AC In The AM: Big Story Of Cut Down Day Is The Players Who Made It

Hope you took a snapshot of the Dolphins’ initial 53-man roster. It didn’t stay that way for long. 

In what turned out to be one of the most active four days periods in franchise history, the quarterback competition was resolved, four trades — one of them HUGE — were consummated and, all told, 10 players were added that weren’t on the roster when the Dolphins closed out a 3-1 preseason last Thursday night in New Orleans.

Anybody want to take a deep breath?

This coaching staff is no longer afforded such a luxury, not with so many new pieces to prioritize and certainly not with the Baltimore Ravens coming to town next Sunday for the season opener.

But before we look too far ahead, before breaking down some of the X’s and O’s of an afternoon with the Ravens, let’s press the rewind button and offer a dose of perspective on all the news from the past several days. And there was a truckload.

  • Obviously, the biggest headline was the Laremy Tunsil trade to Houston and there is plenty to discuss about that, which you can read in my column that is also posted on dolphins.com. But so many other things happened as well, some decisions that go hand-in-hand with the new direction this franchise is taking, emphasizing youth, fiscal restraint and a long-term vision. Let’s take a closer look.
  • I’ve always believed that the biggest story after cuts are the players that make the team, not the ones now looking for further employment. As we look at the current set-up of this roster, we see the youth movement in full throttle – all six draft picks made the roster as well as four undrafted rookies – a clear message that Camp Opportunity was exactly that.
  • Go through the list of those undrafted rookies, what chances would you have given any of them when the summer began: wide receiver Preston Williams, running back Patrick Laird, offensive guard Shaq Calhoun and defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. Three other undrafted rookies made the initial 53 man roster – tight end Chris Myarick, safety Montre Hartage and linebacker Terrill Hanks – but all three were released when others were claimed.
  • Some of the four undrafted rookies will play significant roles right away, almost all of them on special teams. Calhoun, meanwhile, is expected to start at right guard while it’s easy to imagine Williams playing a large role in the passing game. Kudos to General Manager Chris Grier and his staff for unearthing these players.
  • Then there’s linebacker Sam Eguavoen, a former CFL player, and a major surprise from the beginning, vaulting up the depth chart from simply trying to earn a spot to becoming an important part of this defense. I anticipate he’ll be in the starting lineup Sunday against the Ravens, one of those remarkable stories that you just never saw coming. Another great find by Grier.
  • Yet another one of those nice finds is defensive back Chris Lammons, a first-year player who signed on the Dolphins’ practice squad last November and earned his way on the roster with some excellent special teams plays.
  • The interior of the offensive line needed to improve its depth and that’s exactly what the Dolphins did with two Friday afternoon trades, bringing in Danny Isidora from the Vikings and Evan Boehm from the Colts. Both can play either guard or center. The Dolphins are expected to start two rookies at guard, but they now have some important experience behind them in two players that have started in this league.
  • The trade of Kiko Alonso was not a big surprise. In his case, a 29-year-old linebacker just didn’t fit into the team’s long-range plans and there were salary cap issues as well that needed to be addressed.
  • With a few days to further dissect the decision to start Ryan Fitzpatrick in Sunday’s season opener, the logic continues to make sense. I understand there are many who felt that Josh Rosen should win that job, that so much of this season depends on getting a true feel for Rosen’s down-the-road upside. I don’t disagree with that. But it was also clear that Rosen wasn’t ready to start, that he didn’t have the full grasp of this offense that is so necessary and there were parts of his game that needed further refining. As I said after it was announced, I expect Rosen to get his chance at some point this season. But with four playoff teams from a year go at the front of the Dolphins’ schedule, a more experienced quarterback like Fitzpatrick clearly gives this team the best chance of success.
  • As for the cuts themselves, I believe second-year receiver Isaiah Ford can play in this league. Feel the same way about Brice Butler. I was also impressed with undrafted rookie defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, who had three preseason sacks.
  • Several of the released players will end up on the practice squad. There are reports that one of them is quarterback Jake Rudock, who did well this summer and finished with a strong game against the Saints.
  • As of late Sunday afternoon, the Dolphins had claimed five players off waivers, all on defense: two linebackers, two defensive backs and a defensive end. Add that to the trades and that’s 10 new players over a three-day period.

Indeed, that snapshot of the initial 53-man roster is a collector’s item by now.

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