The end is near. Preseason is nearly over, and so is the tenure of some players on the Miami Dolphins roster bubble. Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, many of these players are getting one last chance to shine and prove they’re worth keeping on the team. Whether that’s with the Dolphins, or another team, remains to be seen.
But regardless, the game still has to be played. Amidst the dramatic rumors once again surfacing of a trade for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, and the return of linebacker Vince Biegel to the injured reserve list, here are the top five players to watch on Sunday.
1. Shaquem Griffin – LB
Perhaps no one has more to gain in this final preseason game than Shaquem Griffin. For what his role on the team is, Griffin has a lot of competition. But now that Vince Biegel is back on IR, Griffin’s chances of making the final roster have increased drastically. Like Biegel, Griffin’s best attributes are speed and raw effort. He can be useful as an extra blitzer on passing downs, and he’ll get plenty of action on special teams.
hell of a play by shaquem griffin pic.twitter.com/oThdKzmOrv
— josh houtz (@houtz) August 14, 2021
Griffin still has a lot to overcome, however. The linebacker corps is loaded with talent, and it’s unlikely the Dolphins keep a surplus of linebackers just to keep Griffin. He’ll have to put on a drastic performance if he really wants to stick in Miami.
There is some extra hope, however. With the practice squad retaining last season’s COVID-19 rules, the Dolphins can retain six players on their squad with more than two accrued seasons of NFL experience. So if no one else decides to sign him, Griffin can be stashed there. If he does well enough, some other team may add him to their roster. If not, it isn’t hard to speculate Griffin will be a top priority addition.
2. Jason Strowbridge – DE
While Jason Strowbridge is likely to be another quick candidate for the practice squad if he’s waived, he would like to make the final 53-man roster. Problem is, Strowbridge hasn’t done much to really stand out above the rest of his teammates.
He does have one thing going for him, however. Unlike Jonathan Ledbetter and Tyshun Render, his main competitors at defensive end, Strowbridge was actually drafted by the Dolphins. Miami’s front office thought so highly of him, they drafted him in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL draft. Both Render and Ledbetter were undrafted free agents. Teams have a tendency to give a certain amount of bias towards players they invested assets into.
Of course, head coach Brian Flores has never been shy about moving on from players, even higher profile ones. If Render or Ledbetter flash more than Strowbridge does in this last game, they may get the nod over him.
3. Greg Mancz – OL
Once the Miami Dolphins traded for Greg Mancz, the competition got that much tighter for everyone else. More than likely, the veteran Mancz will be viewed as a center, which does not bode well for the likes of Matt Skura, who hasn’t lived up to his lofty expectations. Skura hasn’t even managed to beat out Michael Deiter for the starting center position. Granted, Deiter has been decent for the most part, but certainly not dominant.
So where does this leave Mancz? Reports out of Baltimore indicate that Mancz would not have made the 53-man roster for the Ravens. But apparently GM Chris Grier thinks highly enough of Mancz that he didn’t want to risk another team picking him up first. Mancz’s history with co-offensive coordinator George Godsey from his Houston Texans tenure doubtlessly has something to do with it as well.
Greg Mancz is a versatile player as he's played Center and RT in Houston. Per @PFF Greg was the number 1 rated blocker in week 1 and the number 6 for week 2 but at RG. Curious to see where they end up paying him pic.twitter.com/Gs9PCSH2xZ
— Juan C 5RS (@exclusvty) August 28, 2021
Mancz can play at multiple positions on the offensive line, so as a depth move this makes sense. The reason for watching him is not to see if he makes the roster or not. It’s to see if the Dolphins can get something out of him the Ravens weren’t, because many Ravens fans are calling their GM a genius for making this move.
Losing trades isn’t something Chris Grier is known for, but it’s not unheard of either. A strong performance from Mancz on Sunday will alleviate some of the concerns.
4. Patrick Laird – RB
This slot could have gone to either Laird or rookie Gerrid Doaks. This time the dubious honor goes to Laird simply because his effort hasn’t been enough for the eye test this year. Doaks isn’t a superstar by any means, but he has flashed enough to garner attention. And with the top three spots almost certainly going to Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown, that leaves maybe only one slot for another running back. Even Laird himself has nothing but good things to say about the 7th round pick.
“I think he’s done a really good job of transitioning into the NFL.” Laird said on Friday. “I think you guys have seen the clips. He runs hard. Gerrid is a good running back.”
Of course it’s unlikely that Laird would say anything else. He’s been nothing but the model teammate since arriving in Miami. However, he and Doaks will be having quite a battle for that final roster spot. If Laird gets cut, Miami would need to sacrifice one of their veteran practice squad spots to retain him. If Doaks is waived, he’ll need to get through waivers before the practice squad is even a possibility. That makes his situation much riskier.
Laird has always gotten by with his sheer effort and determination. But his physical ability is nothing to write home about. If Laird wants to be the team’s fourth running back, he’ll need to outplay Doaks, and by a rather significant margin. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably be on the outside looking in.
5. Malcolm Perry – WR
The former Navy superstar was really hyped up for his versatility when he was drafted in the 7th round last season. Unfortunately, none of the fantasies have become reality as of yet. No wildcat craziness, no surprise passes, no shifty running of the football. The Miami Dolphins have treated Malcolm Perry as just another normal cog in the machine. One could argue they’re saving his talents for an extreme emergency, but it’s hard to justify a roster spot for a gimmick.
Very nice bubble screen by Malcolm Perry. pic.twitter.com/lWu7r9HvwR
— Jason Sarney (@Jason_Sarney) August 22, 2021
With Lynn Bowden Jr. on IR for the season, Perry is the default gadget player. His skillset offers options that his biggest competition, Kirk Merritt does not. Perry can actually play running back and even quarterback if an extreme emergency happened. But Merritt is a more accomplished wide receiver as of this moment, so it boils down to what do the Miami Dolphins think they need more?
Even without Merritt, Perry will have to fight for his spot. His best chance to make the roster at this point is the unexpected departure of either Jakeem Grant or Preston Williams, two more established players who have rumors swirling around them whether Miami will continue to invest in them. Perry showing up and making plays against the Bengals will make the decision much more difficult for Brian Flores.
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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