Miami Dolphins: Previewing the Players on the Roster Bubble
I will now consider seven players who have about the same opportunity to make the 53-man roster as they do to be left out.
Dan Carpenter is not on the bubble because, barring an injury to Caleb Sturgis, he is almost guaranteed a send-off. Not only does Carpenter make about $2.5 million more than Sturgis, he has not been reliable in game-deciding situations.
Tight ends Michael Egnew and Charles Clay also are likely to stay. Egnew has shown improvement so far this offseason, and as ESPN.com's James Walker points out, the Missouri standout is too big (6'5") and fast (4.62 40-yard dash) for the Dolphins to give up on after only one NFL season.
Clay is valuable because of his versatility. The Tulsa star will be Miami's fourth tight end and its pass-catching fullback, regardless of whether Vonta Leach or Jorvorskie Lane will be on top of the depth chart.
Let's look at some Dolphins squarely on the roster bubble.
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John Jerry showed improvement last year, earning the right to start all 16 games. Despite his progress, Jerry is under the microscope in 2013, according to The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero. His weight will be closely monitored in the offseason.
Newly signed Lance Louis will likely be Miami's starting right guard when healthy, leaving Jerry to compete for a backup spot. With the drafting of Dallas Thomas and Will Yeatman's progression as a guard, the final interior offensive lineman position will come down to John Jerry or Josh Samuda.
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Samuda is the second-best true center on Miami's roster—after Mike Pouncey—yet is on the bubble because of players the Dolphins re-signed and drafted. Nate Garner was given a three-year deal worth $4.875 million because he can play every position on the offensive line. Dallas Thomas played every position on Tennessee's offensive line.
The Miami Dolphins will retain Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, Tyson Clabo, Lance Louis, Nate Garner, Thomas and Yeatman.
Samuda and Jerry will battle for the ninth and final position among offensive linemen.
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Despite McNutt's success as a Hawkeye, he was not drafted until the sixth round of the 2012 draft. After making the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad, McNutt saw action in four NFL games, making zero catches.
So far in the offseason, McNutt has proved to be the red-zone target he was in college and is, now, battling Rishard Matthews for the fifth and final spot as a Miami Dolphins wide receiver.
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Rishard Matthews made last year's squad after being drafted in the seventh round. The Nevada standout saw action in eight games and made 11 receptions for 151 yards.
With Miami's addition of Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller and Dion Sims, Matthews may see less playing time, if that's possible.
He may lose his roster spot outright to McNutt.
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Lane's future with the Miami Dolphins hinges on whether or not Vonta Leach is coming to South Beach.
Lane made the 53-man roster last year after being brought in by his college coach, Mike Sherman. Lane made a name for himself after running over some would-be tacklers, but his blocking was inconsistent and he continues to battle weight issues.
The bottom line is that Vonta Leach would replace Lane upon his arrival. Charles Clay would remain the second fullback on the depth chart because of his pass-catching ability.
It appears Lane's days as a Miami Dolphin are numbered.
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Nolan Carroll had a difficult 2012 season, making zero interceptions in 14 games (10 starts) while being roasted consistently. Carroll cost Miami 69 yards due to pass interference penalties, which ranked him ninth in the NFL.
Carroll should be slated behind Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor, Richard Marshall, Will Davis and Dimitri Patterson.
If Kelcie McCray and rookie Don Jones make the roster as backup safeties, Jimmy Wilson will be in the mix as a cornerback, almost assuring Carroll's departure.
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Patterson played well in his two games as a Miami Dolphin. Patterson's problem is his $4.6 million cap hit for 2013 and the fact that the Dolphins will owe him nothing if he is not on the roster when Miami opens its regular season.
If Patterson does not earn the right to start opposite Grimes, or be Miami's top slot corner, during the offseason, Jeff Ireland will find it difficult to justify his salary.
A Patterson departure may open the door for Carroll's return.