Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the Miami Dolphins
Free agency and the NFL draft have come and gone, reshaping the NFL landscape like a $9 billion chameleon.
Miami has spent a lot of effort, money and draft picks overhauling parts of its roster. The defense has improved the pass rush and secondary, and the offense has seen upgrades at wide receiver and tight ends.
There have, of course, been some losses on the roster as well.
What has all this done to the team's depth chart? Here is an updated depth chart.
Note: no undrafted free-agent signings are listed because, let's face it, they are camp bodies.
Projected Depth Chart: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Pat Devlin
There is no mystery here. Miami took Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick of last year's draft, and he predictably won the starting gig before the regular season began.
Tannehill looks to improve upon an average rookie season after a year of seasoning and some new weapons added to his arsenal.
Matt Moore, meanwhile, remains the league's best backup quarterback. Pat Devlin escaped his doom when Tyler Bray signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent rather than land in Miami.
Projected Depth Chart: Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Marcus Thigpen, Jonas Gray
Gone is Reggie Bush and his game-breaking ability, not to mention the inconsistency.
In his place the Dolphins have built a stable of running backs, following a trend the likes of New Orleans have created.
Lamar Miller figures to lead the charge given his upside, but he had trouble getting on the field last season because of pass-blocking deficiencies and perhaps a slow uptake on the offense. He has had a year to improve those.
There will be a battle between Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee for a spot on the depth chart. Thomas has been a disappointment thus far with the Dolphins, having played through two injury-plagued, lackluster seasons.
Gillislee, meanwhile, brings a well-rounded game to Miami, and he is probably already a better player than Thomas.
Marcus Thigpen is the team's kick-return specialist, his roster spot all but assured unless he has an abysmal preseason. That leaves Jonas Gray as the odd man out, despite Miami's patience with him over the past year.
Projected Depth Chart: Jovorskie Lane, Charles Clay
Jovorskie Lane was a fabulous fullback for the Dolphins last season, and there is little reason to think he will be going anywhere.
It is difficult to place Charles Clay given he is on the squad as an H-back more so than tight end or fullback.
Projected Depth Chart: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Mathews, Armon Binns, Jeff Fuller
Dolphins fans got something to cheer about when Jeff Ireland opened up Stephen Ross' checkbook to land a big-name receiver.
Mike Wallace might not be Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, but he is certainly an upgrade at the position. The speedy wideout brings a deadly downfield threat to the table, and he is obviously the team's top receiver.
Brian Hartline, last year's top receiver for the Dolphins, settles into a good role as a No. 2 guy. With teams forced to focus on Wallace, among other guys, Hartline will get some breathing room.
Granted, he could have had that when Brandon Marshall was in town, but injuries and inexperience prevented that prior to last season.
Brandon Gibson figures to be the No. 3 guy, given his new contract, but where and when will he line up on the field? He is not a slot receiver, a position Miami needs to fill.
Rishard Mathews came on strong last season to become the No. 2 at one point. Jeff Fuller had a year to develop on the practice squad, and Armon Binns is just another guy, though a young one.
Projected Depth Chart: Dustin Keller, Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman
Gone is perennial underachiever Anthony Fasano—though much of that is not his fault—with Dustin Keller in Miami to replace him.
The former Jet is on a one-year deal; if he proves productive, he could earn himself a nice extension or new contract elsewhere. Keller brings upside to a position that has lacked offensive production in recent years, but he also brings baggage in the form of an injury history.
Directly behind him on the depth chart should be Charles Clay, the versatile H-back Miami can line up anywhere on the field.
After that, it's anybody's game.
Given Michael Egnew's troubles last season, it isn't too far-fetched to see newly minted Dolphin Dion Sims usurping that third spot on the depth chart right away.
The rookie does what Egnew cannot do well—block—and he combines it with some nice skills in the passing game.
Will Yeatman is just an offensive lineman posing as a tight end at this point.
Projected Depth Chart: Jonathan Martin, Nate Garner, Dallas Thomas
As of now, the Dolphins do not have a new left tackle.
Yes, they drafted Dallas Thomas—who played the position until last year—out of Tennessee, but the incoming rookie is better suited as a guard at the next level. Even if the Dolphins want to try him at left tackle, it is difficult to believe a third-round rookie is going to head into minicamp as the starter.
That leaves Jonathan Martin, for the moment. Depending on whether Miami winds up trading for Branden Albert—still a possibility using 2014 draft picks—it appears Martin will have the position to himself.
Nate Garner is a solid backup all along the offensive line, making him the de facto backup. Thomas is third in line.
Projected Depth Chart: Richie Incognito, Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner
Incognito is one of the meanest men in the NFL, and he has been a good lineman for the Dolphins in recent years. Unless Miami wants to move him over to the right side or Dallas Thomas somehow impresses enough to win the starting gig, he will be the left guard heading into the preseason.
Thomas, again, is better suited for guard at this level. He is versatile, but it is likely he will serve as backup for the position.
Projected Depth Chart: Mike Pouncey, Josh Samuda
There is little to say here.
Mike Pouncey has evolved into one of the best centers in the game, even better than his brother, Maurkice. Josh Samuda is a fine backup.
Projected Depth Chart: Lance Louis, Dallas Thomas, John Jerry, Nate Garner
The addition of Dallas Thomas means John Jerry's position in this depth chart and on the team in general is in danger.
Lance Louis was brought in on a one-year deal to compete for the job at a position of need. The former Bear tore his ACL last season, so there is no guarantee he will be able to play this year.
If his knee fails him, Thomas should be able to step in and fill the role nicely. At the very least, he is a better fit than the hulking Jerry, who is constantly battling weight issues.
Projected Depth Chart: Nate Garner, John Jerry, Dallas Thomas, Will Yeatman
Here lies Miami's biggest problem.
Nate Garner filled in admirably at tackle last season when Jake Long went down and Jonathan Martin moved over to the left side. But is he starter material?
The Dolphins thought highly enough of him to give him a contract extension, but it certainly wasn't for starter money. In absence of a better option, however, he is the de facto starter.
Until they get a better option, that is. Eric Winston awaits a suitor, or Martin could wind up back on this side should Miami trade for Branden Albert.
Should none of that happen, John Jerry's roster spot might be salvaged as a backup.
Projected Depth Chart (LDE): Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Koa Misi
Projected Depth Chart (RDE): Dion Jordan, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby
Cameron Wake is the best pass-rusher in the NFL right now. If you don't believe that, perhaps the fact he lapped the league with 86 total quarterback pressures last season will convince you.
He finally gets a proper running mate on the other side in Dion Jordan, a rookie the Dolphins liked so much they traded up in the draft to get him.
Jared Odrick will get on the field at defensive end plenty—presumably on running downs—and he could get kicked inside on occasion.
The odd man out of the defensive end rotation is Olivier Vernon, Miami's third-round draft pick from a year ago. Derrick Shelby, a preseason favorite from last year, could find himself on the chopping block as a result of Miami's draft.
Koa Misi could also spend a little time with his hands in the ground this season.
Projected Depth Chart: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Vaughn Martin, Kheeston Randall, Chas Alecxih
The Dolphins slapped Randy Starks with the franchise tag, though he hopes to sign a long-term deal. He will certainly be one of the starters.
Paul Soliai is on the second of a two-year deal, perhaps playing for a big contract. The space-eater is excellent against the run, but he isn't on the field as much as he could be because of deficiencies as a pass rusher.
Miami added Vaughn Martin this offseason, bringing him in on a two-year deal to replace the departed Tony McDaniel. Kheeston Randall was a late-round pick last season.
Hard Knocks featured a couple of defensive linemen who forged a bond during camp and preseason last season, and one of those guys was Chas Alecxih. He was brought back this offseason after being a preseason cut.
