DAVIE - It is always necessary to stick your toe in the water to see what the temperature feels like, and the same approach can be taken with the Miami Dolphins' depth chart entering preseason game No. 1 against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night.
The Dolphins have three weeks to evaluate the players on the training camp roster before trimming it to 75 players. Then once the Aug. 28 preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams concludes the Dolphins must trim the roster to 53 players.
Here is what the team is working with on offense. Expect 25 offensive players, and 25 defense players will make it to the 53-man roster considering three specialists (John Denney, Brandon Fields and Caleb Sturgis) will be kept.
Quarterback: Starter - Ryan Tannehill; Backups - Matt Moore (injured shoulder), Pat Devlin (injured hamstring), Seth Lobato, Brock Jensen
Breakdown: Tannehill is processing his reads faster, getting the ball out his hands quicker than in previous years, and he's beginning to connect on his deep throws. Moore and Devlin's injuries will become problematic in the later quarters of preseason games because Lobato and Jensen barely know the offense.
Tailback: Starter - Lamar Miller; Backups - Knowshon Moreno (injured knee), Daniel Thomas, Damien Williams, Mike Gillislee, Orleans Darkwa
Breakdown: Miller is bigger and stronger than last year, and his skill set suites this offense well. Moreno needs a few more weeks to recover from the knee scope he had done in late June. Thomas, Williams, Gillislee and Darkwa are duking it out for the two remaining spots on the 53-man roster, and one spot on the practice squad.
Receiver: Starters - Mike Wallace (injured hamstring), Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson; Backups - Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Armon Binns, Damian Williams, Marcus Thigpen, Stephen Williams (injured ankle), Kevin Cone, Matt Hazel, Ryan Spadola and Raymond Webber.
Breakdown: Wallace, Hartline and Landry are safely on the 53-man roster. Gibson remains a starter, but he's being pushed by Landry and Matthews for his role as the Dolphins slot receiver. Expect that battle to continue throughout the season. The Dolphins need to identity two more receivers to add to that foursome, and another to develop on the practice squad. Thigpen and Williams have added value because of their returner skills, but Landry could fill that role.
Tight end: Starter - Charles Clay (injured knee); Backups - Dion Sims, Michael Egnew, Arthur Lynch, Gator Hoskins and Kyle Miller.
Breakdown: Clay should continue to develop as a dynamic offensive weapon in this new offense, which routinely feeds the tight ends. But the Dolphins need to find an adequate in-line blocker to pair with Clay. Sims is the leader of this lackluster group of backups. Lynch is safe because of his draft status, but everyone else needs to impress in the exhibition season to earn the fourth tight end spot on the 53-man roster.
Offensive line: Starters - LT Branden Albert, LG Daryn Colledge, C Mike Pouncey (injured hip), RG Dallas Thomas and RT Ja'Wuan James. Backups - Billy Turner (tackle and guard), Samson Satele (center), Nate Garner (tackle, guard and center), Shelley Smith (guard), Jason Fox (tackle), Sam Brenner (guard and center), David Arkin (guard), Steven Baker (tackle), Tony Hills (tackle), Tyler Larsen (center), Evan Finkenberg (guard).
Breakdown: The Dolphins have the left tackle, left guard and right tackle spot locked up based on Albert, Colledge and James' performance so far. But center and right guard remain an issue. Satele was signed on Saturday to fill in as the starting center while Pouncey recovers from his hip injury. Thomas is being challenged by Smith and Turner for the starting right guard spot. Fox, Brenner and Arkin are presently long-shots to make the 53-man roster unless they start playing better.
At the present moment I'm expect the Dolphins to keep three quarterbacks, four tailbacks, six receivers, four tight ends and eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. But formula could change as a result of injuries, and player development.
G.G.G.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun