Projecting Miami Dolphins Depth Chart, Post-OTAs
For the Miami Dolphins, like the rest of the league, OTAs have come to a close, with only mincamp to come next, followed by training camp in July.
Both come with increased expectations and various position battles, though the majority of them are already pretty much decided right now. The Dolphins are in a position to evaluate what they have while allowing the new players to develop chemistry on both sides of the ball.
With that in mind, how does the depth chart stack up post-OTAs, right before minicamp? Come along as we take a position-by-position look at the Dolphins' depth chart.
Starter: Ryan Tannehill
QB2: Matt Moore
QB3: Pat Devlin
I did say we had to look at this on a position-by-position basis, meaning even the quarterback gets a slide of its own.
It's fairly obvious how this one shakes out. Ryan Tannehill is Miami's starting quarterback with Matt Moore as his backup. Behind Moore as the third quarterback is "Teacher's Pet" Pat Devlin, who I expect to have a great training camp and preseason followed by Dolphins fans wondering why the Dolphins won't open up the competition for a starting quarterback to him—like what has happened the past two seasons.
I know this isn't a training camp preview, but I would continue to keep an eye on Devlin. Barring anything catastrophic, he likely won't be Miami's starting quarterback anytime soon—but that doesn't mean other teams won't have an interest in him, especially if injuries get the better of any particular team.
Starter: Lamar Miller
RB2: Daniel Thomas
RB3: Mike Gillislee
RB4: Marcus Thigpen (also PR/KR and possible WR)
RB5: Jonas Gray
Coach Joe Philbin claims that there is a competition at running back right now.
Lamar Miller right now. He's doing a great job this offseason, really has a great handle on the offense and he's doing a great job protecting. ... They can (all) run the ball but being able to understand the pass game, understand the checkdowns and where they're protecting really makes a big difference and makes me more comfortable.
In this case, I'm going to go with what Tannehill says instead of Philbin's "coachspeak". Both Miller and rookie Mike Gillislee provide completely different skills to the position, with Gillislee being more of a bruiser and a better blocker than Miller.
However, Gillislee hasn't passed Daniel Thomas on the depth chart, but that's mainly a product of seniority and the fact that in OTAs, you don't really see how well a running back really does when running since there's no hitting. Expect that to change come training camp.
As for Thigpen and Gray, both will likely be used on special teams, with Thigpen even possibly being used on offense as a slot receiver.
Starter: Charles Clay
FB2: Jorvorskie Lane
Both Lane and Clay will make the team, but expect Clay to be used at the fullback/H-Back position more than at tight end. Why? For one, he's another weapon Miami could use out of the backfield and seems to block better out of the backfield than he did at the line as a tight end.
As for Lane, expect him more in short-yardage situations, especially since on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1, he's almost guaranteed to get that one.
Starter: Mike Wallace
Starter: Brian Hartline
WR3: Brandon Gibson
WR4: Rishard Matthews
WR5: Armon Binns
Last week I gave this position a full evaluation. That was before I saw some rumblings about Armon Binns outperforming Brandon Gibson.
Well, by rumblings I mean one sentence in The Miami Herald: "Gibson, adjusting to playing the slot, dropped a pass Monday and has been outplayed by Armon Binns."
Considering that Gibson has the guaranteed contract and Binns doesn't, Gibson will remain the third wide receiver, but Binns will likely make this team as well.
Yes, fans, I miss Davone Bess already too.
Starter: Dustin Keller
TE2: Dion Sims
TE3: Michael Egnew
The main question the Dolphins have with this tight end squad is: What do they expect to get out of Michael Egnew?
Egnew's issue last year was his inability to block, which kept him in the doghouse and on the bench throughout the season (because that's exactly where you want your third-round draft pick to be when you traded a Pro Bowl wide receiver to acquire him).
Has his blocking gotten better? We know Egnew has trained in mixed martial arts during the offseason to improve his strength, but what kind of effect will that have?
At best, Egnew will likely see limited action this season, with Dustin Keller playing on a one-year deal and with Dion Sims as Miami's blocking tight end. Egnew might even catch a few passes, maybe one or two for a touchdown.
But that will depend on if his blocking has gotten better. We know he can catch the ball and run routes fairly well, but can he add that next skill set to make him a better all-around tight end worthy of a third-round pick?
Keep this in mind: It's not like Keller is an elite blocker (far from it actually), but he's been decent enough to hold a job as a tight end. Can Egnew at least get to Keller's blocking abilities?
Starter: Jonathan Martin
LT2: Will Yeatman
The second-most important offensive position, much like the first, is in the hands of an unproven second-year player.
The only difference is that with Ryan Tannehill, we saw progression from week to week. From Jonathan Martin, however, what we saw was constant inconsistency.
I have pinned some of that on what Martin went through last season. In college, he played left tackle, was switched over to right tackle due to the presence of Jake Long in training camp, then moved over to left tackle again at the end of the season after Long was placed on injured reserve.
Could inconsistency of the position be the reason why Martin was so inconsistent?
Maybe, but keep in mind that he was as all over the place from week to week at right tackle as he was at left tackle. I will say that he never seemed totally comfortable on either side during his rookie season.
This year, however, brings some consistency, as Jonathan Martin is the Miami Dolphins' left tackle. He's also bulked up as well, which leads to the question of whether Martin will be consistently good this season.
Miami's offensive performance depends on it.
Starter: Richie Incognito
LG2: Dallas Thomas
Here's some consistency: Richie Incognito will continue to be the leader of Miami's offensive line and will continue to be accused of playing dirty while continually being harassed by defensive linemen attempting to get under his skin in the hopes that he reacts.
Another consistency: Incognito will not react to players who do this and will just go about his business.
I have faith that Incognito will be responsible for Jonathan Martin's progression and will likely get a lot of the credit if Martin looks competent at left tackle. Incognito will also serve as a mentor to third-round pick Dallas Thomas, who at times will jump around the offensive line, giving some rest not only to Incognito, but also to the rest of the line when needed.
Incognito is the veteran leader of this offensive line (alongside Mike Pouncey and Tyson Clabo), and his leadership will show well this season with the Dolphins.
Starter: Mike Pouncey
C2: Josh Samuda
Really the only comment I need for Pouncey is this: The only way he misses the Pro Bowl this year is due to injury or if the Dolphins make the Super Bowl.
Somehow I'm still upset that he didn't make it last year. He was only the best center in the league.
Starter: John Jerry
RG2: Lance Louis
Is it safe to call this one a battle?
John Jerry wasn't terrible last year. He did well in pass protection, only really lacking in the run-blocking department. Considering that this team will likely pass more than run, it would only make sense then that Jerry would start.
However, don't sleep on Lance Louis threatening Jerry's starting spot. He is better at run-blocking, while his pass protection isn't too bad either. Right now I'd give the edge to Jerry as the starter, but Louis could easily make this a heated battle for playing time.
Starter: Tyson Clabo
RT2: Nate Garner
This isn't a battle: Clabo will be Miami's starting right tackle. There's a possibility you might see John Jerry play some right tackle, but this is Clabo's job off the bat.
Now, to say Nate Garner is his backup is really selling Garner short. He's technically the entire line's backup. He'll see playing time along the offensive line before the likes of Will Yeatman or Dallas Thomas since he usually is able to work in a pinch.
Starter (LDE): Cameron Wake
Starter (RDE): Dion Jordan
DE3: Jared Odrick
DE4: Olivier Vernon
This is quite a solid pass-rushing corps Miami has on the sides. The interesting thing is Jared Odrick will likely play more defensive tackle than end, with Olivier Vernon playing more linebacker than end.
At first, I didn't think Dion Jordan would be the official starting defensive lineman, but considering how much work Odrick has gotten in the interior, I'm starting to think it's possible that Miami just goes ahead and starts Jordan off the bat, with Odrick being a part of the overall defensive tackle/end rotation, coming in and out of games when necessary (mainly playing on the line during passing downs).
This unit is an interesting one to watch, as it's filled with enough talent to be one of the best defensive lines in the league—and this only represents half of the line.
Starter (DT1): Paul Soliai
Starter (DT2): Randy Starks
DT3: Jared Odrick
DT4: Vaughn Martin
DT5: Kheeston Randall
You have to love the depth and versatility that the Dolphins have on the defensive line. As mentioned earlier, Jared Odrick will spend plenty of time playing the interior and will rotate in and out when necessary.
But he's not the only one capable of doing so, as both Vaughn Martin and Kheeston Randall should see some time in the rotation. Considering that this will likely be the last season of the Soliai-Starks interior, Miami will play around with the line plenty during the season to see what will work in the long-term, yet will not see a drop in quality when it does so.
