Miami Dolphins Week 1 Stock Report
The Miami Dolphins have settled all of the competitions for starting spots in their lineup.
As a result, some players' stocks are climbing and other players' stocks are taking a hit headed into the 2015 regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins.
In just four days, we'll finally begin to get the answers to the questions that have surrounded the Dolphins all offseason: Who will be the team's top wide receivers? What will the starting offensive line look like? Who will be this year's Jelani Jenkins?
These questions may not be answered in Week 1, and they may even remain unanswered through Week 17, but all we can evaluate is where the Dolphins stand right now. So here's a look at five players whose stock is either rising or falling as the Dolphins get ready to kick off the 2015 season.
Stock Up: Rishard Matthews
At times, Rishard Matthews' relationship with the Dolphins has been more dysfunctional than the relationship between Ron and Tammy Swanson.
Matthews started ahead of Kenny Stills in the Dolphins' third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. The third preseason game, commonly known as the "dress rehearsal," can sometimes serve as a looking glass into the team's plans for the starting lineup. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor showered Matthews in praise throughout the preseason and training camp:
I'll say this is the most consistent I've ever seen Rishard. He's made plays in practice, virtually every practice down the field, physical plays, fast plays. He's done it every day. We've talked in the offseason with him, that was one of the big things was being consistent. I'm trying to think of another guy on the offense who was given a challenge of, 'This is what you need to do to go to the next level,' and that has met it like Rishard has so far.
Matthews has not had much of a chance to prove himself at the NFL level aside from a short stretch at the end of 2013 when he had 31 receptions for 331 yards and two touchdowns in the final eight games of the season. If he can reignite that hot streak, the Dolphins could have a fearsome trio of receivers whether it's Matthews or Stills on the field.
Stock Down: Billy Turner
Second-year lineman Billy Turner appeared to have the inside track to one of the starting jobs on the offensive line. He was drafted just north of 16 months ago by the Dolphins' new regime in an effort to rebuild the offensive line.
Fast-forward to the days leading up to the 2015 regular season, and it seems Turner's career trajectory is pointing in the wrong direction.
First came the report from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins have expressed some disappointment internally in Turner's development. It wasn't a surprise, then, when news came down that the Dolphins had replaced Turner in the starting lineup at right guard.
Now, Turner has an uphill battle to prove that he's still worthy of a starting spot, but therein lies the Catch-22: Turner must play well enough to prove he belongs on the field, but the only way for him to prove he belongs there is to get the playing time.
Stock Up: Jamil Douglas
The Dolphins have spent the past two offseasons searching for answers to their problems on the offensive line. It's hard to believe that it all began in January 2014, with only one holdover out of five spots on the starting line. The Dolphins spent last offseason focusing on the offensive tackle spots and spent this offseason focusing on the guard spots.
They hope that their rookie fourth-round draft pick, Jamil Douglas, can bring the consternation to an end. Douglas was handed the reins at right guard over second-year lineman Billy Turner, who did not perform well enough this summer to keep his hold on the spot.
That being said, Douglas' insertion into the starting lineup hasn't necessarily assuaged all concerns about the offensive line.
“Well, I think there are concerns when you have unknowns," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "I am hoping that we answered most of those."
Of course, we don't know for sure whether a rookie guard in the starting lineup will help or hurt the Dolphins in the long run. We'll just have to see how it unfolds over the course of the season.
Stock Down: Jay Ajayi
Headed into the 2015 offseason, the Dolphins had an apparent crisis in their backfield. A lack of depth threatened to ruin the Dolphins' ability to run the football if anyone should get tired or—heaven forbid—injured.
So it made perfect sense when the Dolphins drafted Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. Yes, there were some concerns about the durability of his knee—there were reports that it was "bone-on-bone" and could threaten his long-term future in the NFL. It was almost universally accepted, though, that Ajayi could contribute to a team in a short-term scope.
Unfortunately for Ajayi, the knee isn't the only health concern.
On Sunday, the Dolphins placed Ajayi on short-term injured reserve after he cracked multiple ribs in the Dolphins' preseason finale, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. That means that Ajayi can return in Week 10, but not before then.
But that's not all; according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Dolphins vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum also said, "If he can't pass protect, he will never be active." So even when he gets healthy, he has to improve before he'll make an impact for the Dolphins.
Ajayi was considered to be a threat to Lamar Miller's status as the top running back in the Dolphins offense. Now, though, he may not even be able to push LaMike James or Damien Williams out of the No. 2 spot.
Stock Up: Brice McCain
If Jamar Taylor is entering a make-or-break year for the Dolphins, he's getting off to an awful break-y start thanks to the emergence of cornerback Brice McCain.
According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, McCain is expected to get the start over Taylor at right cornerback in Week 1 of the 2015 season. Taylor has been dealing with a quadriceps injury since the middle of training camp, but he has returned to practice, according to James Walker of ESPN.com.
At 5'9" and 190 pounds, McCain is much smaller than the prototypical boundary cornerback. So, too, is Brent Grimes at 5'10" and 185 pounds. That might explain why McCain has spent most of his career lining up in the slot, covering smaller, quicker, shiftier receivers.
The Dolphins might be hoping that Taylor will emerge as a starting-caliber cornerback. At this point, the only way that will happen is if McCain gets burned too often and opens the door for Taylor to get back on the field.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained via team news release.