The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

MEANINGFUL ONLY TO THE MARGINAL

Rumor has it that the Dolphins hosted the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night, but you could not tell that either by the identity of the players on the field or by the 70,000 empty seats.  For a moment it looked like the Marlins were back playing at Sun Life Stadium, except that there were too few people in the stands for this to actually have been a Marlins’ game.  The bottom line is that this semblance of a game—in which the Dolphin imposters beat the Rams imposters—was meaningful only to the marginal members on both rosters.  It was a game to decide not who would be the Fins’ starting QB, but who would fill out the bottom of the roster and the practice squad.  And so, for the most part only the more marginal players made it onto the field, the notable exception being Dion Jordan, the would-be 2013 draft bust who was getting his last playing time until week 5, when his PED suspension will have expired.

And so this was a game that had no meaning in terms of the season opener against the New England Patriots.  It frankly does not provide a clue as to how the Dolphins will perform either against the Patriots next week or for the balance of the 2014 season.  It was so meaningless that tens of thousands of season ticket holders who were forced to pay “regular season” full price for tickets to this meaningless game did not have sufficient interest to warrant driving to the Stadium.  One has to wonder if the Fins’ first teamers would have shown up had their contracts not required them to appear.  And who would blame them, certainly not the 70,000 empty seats!

So what did we learn about the marginal guys?  We learned that Daniel Thomas, who was limited to 2.9 yards per carry, is at great risk to be cut.  Perhaps the only reason he was not cut a year ago was that Jeff Ireland did not want to admit to him being a glaring second round mistake.  New GM Dennis Hickey will not have to worry about that aspect when cutting Thomas.

Another player who is at risk is Marcus Thigpen.  He had never been a front-line player and is not a top-flight return specialist.  He did not help his chances Thursday night.  He muffed a punt and then kicked the ball backwards resulting in a loss of 18 yards.  He failed to make it onto the field to return another punt so the ball landed where he should have been standing and this cost the Fins more field position.  He also got to try his hand as a receiver, but his hand tipped the ball to a Rams’ defensive back who graciously accepted this gift interception.  It is likely that DB will need to get a forwarding address for Thigpen so he can send an appropriate thank you note.

We learned that free-agent rookie QB Seth Lobato was a free-agent for a reason.  Overall he was unimpressive.  He threw a very poor interception and was lucky that 2 other pass attempts were not picked off.  He will certainly not take Matt Moore’s job any time soon.  The only question is whether the Fins think he is worth labeling as a “project” and worth putting on the practice squad.

Sixth round draft pick Matt Hazel had a big night, catching 4 passes for 79 yards and a TD.  The question remains whether he has any shot at a roster spot given that the Fins’ have a glut of receivers.  With Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline being a lock for the top 3 spots, Hazel is not likely to sneak into the 2 or 3 remaining spots, given that second-round pick Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews seem to have the inside rail.  That means that Hazel’s only chance is if the Fins’ decide to go with 6 wide outs and select him over both free agent rookie Damian Williams and veteran Kevin Cone.  Looks like he is more likely to be headed to the practice squad.

There are some roster free agent rookies who have impressed to the point that they may have earned a roster spot. Chris McCain is high on that list.  In actuality, he had the talent to have been drafted, but was overlooked due to some off-the-field issues.  GM Dennis Hickey decided it was worth taking a shot with him and it seems to be paying off.  So far, he has toed the line when off the field and impressed when on the field.  Thursday night he collected a couple of sacks.  Of course, he was playing against the Rams’ marginal players, but it looks as though he has shown enough to not only justify a roster spot, but to push some of the players ahead of him on the depth chart.

As mentioned, Damian Williams is giving the Fins’ something to think about as he has made some plays at the receiver position. Similarly, his namesake, Damien Williams, has also given the Fins something to think about when finalizing the running back position.  He is more likely to hang around then Daniel Thomas, but he would also need to beat out Orleans Darkwa to make the roster.  Both Damian and Damien may find themselves on the practice squad as they have both displayed some talent for non-drafted players.

With the dreadful fourth preseason game behind us, Dolfans can now look forward to the regular season.  And it begins with a bang with the New England Patriots coming into to town on Sunday, September 7.  That game will be meaningful to the entire Dolphins’ roster.  Let’s hope that when that game is over, the balance of the season does not look meaningless to the Fins’ faithful.

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