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The Final 53
QB Jay Fiedler: Norv Turner emphasises a ball-control offense with a passing game that features timing routes and a heavy dose of scripted plays for the RBís and TEís. This game plan should greatly benefit the former Ivy League star, but he must cut down on his INTs, especially in situations where he has to read cover-2.
QB Ray Lucas: I really thought we had the steal of Free Agent class last year with the signing of Lucas. Since then, his head hasnít caught up with his arm. I see this ex-Jet as a very good football player who plays his best when the lights are on. Unfortunetly, he wonít take center stage until he shows a greater willingness to prepare.
QB Tim Levcik: Heíll get the benefit of the doubt in the race for the #3 QB spot because he has more upside than Zak Kustok; a strong arm for Norv Turner to groom.
RB Ricky Williams: The mixed feelings I had on March 9th are now a distant memory as the season approaches. Williams is meshing well with teammates and impressed the coaching staff by losing 15 pounds while maintaining all the necessary power that made him a star in New Orleans. If Norv Turnerís prior history with RBs is any indication, Williams will get the ball often and eclipse the 1200 yd mark.
RB Travis Minor: A player that I didnít believe was worthy of first day consideration on draft day became one of my favorite players toward the end of last season. He wonít get many touches on offense, but heíll be a special teams star and a capable backup for Ricky Williams.
RB Leonard Henry: I saw plenty of Henry in college when scouting QB David Garrard, and it was downright shocking to me that this guy almost went undrafted after averaging 7.8 YPC last season. If both Henry and Edwards continue to make the most of their opportunities, it would be foolish not to keep both on the roster.
FB Rob Konrad: Will this finally be the year that Rob Konrad becomes the complete fullback that we dreamed about when JJ traded up for him in í99? Anything less than 35-40 catches should be viewed as a disappointment.
FB Deon Dyer: A prime example of the injustice that todayís FBs are treated with. Dyerís versatility leaves a lot to be desired, but the guy can flat-out put LBs on their backs. If he is cut in favor of Ayanbadejo, consider me disappointed.
WR Chris Chambers: Led the NFL in YPC with 18.4 even though he never started a game. Chambers is the budding super-star and is freakishly competitive and polished for a 22 year old. A pro-bowl appearance is not out of the realm of possibility.
WR Oronde Gadsden: Chronic foot problems have robbed Gadsden of the little athleticism that he had. Still a big target with great hands, but he only appears to have a few seasons left.
WR James McKnight: The Dolphins offense last season consisted of a plethora of clutch players; James McKnight was not one of these players. His size-speed combination is superb, but could be hard pressed to get onto the field if continues to cough the ball up in opportune times.
WR Dedric Ward: Am I the only one rooting for Ward to supplant McKnight as the #3 wideout? He was more of an intermediate threat than I had hoped and his crucial 4th down receptions in our comebacks over the Bills and Raiders make him okay in my book.
WR Jeff Ogden: Yep, heís still here.
WR Sam Simmons: The odds of Simmons landing on the P.S. would be very slim if he were cut. Wannstedt probably doesnít want to keep 6 wideouts, but could make an exception.
TE Randy McMichael: I viewed McMichael as more of a project that would spend his rookie season learning blocking techniques. Thus far, McMichael has been a training camp star and could possibly leapfrog Jed Weaver as starting TE.
TE Jed Weaver: Weaverís receiving skills will earn him a spot on this team, possibly as a starter. Very underrated pass catcher that could be a Stephen Alexander-type in this offense.
TE Ed Perry: One of the best long snappers in the league and can play TE in a pinch. Caught 36 passes in his first two seasons before falling into Jimmy Johnsonís doghouse.
LT Mark Dixon: Already a solid LG, Dixon could be the best LT on the roster if he makes the shift.
LG Jamie Nails: Players like Jamie Nails are an enigma; sometimes it takes them 5 years of rejection before they see the big picture. If he keeps his weight under control, could be a dominator and should be a starter by the end of pre-season.
C Tim Ruddy: Make no mistake about it: The team is looking for an upgrade here. For now, Ruddy is good enough provided he has help around him.
RG Leon Searcy: A battle-tested veteran with a SB ring that feels he has something to prove after missing the last two seasons. If healthy, heíll probably be a dependable backup for Perry and Wade.
