Dolphins Report Cards: Complete Grades for Every Player on Miami's Roster

Scott AltmanCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2011

Dolphins Report Cards: Complete Grades for Every Player on Miami's Roster

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    The Miami Dolphins 2011 preseason is officially in the books. 

    The 'Fins capped off their exhibition series with a 17-3 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, closing the chapter on a tumultuous summer filled with change and disappointment. 

    Now that the preseason is behind us, it's time to reflect on the last four weeks and see which players earned increased roles for the upcoming season and which will face demotions. 

    We're handing out grades to Miami's most notable names—let's see who passed and who failed. 

Quarterbacks

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    Chad Henne: Statistically, Henne has been Miami's preseason MVP; however, many of his preexisting problems persist. He is still frustratingly prudent and throws a sputtering ball. Still, Henne has made visible progress. Grade: B+

    Matt Moore: The Dolphins settled for Moore after Kyle Orton negotiations fizzled. We all suspected he would compete with Henne for the starting job but Tony Sparano never afforded him a real opportunity. Moore performed admirably during the preseason but he didn't receive enough reps to truly gauge his skill or potential. Even though he shredded Dallas' secondary, we needed to see Moore play against a first string defense. Grade: B

    Pat Devlin / Kevin O'Connell: Devlin is a prized undrafted free agent and O'Connell is an enticing prospect, but neither received any real playing time. Grade: INC

Running Backs

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    Reggie Bush: Bush dazzled during his Week 2 preseason debut, playing with a passion and grit that suggests he might be primed to realize his once infinite potential. He came back down to Earth during the team's ensuing games, but Bush has exceeded expectations. Grade: A

    Daniel Thomas: Miami traded up in the 2011 Draft in order to secure Thomas' services, but if preseason performance is any indication of his talents, it's a move the 'Fins may soon regret. Thomas has shown flashes running behind a suspect offensive line, but amassed a 2.6 yards per carry average before Thursday night's game versus the Cowboys' second team defense. Grade: C+

    Larry Johnson: Initially, Miami's decision to sign Johnson seemed rather inconsequential, but then he tore the Cowboys' defense up on Thursday night. Johnson looks refreshed and invigorated, and although he won't be a major contributor for the 'Fins, he should be an asset. Grade: B

    Lex Hilliard: Though Hilliard sat on the sidelines for two of the Dolphins' preseason games, he was very productive rushing the ball in the other two. 

    Nic Grigsby: The undrafted scat-back made some noise at the outset of camp but has fizzled since. He has looked below average to marginal in game action, and only might make the practice squad. Grade: D+

Wide Receivers

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    Brandon Marshall: A tumultuous off-season spawned some worry about Marshall's 2011 outlook, but not only has he evaded any legal trouble—he got better. Marshall is visibly faster and The Beast is raring to reemerge as a top flight receiver. Grade: A

    Davone Bess: Few NFL plays symbolize reliability and consistency to the extent that Davone Bess does. Henne continues to rely on Bess as his safety blanket. Grade: A

    Brian Hartline: Last year, the 'Fins asked Hartline to serve as the team's primary deep threat, but there was a problem: he wasn't fast enough. Now, Hartline seems to be settling into a more Greg Camarillo-type role but he has also been able to sneak behind secondaries during the exhibition season. Grade: B+

    Clyde Gates: We worried that the rookie would battle a steep learning curve after a Division II collegiate career, but his speed is overwhelming. Although Gates hasn't been able to reel in most of the balls thrown his way, his presence alone is an invaluable asset for the passing game. Grade: B+

    Roberto Wallace: Brandon Marshall's clone has made visible progression from last year and has dominated oppositions' second string defenses. Wallace deserves some playing time this year. Grade: A

    Marlon Moore: Though Moore doesn't have the straight line speed that Gates possesses, he does have incredible explosiveness. Moore underachieved statistically during the preseason, he still posted solid numbers and got open often. Grade: B+ 

Tight Ends

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    Anthony Fasano: Few other NFL teams would view Fasano as a number one tight end, but Miami remains ardent in his ability to fulfill such a role. Fasano was open often but didn't post any earth shattering numbers or make any jaw dropping plays. Grade: B

    Jeron Mastrud / Mikey Shuler / Dedrick Epps / Brett Brackett: The Dolphins continue to neglect the tight end position, hosting a four way competition for the number two job. None of these four have made any promising contributions during the preseason. Grade: F

Offensive Line

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    Jake Long: Long didn't play this preseason due to lingering injuries. Grade: INC

    Lyndon Murtha: Murtha filled in Long at left tackle and was wildly inconsistent. On occasion, Murtha looked like a pro, but he was also torched a few times and struggled with penalties. Grade: C+

    Richie Incognito: Incognito's play during the 2011 preseason mirrors that of his play in the 2010 regular season. He is solid, not spectacular, but played passably well. Grade: B

    Nate Garner: Miami's utility man continues to display uncanny versatility, switching around from guard to tackle. Garner probably won't crack the starting lineup, but he is a very valuable asset for the Dolphins. Grade: A-

    Mike Pouncey: The Dolphins' first round pick has gotten better each week, but still has a ways to go. Pouncey will continue battling a learning curve into the regular season, but it's difficult to complain about his preseason performance. Grade: B

