Pouncey should blossom in his second season as an NFL starter, especially since he's in a scheme that fits him better. Samuda, a former Hollywood Hills standout, was one of camp's more pleasant surprises. He's naturally a guard and his low center of gravity allows him to anchor well. Its possible more could be put on his plate in time.
Wake is a proven pass rusher, but everyone else needs to step up their level of contribution because Miami didn't create enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the preseason. Odrick contributed six sacks last season, but hasnt shown the quick twitch ability it takes to consistently threaten an offensive tackle. Vernon and Shelby are rookies who ran very hot and cold, but its wide to invest playing time into the pair because they have upside.
Soliai and Starks need to be dominant for this 4-3 scheme to work and that hasn't been the case. There are gap control issues with this defense. McDaniel is recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the exhibition opener. He's a solid backup. Randall flashed talent late in the preseason, but his seventh-round draft status got him on Miami's 53-man roster. Production will keep him there.
Burnett is the only player in this unit who can be trusted, and that's when he's healthy. Unfortunately for Miami he isn't healthy at this moment because of a back injury that he's been nursing for a month. Misi, a 2010 second-round pick, could blossom in the 4-3 scheme, but hasn't so far. The Dolphins made Brown a priority as a waiver wire claim, but that has more to do with the rookie's upside than contributions this preseason, which was one tackle.
This group remains one of Miami's thinnest units, especially if Dansby doesn't make a full recovery from the right knee issue that forced him to sit out three preseason games. If Dansby is sidelined it is likely Burnett replaces him instead of Spitler, who is a solid special teams contributor, but limited linebacker. The Dolphins will likely continue searching for the right backup.
Trading Vontae Davis
to Indianapolis thinned out this unit, and will put pressure on everyone to step their game up. Smith has been solid during camp, but he always has a problem turning his talent on during games. Marshall will man the nickel spot, which means Carroll comes onto the field during nickel and dime packages, which happen often in today's pass-happy NFL. While Carroll has a strong camp and exhibition season he was exposed last year as a limped player, one who struggled in man coverage. The Dolphins claimed Stanford because of his upside, but he'll likely need time to learn the scheme. The Dolphins need to add one more cornerback, even if its someone on the practice squad.
Jones and Clemons have 30 starts between them, and it is time for these two former fifth-round picks to poop or get off the pot. Jones was rarely challenged in the exhibition season, but that won't be the case come week one. His tendancy to gamble is concerning, but that wasn't an issue during the preseason. Clemons, the vocal leader of the secondary, needs to tackle better, and make more impact plays. Wilson didn't step up in his opportunities, but his versatility, and ability to play cornerback in a pinch, should keep him safe. Nolan, who was claimed off the waiver wire, contributed plenty for a solid defense in Houston.
Kicker - Dan Carpenter
Punter - Brandon Fields
Long snapper - John Denney
Returners - Lamar Miller, Rishard Matthews, Marcus Thigpen, Reggie Bush
Practice squad options:
Receivers Jeff Fuller
and Chris Hogan
, offensive linemen Andrew McDonald and Chandler Burden, and safety Anderson Russell
could all be re-signed to the practice squad now that they've cleared waivers. Linebackers Josh Kaddu
and Jonathan Freeny
, who were each released on Saturday to make room for the newcomers, must clear waivers before becoming practice squad options.