RT Todd Wade: OK, so heís not the best pass protecter. What Todd Wade brings to this team is toughness and he should have his best season yet now that he is healthy.
OT Brent Smith: If he loses his job to Dixon, heíll be a fight just to retain a roster spot. He just hasnít proven capable of handling the LT spot.
C Seth McKinney: Barring a major setback, McKinney should replace Tim Ruddy by í03. Heís as technically sound as they come.
OT Marcus Spriggs: A lock if Dixon remains at LG because heíd be the primary backup to Smith. If Dixon does move, Spriggs would probably battle Anthony Cesario and Troy Andrew for a roster spot. Given Cesarioís injury woes and Andrewís limited long-term potential, Spriggs should win that battle fairly easily.
G/T Anthony Cesario: Will Cesario finally stay healthy long enough to make an impact?
DE Jason Taylor: Didnít make as many headlines last season, but turned in his best season yet. Had 9 sacks without an edge-rush partner on the other side and continued to improve against the run.
DT Tim Bowens: Stud and an immovible object at the point of attack. He just needs a quick, Daryl Gardener-without-the-attitude-and-injuries-type to play next to him.
DT Larry Chester: Many point out that Chester is overrated because he played on such a porous defense. The headline that caught my attention was TSNís Week 11 injury report that stated Chester was the teamís best lineman before going down for the count.
DE Jay Williams: High energy type player that feels he was treated poorly by Panthers management last year when forced to play with a broken finger. Not a bad player, but I donít view Williams as an upgrade and I didnít care the 4th round we parted with to get him.
DT Jermaine Haley: Haley isnít physically imposing or naturally quick, so he has to rely heavily on leverage to remain effective. Last year, he was unable to do that with thumb and calf injuries. He should be an effective backup and a capable starter.
DE David Bowens: Why are we counting on a í01 street free agent with 1 sack last season to be a major threat as a pass rusher? His 9 QB pressures and 5 batted down passes in limited action has something to do with that confidence. I view Bowens as a more controlled version of Lorenzo Bromell.
DE Rob Burnett: Burnett had to play through a broken hand last season and is poised to become the new Trace Armstrong of this defense. His breakout í00 season was a major reason for the success of the Ravens defense.
DE Adewale Ogunleye: Itís time for Wally to show something. If he does, heíll make the team with great ease but will find playing time scarce behind 4 veteran ends.
DT Ernest Grant: Once again, heíll make it based solely on potential.
LB Zach Thomas: Although Zach is the heart-and-soul of this defense, Iíve thought of him to be highly overrated. He isnít a great fundamental tackler and struggles without a massive DT combo in front of him. When healthy and protected, though, he is one of the best in the business.
LB Derrick Rodgers: Already one of the best cover LBís in the game, Rodgers could be a very good pass rusher if his responsibilities were expanded. But try as he might, he is a liability against the run, especially when big lineman get to him on sweeps.
LB Morlon Greenwood: I fully expect this second year player to become a complete player at the SAM LB position. He has the ability to cover TEís, play the run, and rush the passer. He really came on in the last four games with 27 tackles, 3 of which came on 3rd/4th and 1.
LB Tommy Hendricks: Once a 215 pound S/OLB Ďtweener, Hendricks has emerged into a solid backup in the middle for Zach Thomas. Already a special team standout, Hendricks has the ability to get a lot better.
LB Twan Russell: Quintessential backup LB: Great on special teams, decent backup, but a liability if asked to start for an extended period of time. A missed sack on Kurt Warner put the Rams up 21-10 before halftime and abruptly ended his 4-game reign as starter.
LB Justin Seaverns: If Seaverns impresses in the 3rd and 4th quarters of these exhibition games, it would be wise to keep a young LB on the roster instead of Scott Galyon.
CB Sam Madison: Unless Madison is going against Laveranues Coles, he is a star in every sense of the word and capable of taking away half the field. He had 2 INTís last season, but he missed nearly four games due to injury. Teams avoided going to his side of the field when healthy.
CB Patrick Surtain: Surtain has been known as more of a Robin than a Batman, but could be the better all-around CB on the roster. If Surtain continues to dominate opposing wideouts like he did in training camp, he could very well catapult into elite status.
