Making the Call on the Miami Dolphins' Hardest Remaining Cuts
The Dolphins’ roster has been marred with minor injuries at every position, testing the depth of the team throughout its first two campaigns. The Dolphins’ record at this juncture isn’t important, but the film produced by players is critical to the coaches and front office.
General manager Dennis Hickey and head coach Joe Philbin's emphasis on competition led to many new faces who were acquired this past offseason, and that has created important battles at key positions.
Without a doubt, this Dolphins roster is deeper with talent than previous seasons. Now, Miami must look at players on the bubble and figure out which will help the team this season.
In the following slides, we look at eight players on the bubble and examine whether or not they’ll be on the final 53-man roster. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
The first wave of cuts must occur prior to 4:00 p.m. ET on August 26th. The Dolphins must reduce their roster to a maximum of 75 players. The final roster cut down to the final 53 is to be done by 4:00 p.m. ET on August 30th.
Brady Quinn, QB
When the Miami Dolphins signed quarterback Brady Quinn, Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post speculated he could overtake Matt Moore as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster. Moore’s recent shoulder injury and $4 million base salary have made him a target to be released among some fans, and Quinn was viewed as the potential replacement.
Unfortunately for those fans looking to save a few of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ dollars, Quinn’s hype has always been bigger than his talent.
In the Dolphins’ second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Quinn failed to outperform Moore, despite playing against the third-string defense.
Playing 14 snaps, Quinn completed all four of his pass attempts, but all were checkdowns and barely moved the offense.
Quinn was a long shot to make the roster from the start because of how late he signed, and Moore’s return to health will clinch Quinn’s release.
Daniel Thomas, RB
After missing the first two games of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Daniel Thomas is back and looking to claim a roster spot. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Thomas returned to practice and is hoping to play this week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Thomas has been a major disappointment for the Dolphins since the team traded up to take him in the second round of the 2011 draft. His career average of just 3.6 yards per carry is well below league standards.
With the emergence of undrafted free agent Damien Williams and 2013 fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee as other options, Thomas is clearly on the outside looking in. Not only is Thomas less talented than his competition, but he also doesn’t fit the zone-blocking scheme. His vision is poor and he doesn’t have the initial burst to reach the second level of the defense.
Michael Egnew, TE
When the Dolphins used their 2012 third-round draft pick on Michael Egnew, they envisioned him blossoming into a matchup nightmare for defenses. His 6’5”, 260-pound frame and plus speed were tantalizing, and he had experience in a spread offense at Missouri.
The risk is yet to pay off, as Egnew has accumulated a measly seven receptions for 69 yards in two seasons.
After selection Dion Sims in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and Arthur Lynch in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, Egnew is facing an uphill battle. His eight snaps through two games are the fourth-most among tight ends, and star Charles Clay hasn’t played yet.
According to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, Clay will be returning from injury in time for Week 1, making the need for Egnew even less than before.
That being said, Egnew brings a different skill set to the team. If Clay has any type of setback, he’ll be the best receiver amongst the healthy tight ends.
Looking at head coach Joe Philbin’s previous employer for reference, the Green Bay Packers almost always carry four tight ends. That versatility is helpful to a spread offense.
This is a close call, but keeping Egnew likely only costs Miami an extra offensive lineman.
Jason Fox, OT
The Dolphins acquired Jason Fox late in free agency, hoping to find a veteran swing tackle who could play a few games if any injuries occurred.
Unfortunately, Fox has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and missed time due to a leg injury, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
Once he recovered from that, Fox suffered a chest injury at some point in training camp, leaving him very little time to make a positive impression with the coaching staff.
Jason Fox, who missed a week with a chest injury, is back at practice. He's got a week to prove he's 53 worthy.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 18, 2014
In his first game action with the Dolphins in Week 2, Fox played very poorly. He looked slow, getting beat by speed rush attempts and bull rushes alike.
There’s little chance Fox can make up the ground he lost while being injured, so this decision shouldn’t be too hard.
Marcus Thigpen, RB/WR
Sometimes, a good player who can contribute in various fashions gets lost in the numbers game due to injury or limited opportunities.
#Dolphins KR Marcus Thigpen (thigh) also will miss multiple practices.— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) August 18, 2014
For Marcus Thigpen, his lackluster play as a returner in 2013 and limited playing time so far this preseason indicate his impending departure. He’s tallied just 18 snaps on offense so far, which is half the number of snaps his competition has logged.
Thigpen hasn’t produced much on offense, but his special teams performance in 2012 kept him around in 2013. He averaged 12.2 yard per punt return and 27.4 yards per kick return. Those numbers dipped dramatically in 2013 and he made several bad choices to field the ball near the goal line.
The Dolphins have built significant depth at the running back and wide receiver positions, so this isn’t a major loss.
Armon Binns, WR
The 6’3”, 209-pound receiver has been in competition with similar playmakers on Miami's roster throughout training camp and the preseason just one year after tearing his ACL.
The margin for error has been small, as he’s competing with 2014 second-round pick Jarvis Landry and incumbents Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews. They’re more proven weapons for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and have shown more chemistry and explosion so far.
Binns is also against the odds because he’s similar to the group mentioned above, whereas Damian Williams is not. As Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel explained, “Damian Williams' speed makes him the ideal backup to Wallace, who is nursing a troublesome hamstring strain.”
Binns could catch on elsewhere because of his frame and catch radius, but Miami won’t have room for the former Cincinnati Bearcat.
Anthony Johnson, DT
The Dolphins have a very difficult decision to make with Anthony Johnson, who was once touted as a potential first-round draft pick.
Johnson went undrafted after he showed inconsistent effort and technique at LSU, leaving NFL evaluators to question his love for the game. The Dolphins signed him as a flier and have seen solid results thus far. He’s created pressure from the interior defensive line on multiple occasions and has earned the fourth-highest grade from PFF (subscription required) among Miami's linemen.
Dolphins DT AJ Francis has the walk of a man who has been freshly scoped. Just sayin.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 18, 2014
If nose tackle A.J. Francis is indeed recovering from a knee scope, that means the Dolphins could keep fellow UDFA Garrison Smith to play the 0-technique. Johnson is a 3-technique in a 4-3 front and doesn’t offer the same stoutness that Smith does up front.
Anthony Johnson,who has a shoulder injury, is doing sprints with Sam Brenner.I noticed he's had shoulder & elbow issues since week 1 of camp— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 18, 2014
The Dolphins might try to sneak Johnson on the practice squad or on injured reserve, but if he continues to play well, they likely cannot afford to let him go.
Jonathan Freeny, LB
The Dolphins’ special teams specialist has struggled to show growth this preseason, despite logging 42 snaps on defense. His competition is former fourth-round pick Jelani Jenkins, who has been at least as effective as Freeny, so the Dolphins will likely go with the player with credentials.
What also hurts Freeny is the emergence of rookies Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain. Each have been very effective in the preseason and are pushing the starting linebackers for playing time, which pushes Freeny down the depth chart even further.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required) or sports-reference.com. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of ESPN.com. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Ian Wharton is an NFL featured columnist for Bleacher Report, contributor for Optimum Scouting and analyst for FinDepth. You can follow and interact with Ian Wharton on Twitter @NFLFilmStudy.