The Brandon Marshall trade created a gaping hole at the wide receiver position for the Miami Dolphins. A hole that was presumed to be addressed through free agency or early in the draft. Neither one of those happened. The Dolphins passed on Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and Reggie Wayne to name a few, and didn’t take a receiver in the draft until round 6. They didn’t add a big name free agent or high round draft pick to be the ‘ALFA’ receiver, and claim this offense doesn’t focus on one.
That makes me wonder just how this offense is going to work. Greg Jennings is clearly the leading man in Green Bay, and Miami is supposed to be running an offense similar to Green Bay’s. Who is going to get the majority of targets? Can this offense really spread the ball out evenly? Every team has a go to guy, whether it’s a receiver or tight end, they all have one. Who is that guy going to be in this offense? Someone has to step up this season, and there are plenty of candidates battling for 5, maybe 6, roster spots.
Brian Hartline: He is a lock to make the roster, and is being compared to Jordy Nelson more and more every day. This is clearly his best shot to put up career numbers. He makes tough catches, and has a great feel for the sidelines. He can also run a verticle route really well with his sneaky speed. Hartline is faster than most people think, and finds himself behind the defense every now and then. He’s entering his 4th season for the Miami Dolphins. Look for him to be a big contributor for the Miami Dolphins this season.
Davone Bess: Bess is also a lock to make the roster. He has become one of the better slot receivers in the league, and should get plenty of targets this season. He was thought to have beat out Hartline last season for the number 2 receiver, but was worth more to the team playing the slot position. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins use him in the offense this season.
B. J. Cunningham: He was the first receiver selected in the draft for the Miami Dolphins, but that didn’t happen until the 6th round. He was the 183rd player selected in the draft, and Miami had plenty of chances to grab a higher rated player. He is one of the most decorated receivers in Michigan St school history, and seems to be the type of receiver this coaching staff talks about. He does not posses blazing speed, but does run good routes and he catches the ball. He needs to learn the offense fast if he wants to make the 53 man roster on game day. I have a feeling the Dolphins are going to start the guys that know the offense, despite their talent level. If he fails to learn the offense, I fully expect Miami to try and hide him on the practice squad this season.
Jeff Fuller: It was a shock to me at first that this guy went undrafted. Then I heard how many passes the receivers at Texas A&M dropped from Ryan Tannehill and it was easy to see why he wasn’t drafted. He does however have a good chance of making the roster and contributing a little in the offense. Fuller has two advantages over the rest of the competition, he knows the offense, and Tannehill likes him. I could see Fuller making the team this season, especially if he learns how to catch the ball.
Clyde Gates: Gates needs to take a giant leap forward this season if he plans to make the team. He made only 2 catches last season, yes…..2! He was supposed to be the one to take the top off the defense and open things up underneath. That clearly didn’t happen. Gates returned kicks all season and seemed to be 1 broken tackle or juke move away from returning one to the house several times, but that didn’t happen either. It was learned this offseason that Gates played with a pulled muscle for most of last season. He needs to impress during training camp, because there are plenty of guys trying to make the team that can manage two catches this season. If Gates doesn’t make the roster, he will likely be poached from the practice squad because of his elite speed. I’m hoping this coaching staff can coach him up this season and utilize his speed.
Chris Hogan: Hogan is a long shot to make the 53. He was a practice squad guy during his first NFL season and will likely stay that way this season.
Rishard Matthews: Like Cunningham, Matthews fits the mold of what the Dolphins are looking for in a receiver. He was selected by the Dolphins in the 7th round. He is another good route runner with quickness, but not necessarily good speed. He also has good hands and has good ability as a returner. He has his work cut out for him, but everyone besides Hartline and Bess is starting with the same opportunity to make the team. I personally hope he makes it. I knew Rishard when he was in high school, he attended high school in my hometown until his senior year, and set plenty of school records during his time there. It would be nice to see him make it.
Marlon Moore: Moore is entering his 4th season for Miami. During that time he has managed 6 catches and a TD. He has been on and off the practice squad the past three seasons and could finally break through and make the 53 this year. He needs to finally put it all together this season, or his time in Miami will likely be over. He is definitely a ‘bubble’ player heading into training camp.
Derek Moye: Moye is a free agent signee for the Dolphins. The rookie out of Penn St has good size and shocked most by not getting drafted this year. He will likely be stashed on the practice squad this season and could wind up getting picked up by another team because of his size.
Legedu Naanee: He could end up being the steal of the free agent wide receiver class this offseason. He produced a little during his time in San Diego, and played good last season for the Carolina Panthers and rookie sensation Cam Newton. He has the talent to be a big contributer for this offense, and is close to a lock to make the team. I’m excited to see what he can do for the Dolphins this season, I expect to hear his name being called a lot on game day this season.
Julius Pruitt: Pruitt is another one of those guys that is in a make or break season. A practice squad player for most of his career, he appeared in 9 games last year and failed to make a catch. He is decent on special teams, but even that won’t land him on the 53 this year. He has been behind Moore and Wallace on the depth chart for the Dolphins, and is likely a long shot to make the 53 this season.
Roberto Wallace: I’m really interested in Wallace. I want him to work out. He has the physical size and speed to be a game changer. As a rookie he played in 12 games managing 6 catches. He appeared in two games last season before injuring his quad which sent him the IR. He is healthy now, and I think he will have a lot of chances to make the team. He could be a great redzone weapon because of his size, and is tremendous on special teams.
12 players for likely 6 spots. Here’s who I think will make the team, in no order. Bess, Hartline, Naanee, Wallace, Matthews, and Gates. I see the Dolphins trying to stash Moye, Cunningham, and Fuller on the practice squad and parting ways with the rest.
What about you? Who do you think will make the 53?