CB Jamar Fletcher: Many point out that Fletcher should make giant strides in his second season the way Surtain and Madison did. I wish I could be that optimistic. The thing that bothered my about this player coming out of college was a little thing called limited long term potential. Savviness made Jamar Fletcher the best college defender in the country but he hasnít shown that swagger thus far in the NFL.
CB Omare Lowe: I wasnít crazy about this pick on draft day, but Iím starting to come around. He has a long way to go before seeing playing time, but some of his qualities are comparable to Madison and Surtain: Decent speed, good size (6-0, 196), excellent in the bump-and-run game.
CB Ray Green: Green hasnít shown the great athletic ability in training camp that he showed back in May, but still could make the roster based on potential and special teams play.
FS Brock Marion: For those who still have a sour taste in their mouths that Olin Kreutz took less money to stay in Chicago, keep in mind that Marion would probably be elsewhere. He doesnít have great range, but his instics and big play ability keeps this secondary together.
SS Arturo Freeman: Personally, I was far more impressed with this kid than the departed Brian Walker. He has great range and closing ability; could be a star if he refines his coverage skills.
S Shawn Wooden: Great fundamental tackler that has the size and experience to be a valuable backup. Cutting Wooden would be a very risky move, IMO.
S Trent Gamble: Looked like the Dolphinsí answer to Bill Bates in í00 and shouldnít have much trouble making this yearís squad.
S Scott McGarrahan: Limited experience in the secondary means he is the least valuable of all the safeties, but Dave Wannstedt will probably decide to keep 10 DBís; could oust Wooden off the team.
K Olindo Mare: Iíll take Vanderjagt on FG attempts and Janikowski on kickoffs. But do-it-all kickers like Olindo Mare are a rarity. When in comes to performance in crunch time and on-side kicks, Mare is special.
P Mark Royals: If heís anything other than a major downgrade from Matt Turk, Iíll be pleasantly surprised. Decent directional kicker but you wonít see any 75 yd punts (Turk had one against Buffalo last year).
QB: Fiedler, Lucas
RB: Williams, Minor
WR: Chambers, Gadsden, McKnight, Ward
TE: McMichael, Perry
OL: Dixon, Nails, Ruddy, Wade, McKinney
DL: Taylor, Bowens, Chester, Williams, Bowens, Burnett, Haley
LB: Thomas, Greenwood, Rodgers, Hendricks
DB: Madison, Surtain, Marion, Freeman, Fletcher
K/P: Mare, Royals
QB: Levcik (-)
RB: Konrad (+), Dyer, Henry
TE: Weaver (+)
OL: Smith (+), Perry, Searcy, Spriggs (-)
DL: Ogunleye, Grant
LB: Russell (+), Galyon
DB: Gamble, Lowe
RB: Edwards (+), Ayanbadejo
WR: Ogden, Simmons
DB: Green, Wooden, McGarrahan
QB: Kustok (+)
WR: Baker (+), A. Johnson, Daniels (-)
OL: Andrew (+), Cesario (+), Pierce (-)
DL: Taylor (+), Atkins
LB: Seaverns (+), Shields (-)
DB: Moore (-)
Little/No Chance (16)
RB: Westbrooks, Barnes
WR: Sanford, Hooks
OL: Green, Mitchell, Jerman
DL: Romero, Kelly
LB: Symonette, Wadley, Rollins
DB: Letheridge, Brown, Donaldson
RB Robert Edwards: One of the feel-good stories of training camp, Edwards could be one good exhibition game away from solidifying a spot on this teamÖ or one injury away from the waiver wire.
FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo: I didnít like him with the Ravens and I donít like him now. He was brought in to scare Konrad and Dyer with FBís expecting to assume a greater role in the offense.
TE Alonzo Mayes: He proved he has the hunger by tipping the scales at 308 pounds in April. The desire? For the 5th season in a row, Mayes is a major tease to his team. In Weaver and McMichael, we have all the potential we need at the TE position.
TE Shawn Draper: Do we really need another Hunter Goodwin? Iíd like to see this guy back on the practice squad, though.
C/G Troy Andrew: In the Seth McKinney/Tim Ruddy mold, but more frail than both; probably the odd man out
G Todd Perry: If he loses out to Searcy, I donít see the point in keeping him at the expense of Troy Andrew or Anthony Cesario, two younger players.
DT Henry Taylor: Could give Grant a run for his money, though.
LB Scott Shields: Did Bill Cowher really draft this guy in the 2nd round?