Asiata (fifth-round rookie hasn’t challenged for a starting job), Jake Brendel (guard/center versatility helps) and long shots Avery Young, Isame Faciane and Sean Hickey.

One source says Asiata has improved and is very likely to stick. Young and Smith are also positioned to make it, unless Miami finds better backup tackles on waivers.

Backup linebackers: There are two spots, perhaps three, open behind Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Mike Hull and Rey Maualuga. Neville Hewitt’s shoulder injury makes him unlikely to open the season on the 53.

The Dolphins could opt to keep CFL import Deon Lacey and undrafted rookie Chase Allen unless better players come available on waivers, with veteran Trevor Reilly considered to have less upside than the other two.

Sixth receiver: Rashawn Scott (foot) likely will start on PUP, and neither Damore’ea Stringfellow, Drew Morgan nor Malcolm Lewis has done enough to warrant keeping either as a sixth, though both merit practice-squad consideration.

Elsewhere: There shouldn’t be any decisions at quarterback (Brandon Doughty hasn’t done enough to warrant keeping on the 53) or tight end (no need to keep now-concussed Thomas Duarte as a No. 4).

At running back, as Armando Salguero noted in his comprehensive multi-part series, the Dolphins are inclined to keep a fourth and are poised to keep Sinorise Perry or find someone better on waivers.

Please click here for my two Dolphins posts today (including news on Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips and Jay Cutler) and my one UM post today, with 10 things we’re hearing on defense and an interesting disclosure today from defensive coordinator Manny Diaz..... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz