The first thing you’ll notice about the 53 men not waived, released, placed on injured reserved or the physically unable to perform list by the Miami Dolphins on Saturday: FIVE of them were undrafted free agents signed this season.
That is a remarkable job by the Dolphins’ scouting staff.
It may say something about Miami’s lack of organizational depth, but Miami didn’t keep safety Maurice Smith, cornerback Torry McTyer, linebacker Chase Allen, offensive tackle Eric Smith and punter Matt Haack just so they could boast to their friends about it at NFL meetings.
They believe all those guys can play.
When coach Adam Gase stood before all the drafted and undrafted players in an initial meeting this year, he told each one if they made the team or didn’t would be based on what he saw.
Gase generally tosses out preconceived notions and draft status and recruiting pedigree and reputations and even height, weight and speed, when he makes the final determination of who he wants on his team.
Gase goes by what he sees. He goes by production. And he goes by gut instinct.
Who would Gase not want to face on a Sunday?
Who could Gase want to face on a Sunday?
And so there were not a ton of surprises in the roster that stood after Saturday’s slaughtering of 37 men from a 90 man preseason roster.
Perhaps linebacker Neville Hewitt will not clear waivers. And Miami could certainly use a player of his speed and promise.
Perhaps a decision to keep Smith, the undrafted Virginia product who excelled in the preseason, over Sam Young, the veteran who seemed destined to be a swing at both positions, will come back to bite Miami.
There are some who will wonder if undrafted wide receiver Drew Morgan will emerge as another Chris Hogan. But it would seem Morgan has a chance to land on Miami’s practice squad, and develop.
The Dolphins decided not to keep three quarterbacks, nor should they have.
The Dolphins are loaded at running back and kept Senorise Perry because there was nobody better available. At least yet. Remember, Miami should be active on the waiver wire, starting Sunday.
Miami is really, really, really hoping Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James stay healthy enough to play, say, all 16 games. Because one of their backup tackles, Jesse Davis, may be starting at left guard.
This is, provided, of course, the Dolphins don’t pick up a veteran guard in a matter of days, which, really, they should.
The Dolphins kept late draft choices Isaac Asiata, who needs plenty of more seasoning, but who could not be exposed to waivers, as well as Vincent Taylor, the defensive tackle who really flashed in the summer.
The Dolphins’ backup linebackers are Mike Hull, Trevor Reilly and Chase Allen.
And so, yes, it will be critically important for Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons to stay healthy, and for Rey Maualuga to get into serviceable shape sooner than later.
It would also not be a surprise if Miami added a linebacker on the waiver wire in the near future.
The Dolphins gave $24 million on Saturday to a safety, T.J. McDonald, who hasn’t played a game yet for Miami, and won’t until the team’s ninth game, due to suspension.
Where this leaves Jarvis Landry’s mindset entering the first week of the regular season is hard to say.
It is also hard to say that Miami’s 2017 roster is appreciably better than the one it fielded in 2016.
Miami is trying to build a championship-caliber level team through the draft.
So, how did they do there?
Well, all five of Miami’s healthy draft choices from this season made the squad.
Five of the eight from last year (all but sixth- and seventh-rounders Jordan Lucas, Brandon Doughty and Thomas Duarte) made the squad.
And from the 2015 draft, four of the six healthy players (all but Jamil Douglas and Cedric Thompson) made the cut.
This means the Dolphins are drafting fairly well. And, as we discussed earlier, they even believe they identified some undrafted gems that could contribute this season.
It’s a roster core that’s strikingly similar to the one that surprisingly won 10 games and made the playoffs last season.
It’s an achievement that will not be easy to repeat.