The Miami Dolphins are officially finished with the 2010 preseason following their 27-25 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night, and now the front office faces its biggest task with trimming the roster down to their final 53 players.
The Dolphins currently have 72 players on the active roster, meaning the team will need to remove 19 players via either trade, release, or otherwise.
The Dolphins will surely scour waiver wires for depth and hidden gems, meaning the 53 players that remain on Saturday may not necessarily be the 53 the team takes into Buffalo on Sept. 12.
That being said, here are my projections for the 53 players that will survive Saturday's cut, and the 19 that won't.
Also, be sure to come back for complete coverage on any breaking news when the Dolphins do begin making their cuts today or tomorrow!
Starters in italics
Quarterbacks (3): Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Tyler Thigpen
Released: Pat White
I almost feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting eagerly for the next 24 hours when I get to open my presents. In this case, my present is the long overdue departure of White.
Although he saw a bit of playing time in the third preseason game, he played sparsely in Week 2 and not at all in the two others. The Dolphins are one of the deepest teams in the NFL at quarterback, and White has no place here.
Running backs (5): Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, Lousaka Polite (fullback)
Released: Rolly Lumbala
The Dolphins are stacked at running back with legitimate NFL starters and a nice change-of-pace, specialty guy in Cobbs. Hilliard has never been a lock to make the team—especially with the return of a healthy Cobbs—but his proficiency on special teams should secure his spot.
Wide receivers (5): Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Patrick Turner, Marlon Moore
Released: Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace
Turner disappeared in the preseason and doesn't appear to stick around much longer, but I do have him surviving the final cut simply because the team will keep five wideouts. I don't consider Turner or Moore safe though, as one or both of them could be replaced by waiver claims.
It's hard to imagine a third-round pick on the practice squad, but if Turner does end up getting cut Saturday or at a later date and doesn't get snatched up by anyone, I could see him coming back in that capacity along with Wallace.
Tight ends (2): Anthony Fasano, David Martin
Released: John Nalbone
Nalbone will make the team initially if the Dolphins decide they need to keep three tight ends active, but they'll be constantly looking for his replacement. He certainly hasn't earned a roster spot at this point.
Offensive tackles (3): Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Lydon Murtha
Released: Andrew Gardner
The Dolphins haven no depth at tackle, but with only four in the roster, I can't reasonably cut down to just two players. Murtha is the better of the two and has played left tackle more, so he gets the nod for now.
Regardless of what happens Saturday at this position, the Dolphins need to upgrade their tackle depth and should be searching for Murtha's and/or Gardner's replacement(s) immediately.
Offensive guards (4): Richie Incognito, John Jerry, Cory Procter, Donald Thomas
Released: Ray Feinga
I'm still not a big fan of Donald Thomas', but with Nate Garner's injury and the backup tackles so unimpressive, I'm opting to keep four guards instead.
A lot of people think Procter won't make the cut, but I like his experience and versatility off the bench. He can play any interior line position and is certainly better than Thomas, despite what most think.
Centers (2): Joe Berger, Jake Grove
Released: Andrew Hartline
Berger is a starter strictly due to Grove's shoulder injury, but I'll go out on a minor limb and say that Grove gets his job back and starts more games than Berger in 2010. Both guys are starting-caliber, but they both need to get better and be more consistent if the Dolphins' offense is going be as productive as it can be.
Defensive ends (5): Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Charles Grant, Marques Douglas, Tony McDaniel
Released: Ryan Baker, Lionel Dotson
I've had Baker making the team over McDaniel most of the time up to this point, but McDaniel consistently plays earlier in the game, which says to me his stock is higher than Baker's is right now.
Also hurting Baker's chances vs. McDaniel is that Baker is still eligible for the practice squad, so it seems like a good idea to keep McDaniel active and have Baker around in practice in case of injury.
After two seasons toiling on the bottom of the depth chart, it's finally time to give up on Dotson. The guy hasn't shown anything in two years and hasn't even cracked the defensive rotation, so why would we expect him to now?