That's a great option to have, especially at a position that is arguably Miami's strongest.
Starter: Koa Misi
SAMLB2: Jason Trusnik
SAMLB3: Olivier Vernon
More versatility, as we see Vernon's name pop up for the second time on this depth chart, this time as the strong-side linebacker (aka SAM).
Now, how often will Vernon play at this position? That will be determined at training camp, but I expect to see him plenty. I also expect to see Jason Trusnik take some defensive snaps here during the season, at the very least to relieve the regular starter.
As for the regular starter, it's going to be Koa Misi, who is hoping to improve upon a season in which he seemed to get his head together and actually performed fairly well. With new teammates, it will be interesting to see if he continues his progress or regresses to his first two years in the league when he had his struggles.
Starter: Dannell Ellerbe
MIKELB2: Austin Spitler
MIKELB3: Jelani Jenkins
This position obviously isn't a battle since Ellerbe is the big-money free agent. However, do keep an eye on fourth-round pick Jelani Jenkins.
Jenkins will likely play special teams this season, but you will likely see him in the linebacker rotation by the end of the year, at the very least while the starters are having a breather.
Starter: Philip Wheeler
WILLLB2: Jonathan Freeny
WILLLB3: Josh Kaddu
Much like in the middle, Wheeler has this position despite his own admission, per The Miami Herald:
Tight ends often have gotten open against Wheeler and other linebackers in practice and Wheeler said he has to “learn the defense, stop making mistakes… so I can cover tight ends like I did last year” with Oakland.
Considering the youth behind him and his high price tag, his job isn't in jeopardy and in due time, he will pick up the defense and be able to cover tight ends.
Starter (LCB): Brent Grimes
Starter (RCB): Richard Marshall
CB2: Jamar Taylor
CB3: Will Davis
CB4: R.J. Stanford
CB5: Nolan Carroll
Miami's revamped secondary will likely be the position with the most boom-or-bust potential.
If Grimes is healthy (which has been the case so far), then he's Miami's biggest acquisition of the offseason based on the position he plays and the production that is likely to come.
If Marshall is healthy, the Dolphins all of a sudden have a solid veteran cornerback tandem that might not be the most exciting at first glance, but also won't give up the big plays as much as we saw last year.
Add in Miami's draft picks of Taylor and Davis and you could see not only an improved secondary, but possibly a great one.
That would be a welcome addition to a defense already teeming with talent and with the potential to be one of the top five in the NFL.
Starting Strong Safety: Reshad Jones
Starting Free Safety: Chris Clemons
S3: Jimmy Wilson
S4: Kelcie McCray
S5: Don Jones
For the first time in a while, Miami's safety position is fairly solid. Reshad Jones showed last season that he could be one of the best safeties in the league while Chris Clemons is consistent and has shown great leadership abilities.
Behind them is fairly good depth, with a nice competition lined up between Jimmy Wilson, Kelcie McCray and Don Jones to back up these two gentlemen. Each brings his own attributes to the table and it should be a pretty fun battle to watch.
Kicker: Caleb Sturgis
Punter: Brandon Fields
It's simple to decipher this: All Caleb Sturgis has to do is match Dan Carpenter and he will win the job. This is because of the fact that Miami used a draft pick on him, along with the fact that he is significantly cheaper than Carpenter.
That's the end of the kicker story.
As for the job of the starting punter; are you kidding? The only hope I have is that the Dolphins have to use Fields less. We already know he's one of the best punters in the league—now let's try to make that a secret.
Onto some shameless self-promoting as this article comes to a close.
Wednesday Night at 9pm, be sure to check out Episode 3 of Dolphins Central Podcast, where I will be speaking with Bleacher Report's AFC East Blogger Erik Frenz (who can also be read on Boston.com). Be sure to follow Dolphins Central Podcast for updates and if you have any questions or suggestions for the show, @DolphinsCentral, and visit the Pro Football Central website to catch up on previous Dolphins Central episodes.
Thursday Night at 10:00PM ET I will be appearing on the Fantasy Jam Podcast on The Sports Jam Network to discuss the fantasy implications of the Miami Dolphins. Be sure to check that out since I'm almost absolutely sure Game 4 of the Heat-Spurs game will be at halftime by then.