Fresh Perspective: Miami Dolphins depth best it’s been in years
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has a very difficult job ahead of him.
It’s never a fun time when coaches have to break the hearts of players trying to make the cut for an NFL roster. Now that struggle will be magnified as there are so many players deserving of a roster spot. The Dolphins wide receiver corps, for instance, is the deepest it’s been in years. Nearly every player has managed to stand out in one way or another. Just going down the list, it’s easy to see the talent.
- Will Fuller
- DeVante Parker
- Albert Wilson
- Jaylen Waddle
- Preston Williams
- Jakeem Grant
- Mack Hollins
- Kirk Merritt
Consider that isn’t even the whole list. Lynn Bowden Jr. was placed on injured reserve during the team’s mandatory cut down on August 24. Even then, there are still more receivers who if/when released, teams will likely be eager to put in a claim for them. Even without those other players, that’s still eight different players that the Dolphins have to choose from to round out their WR corps. One could say that given the fragility of these players, it wouldn’t be hard to justify keeping seven receivers, maybe even all eight since Fuller won’t be available in Week 1 due to a suspension.
But even then, it perfectly illustrates the problem that the Miami Dolphins have on their hands. There’s too much talent. They can’t keep everyone.
However, this is the best kind of problem to have. Obviously having too much talent means that once the roster is finalized, the depth on the team will be the best it’s been in a very long time. That bodes well for when – not if – injuries start to plague the team. It inevitably happens to every team, and it will happen to the Dolphins too. Something may happen to DeVante Parker, so Preston Williams can step in.
If something happens to Preston Williams, then Mack Hollins can take over. He and Tua Tagovailoa have developed a very real rapport over the past few weeks in camp and in preseason.
Step up and throw. Mack then Attacks. pic.twitter.com/vgBwyk93f9
— Jason Sarney (@Jason_Sarney) August 22, 2021
If practice and preseason has shown anything, it’s that Tagovailoa is making it work regardless of who he throws the ball to.
That’s just one of many positions that are turning out to be much deeper than anyone could have dreamed. Let this be the real testament to what GM Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores have accomplished since starting the rebuild in 2019.
Take a look at the secondary. By far, this is the strongest unit on the Miami Dolphins defense. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are the stars of the show, with Eric Rowe acting as a tight end eliminating safety. After that? Things are surprisingly fluid. This doesn’t mean, however, that there are no defined roles. In fact, that in and of itself is the strength of the Dolphins defense. Who is doing what? It’s the opposition’s best guess.
Nik Needham returns, better than ever as an amazing reserve player. He developed from nothing into one of the fan favorite players with his sheer force of will. Good thing Brian Flores knew what he was looking at, because almost everyone wanted him gone back in 2019 after his pitiful preseason as a rookie. Brandon Jones is back a hard-hitting safety, and then they add veterans Justin Coleman – an excellent slot corner – and Jason McCourty, who can play corner and is now working as a safety as well.
That’s not even mentioning rookie Jevon Holland, who is already turning out to be a home run pick if early signs are any indication.
Now take a look at the linebacker corps. Obviously the headliner is Jerome Baker. But then take a look at his teammates. Andrew Van Ginkel came on strong last season and proved to be a playmaker as an edge rusher. He’s projected to starter. Then the Miami Dolphins traded Shaq Lawson to the Texans for veteran linebacker Benardrick McKinney. He’s already proving to be an excellent run stuffer that they sorely needed.
Speaking of run stuffers, last year’s starting LB Elandon Roberts is back, but now as a reserve player instead of a starter. Also, Sam Eguavoen – who started for the Dolphins back in 2019 – had himself a career game with four sacks in the preseason against the Falcons on August 21. He’s a backup and a core special teams player now.
This is probably the sack Sam Eguavoen had that stood out the most to me. Watch it a few times. Sam’s burst into the OT is pretty gnarly. pic.twitter.com/jtkl3iz1r5
— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) August 23, 2021
Think about that for a moment. Players who were starting for the Dolphins not too long ago are now backups. And it’s not necessarily because they were demoted for lack of performance. Both Roberts and Eguavoen had their moments while starting in Miami. It’s just that the Dolphins found even more talent that eclipsed theirs. It doesn’t negate the already existing talent, it simply builds off it.
The roster’s depth keeps going deeper. On the defensive line, there are so many awesome players that some starters are having to practice with the second team just to make sure they get some snaps. Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins, Adam Butler, Zach Sieler, Raekwon Davis, John Jenkins. That’s six defensive linemen that can rotate in and out almost seamlessly. Sieler, Butler and Wilkins can all line up as a defensive end when needed. Davis and Jenkins are built to stop the run up the middle. One of them needs a break? No problem, call on the others to take a few snaps.
That is the definition of depth.
Now to be fair, it’s not perfect at every position. There’s no star at running back, it’s a committee. They’re good, but not necessarily great. It remains to be seen what their ceiling is. At tight end there’s a significant drop off from Mike Gesicki to the likes of Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe. Will Hunter Long eventually reach that point? The Miami Dolphins can only hope.
Finally, there’s the offensive line. The bane of GMs and coaches coming to Miami for the past decade and a half. Miami’s been trying to create depth there for a long time, while failing to make a stable starting five in the process. This year, the offensive line is struggling again. The hope is that Austin Jackson, Solomon Kindley, Michael Deiter, Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg all develop. It’s a bold strategy, and one can only hope it pays off for them.
The fact remains that overall, this is the deepest Dolphins roster in a very long time. Coming from New England, Brian Flores is well-acquainted with the next man up philosophy. That’s exactly what he brought to Miami. It’s easy to say, but not easy to execute. Some players are simply more talented than others. Fortunately, it looks like there’s enough talent so that if the worst happens, the Miami Dolphins will be ready to adapt.
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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