Making the Call on the Dolphins' Hardest Remaining Cuts
The first wave of roster cuts claimed nine Miami Dolphins players today. Among that group, which you can see in full in this article by Bleacher Report's own Erik Frenz, was surprise cuts like fullback Jorvorskie Lane and offensive lineman Lance Louis.
The Dolphins now have until this Saturday to trim their roster from 75 players to 53. That's no easy task, especially with a handful of positions that would benefit from greater depth.
It gets murkier when you consider the number of Dolphins who have had strong preseasons and training camps. This time of year is perhaps the most unenviable period for any team's front office, yet it is a part of the business.
That said, we're going to take on the tough job of deciding who suits up for the season opener against Cleveland in a week and a half and who starts looking elsewhere for work. It's time to make the call on the Dolphins' six remaining most difficult cuts.
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Josh Samuda had a shot to make a name for himself this preseason by establishing a bit of dominance at the right guard position. Instead, he gave up two sacks in three starts and carries an overall grade of -3.3 at guard (via Pro Football Focus—subscription required).
Pro Football Focus currently has Samuda tied for 139th among guards in the preseason. Limited playing time isn't an excuse, either, as Samuda is tied for 11th for downs played at guard.
It's been a struggle for Samuda this preseason, and it appears as though his days of starting at right guard are over with the return of veteran John Jerry.
Frankly, that might be the best thing to happen to Samuda. He now switches back to Mike Pouncey's backup at center. Samuda looks like he's still a better backup than he is starter, and his ability to plug in at center or guard if injury strikes is a boon for the Dolphins.
Samuda has made positive plays at guard, and while his mistakes have likely cost him a starting spot, his versatility should at least earn him a spot among the final 53.
Verdict: Makes the Team
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Derrick Shelby exploded into the forefront of many Dolphins fans' minds when he sacked Dallas' quarterback twice in the Hall of Fame game a few weeks ago. His impressive performance got a lot of people excited about Miami's defensive line depth.
Since then, Shelby has been pretty quiet. He's tallied just four tackles in his last three games with no sacks. Shelby did, however, recover a fumble last week against Tampa Bay that led to a Dolphins' touchdown.
The young defensive end has enjoyed a successful preseason overall, grading out with a 0.9 from Pro Football Focus. With his performance thus far, it's hard to imagine Shelby not making the team.
Along with Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan, he would be the final piece to a trio of young, talented pass-rushers that Miami could rotate.
Verdict: Makes the Team
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R.J. Stanford was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins in 2012, and the corner struggled as part of Miami's weak secondary. He finished the year off with a grade of -4.9 from Pro Football Focus.
He has fared better this preseason, posting a -0.1 grade through four games and 96 snaps. He's still one of the weaker cogs in the secondary behind Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor and Nolan Carroll. That said, he's performed slightly better than fellow corners De'Andre Presley and Julian Posey.
As recently as yesterday, Stanford lined up as a second-team corner while Will Davis sat out with an injury, according to Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel. However, it doesn't look good for Stanford to make the team even as a backup. The corner could still have a shot at making the team's practice squad, though.
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The Dolphins have a hotly contested race to grab the No. 4 wide receiver spot. Coincidentally, there are currently four players vying for that spot: Chad Bumphis, Bryan Tyms, Marvin McNutt and Rishard Matthews.
Bumphis, Tyms and McNutt have each posted impressive games during the preseason, with Bumphis going off early and Tyms and McNutt coming up strong in the last couple of weeks.
That leaves us with Matthews, who missed the first two preseason games with an injury and hasn't exactly looked spectacular when he's been in (two catches for 12 yards, via NFL.com).
The easy call to make here would be to vote in favor of the veteran, but I'm looking at performance.
Frankly, Matthews has been inferior when compared to the other three contenders. Unfortunately, the Dolphins aren't likely to keep more than one or possibly two of these receivers, so it's extremely likely that more than one will be cut.
If this writer makes the call, Matthews gets the ax.
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Michael Egnew had a rough rookie season. It started out with his nationally televised berating by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and continued with him being infamously called out as soft by an anonymous teammate.
Simply put, it didn't look good for the tight end.
Roughly a year later, we're seeing a different version of Egnew. He earned praise from head coach Joe Philbin earlier this month, according to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post. The formerly maligned player has five catches for 66 yards this preseason, although he didn't catch a pass against Tampa Bay.
Egnew also had a strong camp, showing improvement in receiving, hanging onto the ball and blocking. While the latter of those skills still needs some improvement, Egnew could be shaping into the seam threat the Dolphins had hoped he would be when they drafted him last year.
That's doubly important with the injury to Dustin Keller. Now Miami is without a tight end to attack the seam. This is Egnew's chance to step up and prove himself. Few options at tight end probably already preclude him from being cut, but his resurgence would likely earn him a spot on the final roster regardless.
Verdict: Makes the Team
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Jonas Gray was already a long shot to make the roster when training camp started. But that didn't deter the second-year running back. Instead, he responded with two strong performances to start out the preseason, gaining 73 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
His primary competition has been rookie Mike Gillislee. Gillislee doesn't have the numbers Gray has posted, but he's also had less chances. Gray has had the edge on the rookie until recently.
Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Gray happened against the Buccaneers last Saturday. He had a costly fumble that led to Tampa's go-ahead touchdown. For a team whose biggest goal is limiting giveaways and generating takeaways, that fumble did not help Gray's stock at all.
At this point, it seems like Miami would have to keep four running backs for Gray to make the team. That's unlikely.
Given Gillislee's status as a rookie and his superior special teams play, Gray is the odd man out. It's a shame considering what the youngster has overcome to reach this point, but that's the business of football.