The Dolphins kickoff the pre-season against in-state rival Tampa Bay in a yearly home and away clash, that is more of an exhibition game than true test for either team. Early pre-season games are not about winning, as much as they are an opportunity for the coaching staffs to figure which players belong on the final roster.
The following chart will help Dolphins fans understand who they should be concentrating on while watching the game. The players that are nearly a lock to make final roster are colored in Green, the players in Blue are on the bubble and the players in Red are in trouble. The players in Red are the ones to watch closely followed by Blue and then Green.
Offensively, the two most notable surprises on this list are Matt Moore and Brian Hartline.
Why is Matt Moore in red on this list? Because The Dolphins may not be ready to keep four QBs on the roster and Pat Devlin will be sniped if Miami tries to place him on the practice squad for another season. This doesn’t mean Moore will be cut, but it does mean he could become trade bait, at some point, if the right offer comes along. Moore has a reputation for not practicing well, but has proven he can play well in game situations.
Moore needs to show the new coaching staff why they should ignore his practice performance by showing up big when the lights come on. A lackluster evening for Moore could lead him to playing for another team come September.
Brian Hartline has been unable to show Joe Philbin and his staff why he belongs on the roster. Hartline has not practiced in OTAs and now two weeks into the pre-season, he's still sitting out with a calf injury. Hartline cannot help himself by leaving the door open for his replacement to walk in and often times, a star is born when the door is open.
Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore have been hanging around on the fringe of the Dolphin roster for three seasons, it is time for one of them to make a move. Wide receivers are notoriously slow starters in the NFL, but after three seasons, the trial period is over. One of these players must make the jump from promising potential, to starter material, and it needs to happen in these early pre-season games. Keep an eye on these receivers.
In that same group is Clyde Gates, Gates has speed to burn, but his lack of instincts and body control may lead him to the outside looking in. This coaching staff has no ties to Gates as a player not drafted on their watch and it won’t be surprising if the Grimm Reaper comes calling for Clyde’s playbook. Gates needs to come up big in these early games or he will be gone.
John Jerry has found nothing but fleas in Joe Philbin’s doghouse and this mammoth of a man is a complete mismatch in the west coast offense. Jerry will find himself in a Jet uniform before the summer is over, unless he can somehow make an impression as large as his girth. The chances are slim, no pun intended, but if one player has something to prove on Friday night, it is John Jerry.
Defensively, players like Ryan Baker and Isaako Aaitui are in trouble. These guys have hung on for a couple years, but have yet to make an impact. With a new sheriff in town, they will need to show they belong because they obviously have not made an impression, judging by this depth chart.
The Miami defense is a very solid group and many of the players in red are going to have to make an impact on special teams if they expect to earn a roster spot. Players like, Josh Kaddu, Jonathan Wade, Gary Guyton, Austin Spitler and Quinten Lawrence will see plenty of action but must excel on special teams, because none of them has shown potential as a starter. It's early for Kaddu, but there is only a few spots for pure special teams players on an NFL roster.
It is worth mentioning, Vontae Davis could spend a lot of time on the field Friday. Davis was a little flippant in his “acting” to be in shape, in an attempt to fool the coaching staff. Bad Idea Vontae, very bad idea! Davis is probably not in jeopardy of losing his roster spot or perhaps even his starting job, but he set himself up for some extended playing time against some hungry scrubs, who may take exception to him making a joke of the job they would love to have.
The players listed in red and blue should be interesting to watch, the question for Dolphinshouters is, which are the players you think should change colors on this list and why. I look forward to your comments.