A look at the Dolphins’ depth chart on defense after the draft:
This is the area that is expected to be addressed more than any other with veteran signings in May and June.
For now, Miami has only two natural defensive ends with significant experience: Charles Harris (three sacks in 27 NFL games) and journeyman Tank Carradine (5.5 sacks in 45 NFL games).
Considering Harris’ lack of success and the fact Carradine appeared in only one game last season (for Oakland), they should ideally be fourth and fifth ends on a team, not starters. And the Dolphins assuredly know that.
There’s also the possibility that Harris could play at times as a standup linebacker, but the Dolphins refuse to discuss that publicly.
There’s one other end on the roster that has a bit of NFL experience: Jonathan Woodard, who had 10 tackles and a sack in six games for Miami last year. And though former Packer Jayrone Elliott potentially can be used some at defensive end at 6-3 and 255 pounds, the Dolphins list him as a linebacker.
In all, there are six natural defensive ends on the roster, with undrafted rookies Jonathan Ledbetter (Georgia) and DeWayne Hendrix (Pittsburgh) competing for a spot on the bottom of the roster or on the practice squad. Ledbetter also could play tackle in a 3-4.
The situation is at least somewhat better at defensive tackle, with Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor set to carry much of the workload at the position, and Akeem Spence also in line to remain part of the rotation if Miami keeps him around at a reasonable $2.5 million. But Miami could use a natural nose tackle - a 340-pound behemoth - to log snaps in a 3-4 front.
The Dolphins have four other defensive tackles under contract: former UM standout Kendrick Norton, ex-Central Florida standout Jamiyus Pittman, former Alliance of American Football player Joey Mbu (nine games of NFL experience, most recently for the Colts in 2017) and Durval Queiroz-Neto, a project who will be Miami’s 11th practice squad player this season in light an of an NFL roster exemption given to teams to develop international players.
Three are cinches to stick – Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker – and fifth-rounder Andrew Van Ginkel is highly, highly likely to make it.
Of the nine others on the roster, Elliott – the best pass rusher in the defunct Alliance of American Football – has a good chance to make it as an outside linebacker; he has four sacks in 38 NFL games, but hasn’t played in the league since making one appearance for Green Bay in 2017.
The undrafted rookie pickups – Maryland’s Trey Watson and New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks – are intriguing for reasons explained here.
Also under contract: Chase Allen (started five games here the past two seasons but limited to five games total last season due to injury); Mike Hull (will be challenged by Watson and Hanks for a roster spot), Sam Uguavoen (played the past three seasons in the CFL), Tyrone Holmes (plucked from the AAF; appeared in 15 games for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and 2017 and had nine tackles), last year’s seventh-rounder Quentin Poling (spent the season on the practice squad) and James Burgess (four sacks in 17 games for the Browns in 2017 and 2018).
Expect the team to add a veteran who’s capable of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. And Harris could also figure into the equation at this position.
This position remains very much in flux; even though general manager Chris Grier has said he expects Reshad Jones to be on the team, that’s hardly assured – especially if Miami can find a team willing to trade for him. (It’s difficult to envision that happening without Jones giving up guaranteed money, which few players want to do.)
As long as Jones is on the roster, there’s a greater need for Minkah Fitzpatrick at cornerback than safety, especially with corner not addressed in the draft. But it’s worth noting that the Dolphins – on their official depth chart – are listing him as a safety.
T.J. McDonald presumably will be on the team; the cap savings would be nominal if Miami moved on. And Walt Aikens, one of Miami’s most valued special teams players, can play corner or safety. Miami lists him as a safety/corner on its official roster.
That leaves Chris Lammons, Maurice Smith and undrafted Villanova rookie Rob Rolle the other safeties under contract. It’s difficult to necessarily envision a spot on the 53 for any of them if Jones remains on the roster. And Miami could add another safety if Jones is jettisoned.
There’s no position with greater volume, with 13 on the roster if Fitzpatrick and Aikens are considered corners (and they’re both safeties and corners).
Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain obviously will be on the team and it would be surprising if former Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe doesn’t stick. If Fitzpatrick plays safety, Rowe would be a slight front-runner to start at boundary corner opposite Howard, barring the addition of another veteran. McCain could be a factor at boundary if Fitzpatrick plays a lot of nickel corner again.
Other veterans competing: former third-rounder Cordrea Tankersley (toasted during preseason last year and still working his way back from November’s torn ACL); Torry McTyer (struggled in coverage last season); Jalen Davis (played well in cameo against Jacksonville); Cornell Armstrong (last year’s sixth-round pick) and Jomal Wiltz (the 5-10 corner has no game experience but spent the past two seasons on the Patriots’ practice squad).
Also in the mix: undrafted rookies Nik Needham (UTEP), Montre Hartage (Northwestern) and Tyler Horton (Boise State). Read more about them here.
The Dolphins intend to add a quarterback for next week’s rookie minicamp, and they’ve indicated privately that they expect to bring in Western Michigan’s Sean McGuire next week if the Vikings don’t sign him after this weekend’s rookie minicamp. Another quarterback also potentially could be added, as well.
McGuire threw for 2894 yards last season, with 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and completed 59.9 percent of his passes.
Any quarterback signed, if extended a training camp invitation, would compete with Jake Rudock for a possible third job but would more likely figure to be a candidate for the practice squad.
Miami inquired about Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, but he signed with the Giants on Thursday. They also inquired about Mississippi’s Jordan Ta’Amu, but he instead opted to attend rookie camp with Oakland and Houston.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins in April auditioned former Utah quarterback Troy Williams - who had workouts with the Seahawks and Chargers last offseason - but decided not to sign him. He will attend minicamp with Seattle.
Here’s my post from earlier Thursday breaking down the Dolphins’ depth chart on offense.