Dolphins

Dolphins players on roster bubble getting last chance Sunday

The end of training camp and preseason is always laden with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s the mark of real football fast approaching. Games will soon matter as teams fight for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. But on the other hand, it also marks the end of the road for many players just trying to prove they’re worthy to make the team. The Miami Dolphins are no exception to this.

With the level of depth the Miami Dolphins are boasting this season, many deserving players are going to have their hopes dashed. It’s never fun to watch these players go, but the NFL is a business first and foremost. On Sunday, the players on the roster bubble are going to get their last chance to show the Miami Dolphins – or another team watching – just what they have to offer.

“There’s always excitement when you get to go out and play.” Quarterback Reid Sinnett said on Friday. “So these guys that aren’t sure through the first couple preseason games if they’re going to play; now they know they’re going to get an opportunity to go out and showcase what they’ve improved upon and that’s always a challenge as a quarterback to make sure that we’re focused on what we’re trying to do. There’s always excitement when you get to go out and play. You feel the excitement at practice even every day when guys are getting a chance to play the game they love.”

One player who always seems to be on the roster bubble is running back Patrick Laird. Head coach Brian Flores always says that it takes no talent. Laird is the embodiment of that philosophy. He doesn’t have elite speed, agility, strength or size. But he does have determination and drive that always stands out. That’s how he manages to make the roster each year. Thanks to that, he was lucky enough to be the one who caught QB Tua Tagovailoa’s first ever NFL pass. But that doesn’t matter in the long run. Laird is fighting for a spot on the roster, this year is tougher than ever.

“It’s just what I’ve been used to.” Laird said on Friday. “I was a walk-on in college, kind of a very similar situation as an undrafted guy. I knew since I tried out for the NFL that I was probably going to have to fight for a spot every year and that’s the way I like it. It’s challenging but it’s one of the best job interviews you can be a part of. It’s a long job interview process; but I like it, I enjoy it and I’m still loving football. I’m just going to focus on playing the best football I can and hopefully help the Dolphins win this year.”

Sunday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals is crucial for Laird and everyone else on the bubble. Head coach Brian Flores said on Tuesday that, in reality, there are only about two or three open spots available on the roster. That means the coaches have already chosen most of the team. For those open spots? Flores had very direct advice.

“Work hard. Keep improving.” He said. “Take advantage of your opportunities. I mentioned that to our team many times. In life, it’s about taking advantage of your opportunities. Whether it’s football or business or really anything that you’re working towards, if you get an opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. For those guys who are two, three spots that are available, they’ll have some opportunities to practice, they’ll have opportunities in the game. If they play well, then they give themselves the best opportunity to maker the team and if they don’t, then they don’t give themselves the best chance.”

One of those players under a lot of pressure to perform is defensive back Trill Williams, who is an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. Williams originally signed with the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

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“That process was crazy because I get there and they put me on waivers and I was only there for three days at the time.” Williams said on Friday. “Then that Monday, I’m here. God works in mysterious ways and he put me where I’m supposed to be and I’m supposed to be here. I can only control what I can control. I’m just blessed to be here.”

Williams is a very intriguing prospect. He was solid all throughout college. Now with the Dolphins in training camp, he’s regularly made plays, including very recently intercepting a Jacoby Brissett pass that got all his teammates excited. So what does he think the coaches want to see from him?


“Honestly, I think they just want to see me go out there and play football how I’ve been doing and what they saw on film from me coming out of college.” Williams said. “Like I said, I can only play football and control what I can control. I’m going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got every time I go out there.”

Finally, there’s linebacker Shaquem Griffin. Everyone knows his story. He was born with amniotic band syndrome. His left hand didn’t develop properly and was amputated when he was four years old. But he refused to let that stop him. Griffin earned All-American honors at UCF, and was drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL draft. He is the only player with one hand to ever be drafted.

Griffin is already a fan favorite at practice. He’s exciting to watch on the field and makes plays when given the chance. However, it hasn’t been perfect. He’s had his moments where he loses matchups as well. Naturally, this won’t be the first time Griffin faces adversity. He intends to rise to the challenge on Sunday and whatever happens after, he’ll cross that bridge when he gets to it.

“This has definitely been my best camp since I’ve been in the league.” Griffin said Friday to local media. “So as far as that, no matter what happens, no matter what’s the outcome of the situation or a roster (spot), I know I’ll be in a good position because I handled my business as far as making sure I learned the plays, making sure I’m a guy who has energy, making sure that I’m making plays, making sure that I’m running around. The only thing I can do is control the controllables and when the decision is made, I’ll be happy with any decision, there on the team or not.”

Brian Flores clearly has a difficult job ahead of him. There’s so much talent to choose from, it’s like splitting hairs. Normally, preseason is considered boring, especially at the end. This year is going to be very different. There’s simply too much competition to just turn a blind eye.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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