    Vernon Carey: Tony Sparano puzzled many by moving the long-time right tackle inside to right guard. Carey is rather immobile and can't really pull. He performed passably, but not didn't standout. Grade: B-

    John Jerry: Arguably the biggest pariah on Miami's camp, the 2010 third round pick has been abysmal. He's a liability when he is on the field and will probably be cut. Grade: F

    Marc Colombo: Colombo was a late addition to Miami's roster, and the oft-injured 32-year-old hasn't totally settled in yet. He was manhandled against Tampa Bay but has looked pretty respectable at times. Grade: C+

Defensive Line

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    Kendall Langford: Langford never stands out, but he does his job play in and play out. He is one of the most reliable players on the entire roster. Grade: B+

    Tony McDaniel: Even though Miami signed McDaniel to a lucrative extension this summer, he isn't taking things easy. McDaniel still looks motivated on every play, and was a force to be reckoned with at times this preseason. Grade: B+

    Phillip Merling: Merling has been subject to plenty of trade speculation this summer, but that hasn't hampered his play. He generally doesn't stand out on the field but did generate a few promising pass rushes this preseason. Grade: B

    Paul Soliai: Like McDaniel, Soliai only seems to have improved despite cashing in on a huge payday. Grade: A

    Frank Kearse: The seventh round pick was invisible for much of the summer, but has steadily improved his game. Kearse is occasionally disruptive, but he needs to channel his raw talent into consistent ability. Grade: C

    Jared Odrick: Perhaps one of the most promising players in camp, Odrick looks like an absolute beast. He has tremendous pass rushing skills and definitely earned a major role this preseason. Grade: A

    Randy Starks: After a one year stint at nose tackle, Starks moved back out to defensive end where he can better utilize his pass rushing skill-set. Starks was disruptive but didn't exactly wreak havoc. That will likely change during the regular season. Grade: B

Linebackers

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    Koa Misi: Entering his second NFL season, Misi figures to make great strides. He played both the run and the pass extremely well against Tampa Bay, but has not registered any real standout games. Grade: B-

    Jason Taylor: Even at age 37, Jason Taylor hasn't lost a step. Although he is only playing a situational role, opposing teams must acknowledge Taylor's presence. He has been a standout pass rusher this preseason. Grade: A

    Kevin Burnett: Channing Crowder's replacement provides a substantial athletic and pass coverage upgrade to Miami's defense. Though Burnett might not have Crowder's field vision or nose for the football, he has been very impressive. Grade: A-

    Karlos Dansby: Nobody was worried about Miami's $43 million man, and he hasn't given anybody reason to. Dansby looks more comfortable in his second year with the 'Fins, and might be primed to emerge as one of the game's best run stuffers. Grade: A-

    A.J. Edds: Fully recovered from the torn ACL that kept him sidelined for his entire rookie season, Edds has been one of the team's most productive defenders during the preseason. He is a tackling machine, and although he might not have such success against first stringers, Edds earned himself a role for 2011. Grade: A

    Cameron Wake: Coming off of his breakout season, Wake only figures to improve in 2011. He looked sharp and disruptive in his limited preseason reps. Grade: A-

    Jason Trusnik: A relatively anonymous signing, Trusnik didn't really turn any heads until Thursday night when he forced his way into the backfield on a pass rush. Trusnik also played very well on special teams. Grade: B-

Cornerbacks

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    Vontae Davis / Sean Smith: It only seems right to group the cornerbacks who just coined themselves the best in the NFL. Both Davis and Smith have looked excellent in coverage but suspect in run support. Still, both are primed to emerge as stars in 2011. Grades: A

    Benny Sapp: Sapp was an afterthought for much of the 2010 season, but with Will Allen sidelined and Nolan Carroll struggling, he stepped in at nickelback and played very well. He has likely secured the starting nickelback job for the 2011 season. Grade: A

    Nolan Carroll: After a very promising 2010 preseason, Carroll's role has steadily diminished. He no longer holds any return duties and has looked very shaky in coverage. Grade: D+

    Will Allen: Finally, roughly two years later after his initial injury, Will Allen is back in action. He clearly needs time to readjust to game speed—at least we should hope that is why he has encountered some struggles. Grade: C

    Jimmy Wilson: Wilson made national headlines for his unbelievable performance against the Falcons but failed to maintain that level of play for the rest of the preseason. Even though he will make the 53-man roster, Wilson's struggles over the last three weeks of camp will have him relegated to special teams duty. Grade: B 

Safeties

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    Chris Clemons: The solid but unspectacular play we saw from Clemons in 2010 might be what we'll see from him in the future. Clemons plays his role well, but doesn't have the game-breaking athleticism or aggressive mindset that Reshad Jones does. However, he played well enough to likely secure his starting job for the time being. Grade: B

    Reshad Jones: The second year safety has been making a serious push for the starting free safety job. Jones flies around the field and has a nose for the football, but his tendency to take risks can make him a liability. Jones started against Tampa Bay, but didn't play well enough to dethrone Chris Clemons for good. Still, Jones had a great preseason. Grade: A-

    Yeremiah Bell: Bell has hovered below the national radar as one of the NFL's most underrated players for years, and he showed no signs of decline this summer. He looks like he's in peak shape, and had an interception called back against the Bucs last week. Grade: B+