Roster Analysis: Miami Dolphins

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is an in-depth look at the Miami Dolphins as they prepare for their season-opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, 1 p.m. ET.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Ryan Tannehill. Backups - Matt Moore, Pat Devlin.
Everything depends on Tannehill (12 interceptions, 13 touchdowns). He's the man who will make this offense run at high speed. He's supposedly improved his accuracy, footwork and decision-making, and he has better receivers around him so everything should click. Moore has won games in this league, most recently in 2011.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - TB Lamar Miller. Backups - TB Daniel Thomas, FB Tyler Clutts, TB Marcus Thigpen, TB Mike Gillislee.
Miller averaged 5.1 yards per carry in limited duty last season but most likely he'll be the first- and second-down back while Thomas will handle third-down duties because he's better in pass protection and as a receiver. Neither showed anything special in pre-season. Clutts might only see action in goalline and short-yardage situations.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Charles Clay. Backups - Michael Egnew, Dion Sims.
Clay is the winner by default considering projected starter Dustin Keller had a season-ending knee injury. Egnew and Sims are viewed suspiciously. Keep an eye on this crew. They could be Tannehill's best friend or the bane of his existence. The Dolphins hope Clay is the best receiver, Egnew is the best blocker and Sims is a combination.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson. Backup -- Rishard Matthews.
This is the best unit on the offense. They have talent, depth and veteran wisdom. Still, these receivers probably need to lead the offense along with Tannehill because they're reliable. Gibson will probably get more receptions as the slot receiver with the loss of Keller. Wallace, known historically as a major deep threat, has been targeted on short and intermediate routes, making him more than a one-dimensional player.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Jonathan Martin, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG John Jerry, RT Tyson Clabo. Backups - RT Dallas Thomas, LT Will Yeatman, RG Nate Garner, G Danny Watkins.
These guys are led by Pouncey and Incognito. Clabo is sufficient. Martin is a question mark but Jerry is the bigger question mark. Run blocking is above average for this team in its zone blocking scheme. But pass protection, which also includes tight ends and running backs, is suspect. Look for an emphasis on agility this season.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DE Cam Wake, DT Paul Soliai, DT Jared Odrick, DE Olivier Vernon. Backups - DT Randy Starks, DE Dion Jordan, DT Vaughn Martin, DE Derrick Shelby.
This could be among the top five units in the NFL. Wake, Soliai and Starks have all been to the Pro Bowl in the last three years. The DT rotation of Soliai, Odrick and Starks is among the best in the NFL. Wake (15 sacks) is a beast against the pass and improving against the run, and Jordan, the No. 3 pick of the draft, seems to have good speed and quickness.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Philip Wheeler, SLB Koa Misi, MLB Dannell Ellerbe. Backups -- SLB Jason Trusnik, SLB Josh Kaddu, MLB Lee Robinson, WLB Jonathan Freeny, WLB Jelani Jenkins.
Speed, quickness and athleticism are the basics at this position, but the real requirement is being able to cover TEs in pass coverage and make plays such as interceptions, fumbles and sacks. That's what this defense was missing a year ago and that's what the Dolphins hope they solved with the additions of Ellerbe and Wheeler.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Brent Grimes, RCB Dimitri Patterson, FS Chris Clemons, SS Reshad Jones. Backups -- LCB Nolan Carroll, RCB R.J. Stanford, LCB Will Davis, RCB Jamar Taylor, FS Jimmy Wilson, FS Don Jones, SS Kelcie McCray.
A tremendous pass rush should be a great help to these guys, but just as with the LBs, the bottom line is creating turnovers. The DBs have to be able to take advantage of hurried throws or a collapsing pocket and turn it into a takeaway, which the Dolphins' secondary hasn't been able to do for years. Expect a big year from Grimes, who has been a superstar throughout training camp.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Caleb Sturgis, P Brandon Fields, DS John Denney, KOR/PR Marcus Thigpen.
There are two big changes here: Sturgis, the strong-legged, fifth-round pick from Florida, has taken over kicking duties, and Thigpen will now handle all KOR and PR duties after splitting the job last season. The Dolphins should be solid in all areas.

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