6 Dark Horse Candidates to Make Miami Dolphins' Final 53-Man Roster

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2014

6 Dark Horse Candidates to Make Miami Dolphins' Final 53-Man Roster

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    I am pleased to give you the news that all of Miami has been waiting all weekend for: the six dark horse candidates to make the Miami Dolphins' final roster!

    In the coming weeks you'll hear a lot of final roster talk in the NFL as teams open training camp and sort out the players they have and how they fit on their team. 

    Keep in mind, the rosters are anything but final at this juncture, and injuries will obviously play a huge role in who makes the team and who doesn't. 

    Such injuries have already affected the Dolphins, and a key injury is the sole reason for one of the names I have on this list. 

    Here's a look at my dark horse picks to make Miami's final 53-man roster.

TE/FB Harold "Gator" Hoskins

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Harold "Gator" Hoskins, an undrafted free agent out of Marshall, has made a bit of a name for himself during the Dolphins' OTAs. 

    CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler describes Hoskins as, "A player in the Charles Clay mold," adding: 

    Hoskins lined up in a WR/TE hybrid role in college and projects as a versatile H-back threat with his athletic ability as a receiver. He is a try-hard competitor and will make it tough for coaches to cut him due to his work ethic and motivated drive to find the field.

    Hoskins has earned the attention of the South Florida media as well, with the Sun-Sentinel's Chris Perkins tweeting: "Keep seeing TE Gator Hoskins doing good things. Gotta keep closer watch on rook from Marshall."

    Hoskins can fill a role in coordinator Bill Lazor's offense in Miami, and an extra set of hands would be great for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Hoskins can also contribute on special teams, which is where you will likely see him on the field the most this season. 

DE Terrence Fede

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    As a rule, you really don't expect seventh-round picks to make the team all too often, but for the Dolphins, it seems like a seventh-round pick gets in every year. 

    This year Miami decided to use their seventh-rounder on a position that had the most depth on the team: defensive line. The choice was Terrence Fede, a defensive end out of Marist College. 

    At the time, I figured him to be a practice squad guy that would grow thanks to the depth at the position and the chance to work with defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers.

    Then the NFL suspended defensive end Dion Jordan for using performance enhancing substances, which not only puts a monkey wrench into the Dolphins' prediction I was the most sure of but, for at least the first four games of the season, provides Fede with the opportunity of a lifetime. 

    Without Jordan, Fede will get more playing time, likely on special teams. However don't rule out the possibility that he'll get game time at defensive end, as the Dolphins like to rotate their defensive line in order to keep players fresh.  

C Tyler Larsen

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Outside of Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins really don't have a true center. 

    They have linemen who can play center, linemen who have played center...but not an actual center. 

    The problem with that is Mike Pouncey is hurt and will be gone for a while. 

    This gives Tyler Larsen a chance at breaking onto the roster, in fact, it's the only reason he has a chance. He was a practice squad candidate prior to Pouncey's injury and is a guy who works hard but needs a little bit of seasoning before he's NFL ready. 

    He might have to rush said seasoning this summer, as the Dolphins likely will need his services. 

SS Michael Thomas

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    USA TODAY Sports

    One would think, with an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award already on his resume, that Michael Thomas shouldn't be a dark horse. 

    It doesn't exactly work like that, though. Consider the circumstances that led Thomas to that award: getting picked up from the San Francisco 49ers practice squad due to a litany of injuries in the Dolphins' secondary, then only a few days later, having to play the final quarter of the game as the secondary got even more banged up. 

    The secondary has gotten healthier, which is why Thomas is a bubble player. 

    However, he's a bubble player who will wind up on the final 53-man roster. He's spent the last offseason learning Miami's system, and was pretty good in OTAs. 

    A good training camp and preseason and he's in. 

RB Orleans Darkwa

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Deciding which of the running backs other than the three at the top (Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas) will make the final cut is a tough one. 

    No, I'm not counting Marcus Thigpen, he's making the roster as a receiver. 

    Mike Gillislee will need a great camp in order to make the team, but he's not a true "dark horse."

    Orleans Darkwa is. He's a speedy back who had issues with injuries at Tulane. Right now he is healthy and did well in OTAs. 

    He'll get a good chance to shine in preseason, as the running back position could be wide open with Moreno's lingering injury. 

FS Don Jones

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Don Jones is the most famous man on this list, and not for football reasons. 

    What he said was stupid, but after the fiasco blew over, I had the feeling that he would make the team. The Dolphins could've easily released him (even waiting after OTAs and just saying it was performance based) after the scandal, but didn't. 

    Jones was good in OTAs, which would've made such a move look stupid. He was also pretty good in his limited roles on defense and special teams last season, and he is needed in the secondary to provide depth. 

    Right now, he's the fourth best safety on the team, at least based off of what I see on the roster. 

    The past is behind Jones, and the Dolphins hope wide receivers stay in front of him. If that happens, he's sure to make the roster this September.