Barry Jackson

Where Miami Dolphins’ roster battles stand, by position

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford participates in drills during a recent practice. Ford is competing for a potential sixth receiver job.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford participates in drills during a recent practice. Ford is competing for a potential sixth receiver job. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Where the Dolphins’ 90-man roster stands days before the third preseason game and a week and a half before rosters must be cut to 53:

OFFENSE

The Dolphins typically have kept more players on defense than offense. But if they would like to keep four running backs, four tight ends, six receivers, two quarterbacks and nine offensive linemen, that would mean 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players and three specialists. The upshot of that scenario would be keeping fewer defensive backs and linebackers than usual.

So decisions on a fourth running back (potentially Sinorise Perry) and a fourth tight end (likely A.J. Derby) could hinge in part on whether they’re better on special teams than bubble players on defense such as linebacker Terence Garvin or whether Miami wants to keep, say, Kendall Langford as a 10th defensive lineman.

QUARTERBACK: David Fales’ poor performance against Carolina (1 for 6, 6 yards, one interception, 0 rating) kept Brock Osweiler alive in this battle, though the sense here is that Fales’ remains the internal preference unless he’s awful – or Osweiler is great - the next two weeks. Bryce Petty’s good work late in games wasn’t enough to lift him on the depth chart and he’s now out with an oblique injury.

RUNNING BACK: The only question is whether Perry – who has impressed the staff so far – or possibly Buddy Howell makes a strong enough case the next nine days to stick as a fourth back behind Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage.

Perry does good work on special teams and is a good receiver out of the backfield (six catches, 42 yards in preseason) but has a pedestrian 3.4 average in two games on 10 carries. Howell (65 yards rushing, 7.2 average) has a shot to jump Perry but probably could be stashed on the practice squad.

Jeremy Langford (no carries, two catches for 17 yards) and Brandon Radcliff (one carry, three yards) remain long shots.

TIGHT END: Derby, who began camp as a co-starter with MarQueis Gray before a foot injury, likely needs a productive final two weeks to stick as a fourth tight end behind Gray (versatile and very likely to stick) and draft picks Mike Gesicki (probable starter) and Durham Smythe. Thomas Duarte (three catches for 25 yards) has improved but the odds remain stacked against him and Gavin Escobar.

RECEIVER: Isaiah Ford said “I feel I’ve done my job” in his battle for a potential sixth receiver job. A strong final two games could put Ford on the team. Otherwise, the door will be left open for Leonte Carroo (disappointing first 28 months in Miami and now out with a groin injury) and Rashawn Scott and Frances Owusu, who both dropped catchable balls against Carolina.

DeVante Parker’s hand injury makes it more likely Miami begins the season with six receivers, and Ford appears to have the most upside of the group.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Beyond the five starters, Sam Young and Ted Larsen are likely to make the team. That leaves tackles Eric Smith and Zach Sterup, guard Isaac Asiata and center Jake Brendel headlining the group competing for an eighth and ninth job. The Dolphins could check out the waiver wire for help, too. Connor Hilland (has shown promise), Mike Matthews, David Steinmetz and Roubbens Joseph are long shots for the 53.

Asiata had made a strong case for the 53 before committing two penalties against Carolina but still might stick. Brendel’s injury complicates his status; he would have likely been on the roster otherwise and still might, with short-term injured reserve an option as well.

Sterup has made a strong case to stick. “He’s played well enough to really put himself in good position,’ Adam Gase said. “He’s had some really good practices. He’s done well in games.”

DEFENSIVE LINE: Before camp, the nine appeared set: Cam Wake, Robert Quinn, Charles Harris, Andre Branch, William Hayes, Akeem Spence, Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor and possibly Cameron Malveaux as a 10th. But Langford’s signing will give Miami something to think about it if he plays well. The Dolphins could cut him and sign him after one week to avoid guaranteeing his contract for the season. Malveaux has had a pedestrian camp.

LINEBACKER: Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker are on the team, but nothing else is set in stone. Chase Allen appears likely to stick, but Stephone Anthony’s poor preseason has put him on the bubble and Garvin is no sure thing, either. Quentin Poling, Cayson Collins and Frank Ginda haven’t made a compelling case to be on the 53. Mike Hull (knee) could begin the season on short-term injured reserve. The Dolphins likely will comb the waiver wire for help.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Five will be on the team and play a lot: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, Xavien Howard, T.J. McDonald and Bobby McCain. Walt Aikens (special teams ace) and Maurice Smith (impressive all camp) are likely to stick and it’s too soon to give up on Cordrea Tankersley. So that’s eight.

The question is whether to keep two or three among Torry McTyer (very good against Carolina; good chance to stick), Tony Lippett and Jalen Davis (second team slot), with five others on the roster standing as long shots to make the 53.

If the Dolphins want to keep 10 defensive linemen and 10 defensive backs, then keeping 25 players on offense isn’t realistic because you need more than five linebackers.

KICKER: Jason Sanders has a slight edge, but Greg Joseph is making this a competitive battle.

Here’s my Thursday six-pack of Canes notes, with lots of nuggets.

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