Projected Depth Chart (SLB): Koa Misi, Jason Trusnik, Dion Jordan
Projected Depth Chart (WLB): Philip Wheeler, Jelani Jenkins, Jonathan Freeny
It remains to be seen which side Philip Wheeler will play for the Dolphins. He occupied the strong-side linebacker position for the Raiders last year, but that is Koa Misi's side.
Both figure to be starters in the 4-3 front, but the Dolphins will be moving players around on that defense.
An interesting wrinkle Miami is sure to bring out is lining Dion Jordan up as an outside linebacker. He excelled in coverage at Oregon, and the Dolphins could utilize him out there while kicking Jared Odrick or Olivier Vernon to his spot at defensive end.
Newly minted Dolphin Jelani Jenkins will come in and compete for a backup spot, quite probably supplanting Jonathan Freeny right away on the depth chart.
Projected Depth Chart: Dannell Ellerbe, Austin Spitler, Jelani Jenkins
Gone is Karlos Dansby. Dannell Ellerbe takes his place on the depth chart.
The former Raven brings a different dimension to the defense, which has gotten a lot younger as a whole this offseason. Unless Joe Philbin envisions him somewhere on the outside for some reason, he will be the starter at middle linebacker going forward.
Austin Spitler's advantage over Jelani Jenkins is experience at this point. If Jenkins has a great preseason, he could become the backup at the Mike linebacker position.
Projected Depth Chart (LCB): Richard Marshall, Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Nolan Carroll, Julian Posey
Projected Depth Chart (RCB): Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor, Jimmy Wilson, Don Jones, DeAndre Presley
Realistically, these positions are interchangeable on the depth chart—Nolan Carroll can back up either side.
The Dolphins took two cornerbacks in the draft—Jamar Taylor and Will Davis—creating a bit of a glut at the position. That means one or two of the higher-priced players at the position could be on the chopping block.
Namely, Dimitri Patterson and the $9.8 million left on his contract could be looking for new home elsewhere after this weekend.
Since we are not sure who might be cut—if it indeed happens—he sits where he should on the depth chart, likely battling incoming rookie Taylor for the nickelback position.
Projected Depth Chart (FS): Reshad Jones, Don Jones
Projected Depth Chart (FS): Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Kelcie McCray
After a couple of seasons in Miami, Reshad Jones has turned into one of the league's best free safeties. He will continue that rise this season. Incidentally, it's his last under contract with the Dolphins—it will be interesting to see if he gets locked down with a long-term contract this year.
Incoming rookie Don Jones fills the spot behind Jones. He might stick on the roster by virtue of being the only backup free safety, though that alone is not really a reason.
Chris Clemons might not have grown into one of the NFL's best safeties in the same time, but he has quietly been a solid member of the secondary. The Dolphins re-signed him to a one-year deal, after all.
His backup will likely be Jimmy Wilson, who has vacillated between safety and cornerback throughout his tenure with the Dolphins. He seems better suited at the safety position.
Projected Depth Chart (K): Dan Carpenter, Caleb Sturgis
Projected Depth Chart (P): Brandon Fields
Projected Depth Chart (KR): Marcus Thigpen
Projected Depth Chart (LS): John Denney, Patrick Scales
Unless Caleb Sturgis turns out to be a peg-legged kicker, this depth chart is only going to be good until the Dolphins have need of the $2.68 million worth of cap space Dan Carpenter is using up.
Sturgis wasn't taken in the fifth round to be cut, and the Dolphins aren't about to have three kickers on the roster come September.
Brandon Fields, meanwhile, has no such competition nor should he—he is one of the best punters in the league.
One surprise comes at long snapper, where the longest tenured Dolphin will find himself fighting for his roster life. John Denney, the 34-year-old veteran and lifetime Dolphin, will be battling first-year long-snapper Patrick Scales for his job.