Nose tackles (2): Randy Starks, Paul Soliai
Released: Montavious Stanley
This position has been pretty much set since Day One, and that was cemented with Soliai having some pretty good games this preseason. He's a suitable backup, while I honestly can't even recall seeing Stanley in a game.
Outside linebackers (5): Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Charlie Anderson, Erik Walden
Released: Chris McCoy, Quentin Moses
The Dolphins have a three-headed monster starting at outside linebacker, with Misi and Alama-Francis poised to platoon opposite Wake. It's the right move, as the two players have different skill sets and will be better together than either one full-time.
Anderson has added some versatility to his repertoire after playing inside linebacker the past few weeks, so he should absolutely make the roster.
In the battle for the fifth spot, it simply came down to special teams. Walden is the best of the bunch, and honestly did as much on defense than either Moses or McCoy in the preseason.
Inside linebackers (4): Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, Micah Johnson
Released: J. D. Folsom, Austin Spitler
I always expected the Dolphins to keep four inside linebackers, but with Crowder's injury that seems a lock. Even with Charlie Anderson doubling as a backup inside linebacker, I still think one more guy makes the team on special teams.
As hard as it was for Johnson to come into camp late as an undrafted rookie and compete with two players drafted by the Dolphins, I have to give him props for how well he played in the preseason. His mobility is a bit limited and I don't know how much potential he has on defense, but he's good enough on special teams to have earned a spot over Folsom and Spitler.
Cornerbacks (5): Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Will Allen, Jason Allen, Benny Sapp, Nolan Carroll
Released: Kevin Hobbs, Nate Ness, Ross Weaver
The Dolphins wouldn't usually keep six cornerbacks, but Will Allen's status for the 2010 season is uncertain and the guys at the bottom of the depth chart are just too valuable in other areas.
I don't see Sapp getting cut because they didn't give up Greg Camarillo for nothing. He's also looked pretty decent on special teams for someone so new.
There really isn't any way to cut Jason Allen or Carroll either, because both are too valuable on special teams. Allen is what I would call the special teams ace of the Dolphins, while Carroll has potential as a kickoff returner.
Ness excited a lot of Dolphins fans with a huge game against Tampa Bay, but he's dropped off since and there is simply no room for him in this numbers game. I like the guy, but he's not better than any of the six guys above.
Safeties (4): Chris Clemons, Yeremiah Bell, Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver
Released: Jonathon Amaya
Clemons is essentially the starting free safety by default, as his only competition isn't ready for that kind of role. He's still a big question mark though in terms of just how effective he is going to be, but he doesn't have big shoes to fill replacing Gibril Wilson.
I really like Amaya's upside, but I don't see any room for him on the roster right now. Culver is never going to develop into a starter, but he is a valuable asset on special teams.
Special Teams: Dan Carpenter (placekicker), Brandon Fields (punter), John Denney (long snapper)
The Dolphins brought in no competition for any of these three positions, and all three guys received contracts extensions this offseason. It's a well-oiled machine.
Practice Squad (8)
Although one or two of the Dolphins' practice squad players will be new faces from the cuts of other teams, this is the eight-man practice squad I would form with the 19 cuts I've projected above.
Remember, only players that have not already served two seasons on the practice squad and those that have not been active for nine games during a regular season are eligible.
WR Roberto Wallace—Not ready to contribute in the regular season, but a solid-enough prospect to keep around.
TE John Nalbone—With only two active tight ends, at least one more will be on the practice squad. They'll probably even have two.
OT Andrew Gardner—Has had a really bad preseason, but knows the system and provides a camp body.
DE/NT Ryan Baker—Only losing a roster spot due to being practice-squad eligible, he's a valuable guy in practice at defensive end and nose tackle.
OLB Chris McCoy—Hasn't really shown anything in the preseason, but will probably be kept around to continue developing.
ILB J. D. Folsom—A better special teams player than Spitler, although the team could go with their more recent draft pick.
CB Nate Ness—Not as much of a lock to get snatched up as some think, Ness is nice to have in practice as a corner and safety.
SS Jonathon Amaya—An intriguing talent, Amaya will be worth keeping around to develop if they can.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.