Dolphins' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles
The Miami Dolphins have a cornerback problem that needs solving before the end of training camp.
Byron Jones' presence on the PUP list and Trill Williams' knee injury have brought up concerns regarding the team's cornerback depth.
Miami added Mackensie Alexander from the free-agent market to replace Williams, but they still have to sort out its depth chart behind Xavien Howard.
Jones is working toward being ready for the regular season, but the Dolphins need to have a contingency plan in place in case he can't suit up for the opener.
Miami's other positional battles are good problems to have because of its depth at running back and wide receiver.
First-year head coach Mike McDaniel and his staff knew difficult decisions would be ahead at the two offensive skill positions. Instead of making tough calls on cuts, the Dolphins may try to find trade partners to satisfy the needs of players and to have a clear cut depth chart for Week 1.
The Dolphins have one sure thing at cornerback and that is Xavien Howard starting on one side of the defense in Week 1.
After that, Miami may have to make its decision the week before its regular-season opener given the current status of Byron Jones.
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters on Tuesday that Jones' status is "unknown" despite the coaching staff being hopeful he will be ready, per ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques.
Trill Williams' knee injury further complicates the cornerback situation because he could have slid into Jones' spot while he worked back to full health.
Veteran cornerback Mackensie Alexander was brought in as a free agent to compete with Noah Igbinoghene, Keion Crossen and Nik Needham.
McDaniel did not want to confirm if Alexander would specifically play in the slot corner role, per Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post.
That likely leaves an open competition for the second starting spot if Jones is unable to go for Week 1, and at minimum, the third and slot corner jobs are up for grabs.
Igbinoghene has been disappointing during his time in the NFL, Needham has over 50 tackles and at least two interceptions in each of his three seasons and Crossen has four starts over four seasons.
Alexander, who spent most of his career with Minnesota, and Needham seem like the two favorites to win the No. 2 cornerback job. Both players could end up with major roles in Week 1 if Jones is unable to suit up.
Needham seems like the natural fit because he has been with the team, but Alexander was not brought in just to get cut. At least for the first week, the two could be on the same field together while Miami's other starting cornerback heals up.
Prediction: Nik Needham, Mackensie Alexander
Backup Wide Receiver
The Dolphins could solve their No. 4 wide receiver competition in the trade market.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported last week that "they’ve talked to other teams about potentially moving veteran receivers Preston Williams and Lynn Bowden Jr."
Williams and Bowden are stuck behind Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson on the depth chart. Miami may feel free to deal them elsewhere with Trent Sherfield and Erik Ezukanma on the roster. Miami also signed Mohamed Sanu right before training camp.
Bowden led Miami in receiving yards in its first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had three receptions for 55 yards. Sanu and Wilson each had three receptions as well. Sherfield caught a single pass for 33 yards and Ezukanma brought in two balls for 18 yards.
Williams appears to be the first odd man out on the Miami roster and it would make sense for the Dolphins to find a trade partner in the coming weeks. Williams showed some promise in 2019 and 2020, but injuries have kept him from playing a whole season.
Having the top three wide receivers set and wanting to give opportunities to other players should make a trade necessary for Williams, and even for Bowden, who may not have a role as a utility man on offense with so many players added in the offseason.
Sherfield, who spent last season with McDaniel in San Francisco, and Ezukanma may be kept as developmental pieces on the back end of the roster. Miami could keep Sanu as a backup with experience just in case an injury happens.
Miami may be able to get two or three draft picks for Williams and Bowden. It should be active on the trade market as injuries continue and some players do not live up to expectations in the preseason.
Prediction: Mohamed Sanu, Trent Sherfield, Erik Ezukanma
Miami went from not having a reliable top running back to rostering too many running backs in the offseason.
Chase Edmonds is slated to be the top ball carrier, but there are other contenders for playing time at the position.
Raheem Mostert's connection with McDaniel from his time in San Francisco should help him earn snaps as the No. 2 running back.
Sony Michel would be a nice third back to have on the roster. He could feature in certain situations and be an insurance policy for Edmonds or Mostert if they are injured at any point in the season.
Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed appear to be on the outside of the 53-man roster and the preseason could serve as their auditions for other teams.
Gaskin earned 27 yards on four carries in the preseason opener, while Ahmed did nothing with two carries.
Gaskin should have the edge to make the roster over Ahmed, but one has to wonder if he is happy with being a backup that does not receive much playing time.
Miami has not reportedly been in trade talks for its two backup running backs, but all it takes is one injury across the league and that could change.
The Dolphins should keep Gaskin, their leading rusher from last season, unless a team comes calling for him before Week 1. Ahmed may be forced to find another team on the waiver wire given how much quality is on the Miami roster.
Prediction: Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, Myles Gaskin