Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the preseason, lack of depth at certain positions on the team was predictable and understandable. Most teams have a few positions where they do not have very good depth. However, I believe the preseason revealed the Dolphins lack depth to a degree that I had not originally imagined.
Let’s start at the macro level, and then reduce down to specific positions.
Pro Football Focus has a team of graders that grade every single player on every single play. They sum up the grades of all the players on offense and defense, respectively, and use that sum to offer a unit grade for the preseason.
The preseason tends to feature depth players a lot more than starters. For example, the 11 projected starters on the Miami Dolphins defense constituted only 601 of the 3,872 snaps (15.5 percent) accumulated by Dolphin defenders this preseason.
Therefore, when we add up the offensive and defensive grades of various teams during the preseason, the grades are more reflective of the quality of the backups and depth, as opposed to the starters.
Adding together each NFL team’s offensive and defensive rating sums from the preseason, we find that the Miami Dolphins ranked dead last in the NFL with a total rating of -61.9 via Pro Football Focus.
What does this mean? It means that Pro Football Focus’ graders did not care very much for the performance of the players that the Miami Dolphins brought to their preseason games, many of whom are currently depth players on the team.
Naturally, skeptics will look at that and wonder how much of the negative grade was tied up in players who were later cut by the team, as opposed to players who constitute the team’s actual depth. The 27 players who remain on the team’s 53-man roster from the preseason, but do not figure to be among the 22 projected starters, tallied a total Pro Football Focus grade of -40.1.
Therefore, about 65 percent of the Dolphins’ league-worst negative grade this preseason came from current depth players that persist on the 53-man roster.
Getting into more specific positions, the supposed "competition" at tailback never manifested.
Lamar Miller far and away outperformed every backup tailback on the roster, and the backups played so poorly that one is left no choice but to question the paper-thin depth at the position. Daniel Thomas averaged only 2.7 yards per carry this preseason, after having been a sore disappointment during his first two years in the league.
Rookie late round pick Mike Gillislee did not do much better, having averaged only 3.0 yards per carry during the preseason. Return specialist Marcus Thigpen continued to be used more as a wide receiver than as a real tailback, and recently claimed fullback Tyler Clutts is a former defensive end that possesses no ball carrying skills.
The tackle depth along the offensive line was particularly disappointing as both Will Yeatman and Dallas Thomas struggled during the preseason. Thomas, a rookie, was arguably the worst offensive lineman on the team, which includes those players who were cut.
Even the players on the interior of the offensive line had weak showings as most were involved in the competition to start at right guard and none truly proved worthy of the honor, which saw the job return to 2012 starter John Jerry by default.
The tight ends unit not only lacks a valid starter, it also lacks for depth.
The backups at linebacker continued to perform poorly on the field. Like Dallas Thomas, rookie fourth round pick Jelani Jenkins was arguably the worst-performing player at his position this preseason, including players that were cut.
Backups Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny and Josh Kaddu were not much better on film.
Whereas I initially believed the safety position would lack depth while the corner unit would show strong depth, the opposite came about during the preseason.
Backup safety Kelcie McCray finished up a strong preseason with an excellent performance in the final game. Yet, rookie backup corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis had injury-plagued preseasons that featured a lot of negative plays.
Backup corners Don Jones and R.J. Stanford should not even have made the 53-man roster, arguably only having done so due to the failing health of the previously mentioned rookies. Nickel corner Nolan Carroll is sub-mediocre.
With the team once again heading into the season paper thin in the depth department, they’re forced to hope for an abundance of health in order to sustain success in 2013. However, the Texans game showed us how quickly an entire position can be transfigured by one awkward hit.