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The first thing you need to know is that the situation remains fluid. Why, there were two moves on Sunday. More could come today. Changes are inevitable. It’s always that way for the back end of the roster. The Dolphins may be down to the regular season limit, but Dennis Hickey’s work with this roster is a process that never really stops.
Having said that, the 53-man roster at this precise moment is filled with some interesting storylines and some surprising developments. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:
• The center of attention: This was one of the toughest decisions of the summer. What do you do with Mike Pouncey? The Dolphins chose to keep the veteran center on the active roster instead of risking a six-game stint on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP). This is good news. It means that Pouncey is closer to returning than originally anticipated. It means the Dolphins believe he could be back in the first month of the season. That’s encouraging for a player who is so important to this offense.
• Youth prevails: As of Sunday afternoon, there were 12 rookies on this roster: Six drafted, six undrafted. The six drafted players are understandable; the six undrafted are a surprise. You usually see maybe two or three undrafted players, but six is not the norm. It further underlines two things in my mind: That the draft is an inexact science and that this regime does not care about pedigree. When Dennis Hickey told me early this summer that “once you come through our doors, it doesn’t matter how you got here” he obviously meant it. Still, it took some guts to be so bold.
• From four to five: A year ago, the Dolphins kept four wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster. This year they kept six and narrowed it to five on Sunday with the release of Damian Williams. This isn’t by design as much as it is just common sense. This is among the strengths of this team. You’ve got five players with clear, undeniable NFL talent. Why, I can remember a few years ago when the Dolphins didn’t have half that many quality receivers. No, there aren’t any five wide receiver formations as far as I know. But if they are five of the best athletes on your team – and they are – then it only increases your options to keep them all on the roster.
• A few words about Jordan Kovacs: I know, I shouldn’t be partial to some players over others. But I got to know Jordan Kovacs as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan a year ago. I so admired his story, how he literally begged his way on to the Wolverines football team, never slowed by a couple of knee injuries, and went on to become the team captain and leading tackler. Probably a few inches too short and a few tenths too slow, I knew it would be tough to make this team a second time because of the upgrades at safety. Why, he knew how tough it would be. But he never stopped battling, never stopped dreaming, until he was released late Saturday afternoon. Got to admire that young man.
• Toughest veteran decisions: Probably the two biggest names to be released were running Daniel Thomas and kick returner Marcus Thigpen. Both had been on this team for a while. Both had shown us some promising signs. But in Thomas’ case, he battled too many injuries and just never played to the level expected of a second-round pick. Thigpen gave us some thrills as a kick returner, but was simply not valuable enough in other areas. He also could not match the diversity and big-play potential of second-round pick Jarvis Landry.
• A new look for the running game: The Dolphins kept four running backs; two of them – Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa – weren’t drafted and have never carried the ball in an NFL game. That leaves Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller as the only experienced backs. Miller was the only back among this group who was even on the roster last season. Interesting thinking here. Is it risky? Sure it is. But I like both Williams and Darkwa. I like their speed. I’m impressed with their ability to return kicks. Each clearly showed enough in the preseason to justify being one of 53.
• Just for kicks: Despite a summer of uncertainty due to a groin injury, Caleb Sturgis is the only placekicker on the roster, which means he’s ready to go all out against the Patriots. Now healthy, his next challenge is showing us a little more consistency than he did as a rookie. This team will play a lot of close games; Sturgis therefore becomes a crucial part of the big picture.
• So what now? With suspended players Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones not counted on the 53 until their four-week punishment ends, that opened up two additional spots. But what happens when they return? The point here is that whether it’s upgrading the back end of the roster or figuring out who goes when Jordan and Jones returns, this is an ongoing process. In this league, the only real certainty is uncertainty.
(On Tuesday, AC in the AM takes a look at Joe Philbin and something he takes great pride in).
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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