Big Night for Bubble Boys

WR Marvin McNutt

The Dolphins are set for their last preseason game of the summer, and the biggest priority Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints will be escaping any injuries of consequence. In that vein, it's difficult to envision the starters playing very much, if at all, Thursday night.

The game, however, could be significant in deciding which players will make up the bottom of the roster.

Let's be honest, Coach Joe Philbin and his staff probably have a good idea of what 90 percent of the initial 53-man roster will look like, if not more.

It is possible, however, that one, two or more spots could be decided by what happens against New Orleans when the young players will get the bulk of the playing time.

Here's a quick breakdown of what we call the "bubble boys" heading into the preseason finale.

• Quarterback — Pat Devlin is the only one who roster spot is undetermined. Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore are in, Aaron Corp has no shot. What Devlin needs to do is convince the Dolphins they need to devote a third quarterback roster spot for him. It's possible he's already done so, but a strong performance against New Orleans sure wouldn't hurt.

• Running back — Even counting returner Marcus Thigpen as a running back, the only player here not seemingly assured of a roster spot is Jonas Gray, and the reality that probably only a jaw-dropping performance could save him from the waiver wire.

• Fullback — Evan Rodriguez's path to a roster spot became smoother after Jorvorskie Lane was released on Tuesday, but there's still no guarantee the Dolphins will keep even one fullback. It is likely, however, but Rodriguez still could erase all doubt with a good outing against the Saints.

• Wide receiver — The best guess is the Dolphins will keep five wide receivers on the initial 53-man roster, although keeping six isn't out of the question. Either way, there probably isn't anything completely settled yet beyond the threesome of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. That means it's a big game for Rishard Matthews, Marvin McNutt, Chad Bumphis, Brian Tyms and Keenan Davis.

• Tight end — The Dolphins are down to four tight ends after the injury sustained by Dustin Keller, and it's difficult to envision Charles Clay or Dion Sims or Michael Egnew not making the team. Kyle Miller fell behind after getting injured in the Hall of Fame Game and he may be playing for a roster spot Thursday night.

• Offensive line — The top eight appear pretty clear with Martin, Incognito, Pouncey, Jerry, Clabo, Samuda, Garner and Dallas Thomas, which means Jeff Adams, Chris Barker, Sam Brenner, Andrew McDonald and Will Yeatman likely are competing for one spot. The game Thursday night clearly could have an impact in the decision-making process here.

• Defensive line — This is the position where the Dolphins have the most depth, therefore it's the position where there's the least uncertainty. In fact, a case could be made that there is a clear lineup of nine D-linemen for the 53-man roster with Soliai, Starks, Odrick, Wake, Vernon, Jordan, Randall, Shelby and Vaughn Martin. It's really up to the others — Antwan Applewhite, Tristan Okpalaugo, A.J. Francis, Tracy Robertson — to convince the Dolphins coaches they should be kept.

• Linebacker — This is pretty much like the wide receiver spot, where there's a lot of competition beyond the first group. In addition to the three starters, Jason Trusnik is almost a lock to make the team, leaving either two or three spots available among Jelani Jenkins, Austin Spitler, Jonathan Freeny, Josh Kaddu and Lee Robinson. Based on what we've seen this summer, there doesn't appear to be much separating the last four and Jenkins has the advantage of being a fourth-round pick from this year's draft.

• Defensive back — We can see eight spots being all but secured as this point with Jones, Grimes, Taylor, Patterson, Wilson, Carroll, Davis and Clemons. The Dolphins are likely to keep either nine or 10 DBs, meaning there would be two spots available among De'Andre Presley, R.J. Stanford, Don Jones, Kelcie McCray, Julian Posey, Keelan Johnson and Jordan Kovacs. Of that group, Stanford is the one who has stood out the most, and that's because of his work on special teams.

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