There was little Miami Dolphins news this week aside from free-agent running back Ricky Williams heading to the Baltimore Ravens (which I'm proud to say I correctly predicted on July 20), but the team did release their initial depth chart to the media on Monday.
While this is something the league mandates and not something teams take very seriously, it is interesting to verify some positions, attempt to glean some insights and point out some of the obviously misleading information.
Here is the depth chart as released by the Dolphins, along with some observations of my own in bullets:
WR: Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Roberto Wallace, Brooks Foster, Julius Pruitt
LT: Lydon Murtha, Alan Barbre, D.J. Jones
LG: Richie Incognito, Ray Feinga, Matt Kopa
C: Mike Pouncey, Joe Berger
RG: Vernon Carey, John Jerry
RT: Marc Colombo, Nate Garner, Ray Willis
TE: Anthony Fasano, Mickey Shuler, Jeron Mastrud, Brett Brackett, Dedrick Epps
WR: Brian Hartline, Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore, Phillip Livas, Patrick Carter
QB: Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Kevin O’Connell, Pat Devlin
RB: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lex Hilliard, Kory Sheets, Nic Grigsby
FB: Lousaka Polite, Charles Clay
- O'Connell ahead of Devlin may just be a credit to the more experienced player, but it is interesting since O'Connell was only recently signed. He does have more upside than Devlin though, so I could see him winning this job.
- Bush ahead of Thomas on the running back depth chart is obviously just to make the veteran feel better and not hand the rookie anything. There's simply no way he's going to be the Dolphins' every-down back. Expect Thomas to get the carries between the tackles.
- I've said since he was drafted that Clay was more of a fullback than tight end, and we see that here. Clay will move around a lot, but he's a threat to Polite more than he is to Fasano or anyone else.
- Murtha working at left tackle in place of Long is going to hurt his chances of winning the right tackle job, which should go to Colombo.
- Third-year man Julius Pruitt was always a long shot, but to see him at the very bottom of the depth chart, even below the rookies and less experienced players, is telling.
- Undrafted tight end Brett Brackett is curiously absent, but reports are he's actually ahead of Epps and fourth on the depth chart at tight end. Brackett has a shot to make the team and is a solid developmental prospect.
- Kopa is listed at guard and Garner at tackle, which is the opposite of how they've played for the Dolphins in the last year or before. It will be interesting to see if Garner backs up a guard spot more and allows a spot on the roster for the recently signed Willis.
- The Dolphins had no issue with anointing first-rounder Pouncey the starting center. Berger really needs to start worrying about his roster spot with the ability of Incognito and Garner to back up center.
LDE: Kendall Langford, Tony McDanniel, Ryan Baker
NT: Paul Soliai, Ronald Fields, Frank Kearse, Johnny Jones
RDE: Randy Starks, Phillip Merling, Jared Odrick, Robert Rose
SOLB: Koa Misi, Jason Taylor, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Quinton Spears
ILB: Karlos Dansby, Austin Spitler, Mike Rivera, Mark Masterson
ILB: Kevin Burnett, A.J. Edds
WOLB: Cameron Wake, Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny
LCB: Sean Smith, Will Allen, Benny Sapp, Vincent Agnew
RCB: Vontae Davis, Nolan Carroll, Nate Ness, Jose Perez, Jimmy Wilson
SS: Yeremiah Bell, Tyrone Culver, Mark Restelli
FS: Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones
- I wouldn't read too much into Merling being ahead of Odrick on the depth chart. Both will probably be rotating in behind the starters, but Odrick is certainly the one with more of a future in Miami if he can stay healthy.
- I had initially projected Ryan Baker at nose tackle and Johnny Johnes at defensive end, but they're switched here. Baker has worked at nose tackle before, however, and probably still backs up that position. I don't expect either to make the team.
- I'm actually a bit surprised to not see Taylor with the starters, but that sounds like how it's been in practice and Misi may see his role reduced in 2011 if Taylor produces. I'm also surprised to see Spears on the strong side because he seems to lack much bulk.
- This depth chart seems to give Spitler the edge for the fourth ILB spot over Rivera and David Nixon (who replaced the retired Masterson) but I'd say that battle is wide open. Whoever wins won't be playing defense, anyway. Allen is currently listed as a second-team player over Sapp and Ness at corner, but he didn't practice this week and I'm having serious doubts he'll make the team. I'm also curious as to why Wilson is listed at corner rather than free safety, but his role is going to be on special teams regardless.
- Clemons gets the starting nod at free safety as the incumbent, but he's far from won the job. Jones probably has more upside and may challenge him early this season.
P: Brandon Fields
K: Dan Carpenter
H: Brandon Fields
KR: Davone Bess, Clyde Gates, Phillip Livas
PR: Davone Bess, Clyde Gates, Phillip Livas
LS: John Denney
- The Dolphins didn't even try to provide any actual insight with the returner listings. While I believe Gates and Livas are in the mix, I see no way the team would use Bess on punt returns with Bush on the roster. Bush may be valuable to the team's offensive plans, but he's too dynamic to keep on the bench on punts given how bad Bess is in that department.
- There's also no way Bess is returning kicks, especially since he hasn't done so in three years with the Dolphins. At the very least, Carroll is the favorite as the incumbent, but guys like Gates, Livas and Sheets will all be in the mix. Bess won't.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.