Next Sunday, the Miami Dolphins open their season in Foxboro against the New England Patriots. When the teams take the field, there will be a multitude of surprises on both sides. For the Pats, Cam Newton is gone and Mac Jones has taken over as the starter.
For the Fins, there have been even more surprises. Although there were players whose spots were secured even before training camp, others surprised many fans by making the final cut. Below are some of the most unexpected choices.
Veteran center Matt Skura practicing with teammates. Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
Going with three running backs: The Dolphins have cut Patrick Laird and Gerrid Doakes. The team was expected to have four RBs because it is the NFL’s most injury-riddled position; this leaves Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed. Gaskin and Ahmed have similar skill sets; the former University of Washington teammates are quick with decent hands. Brown will be the bruising back who will serve well in short-yardage situations. Gaskin is a small back for the NFL; he was injured last year but managed to play in 10 games. Seventh-round pick Doakes was added to the practice squad after clearing waivers. Expect him to be called up if any injuries occur during the season.
Including seven wide receivers: Wide receiver Will Fuller does not count towards the Dolphins 53-man roster for a week because he has to serve his one-game suspension for violating the league’s banned substance policy. The Fins found a way to keep Jakeem Grant, Preston Williams, and Mack Hollins. They restructured Grant’s contract from three years to one year and from a $3.6 million guarantee to $3 million. The Dolphins tested the waters for a Grant trade but did not find a suitable partner. Hollins had a very nice training camp that allowed him to make the team. Williams managed to come back last week against the Bengals after a foot injury cost him half the 2020 season. With multiple injury-prone players, the team was proactive in keeping more pass-catchers than some other teams.
Undrafted rookie Trill Williams made an impact during training camp. Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins.
Trill Williams makes the roster: Williams was on the roster after the final cut. The former Syracuse cornerback came to the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie. His strong work ethic helped him qualify for one of the best secondaries in all of football. The Fins tied for the most interceptions in 2020 and allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns. Williams allowed a 79.1 passer rating in college. Another undrafted cornerback who has become a major part of this defensive unit is Nik Needham. The Dolphins are starting to build a program that develops starting-caliber defensive backs.
Matt Skura and Bernardrick McKinney were cut: The Dolphins added veteran center Skura and linebacker Mckinney before training camp. Both players were expected to make the team and be the starters for their respective positions. Skura was immediately usurped by center Michael Deiter. Skura never challenged Deiter for the starting center position and was released after a trade with the Ravens for veteran Greg Mancz. McKinney started all training camp, his primary skill was as a run-stopper where the defense is weak. With the speedy recovery of Elandon Roberts from a knee injury, the Fins feel covered in the run game.