DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins walked off their Nova Southeastern University field on Tuesday afternoon following the final full-contact practice of the preseason.
While many Dolphins fans are eager to fast forward to the Sept. 8 season opener at Cleveland, coach Joe Philbin and his coaching staff still had plenty of work to do before focusing on the Browns.
The roster needed be reduced to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon and the official 53-man roster by 6 p.m. on Saturday. In between, there was a walk-thorough Wednesday before Thursday night’s preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints, a game that could help determine remaining position battles and some roster spots.
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“There’ll be a time to get focused on what we’re doing next week, and we’ll certainly be focused when that time comes,” Philbin said.
As for the game against the Saints, Philbin said: “We’re going to make a determination, who’s going to play and for how long. We’ll have a target number of snaps for people. Usually, we’re pretty close to it.”
Philbin said “certainly there’s a chance” some Miami starters will not play against the Saints.
Players fighting for starting jobs could get a final chance to impress the decision makers.
Charles Clay seems to have earned the starting tight-end job at the moment following Dustin Keller’s season-ending knee injury. Then again, Clay had only one catch on six balls thrown his way during Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay.
“I feel like I come out here and work hard every day and take advantage of those opportunities in practice,” Clay said. “The more I do that in practice, the more opportunities I’ll get in the game.”
Tight ends Michael Egnew, rookie Dion Sims and Kyle Miller each should have opportunities to plead their case on Thursday night.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas supposedly have been battling for the No. 1 running back job, though Miller, by all indications, has had an edge since the beginning of camp. Expect Thomas to get carries vs. New Orleans to show what he can do.
On the offensive line, veterans John Jerry and Lance Louis were hampered by injuries in camp. If healthy, Jerry figures to get the nod over Louis and Josh Samuda. All three figure to play against the Saints.
Defensively, the Dolphins need to replace veteran defensive back Richard Marshall, released last week, in the nickel package. Nolan Carroll, Jimmy Wilson and rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor could be under the microscope vs. New Orleans.
Davis, however, missed the last two days of practice with an apparent foot injury. Taylor’s progress has been delayed by offseason sports hernia surgery.
Various backup jobs also could be on the line against the Saints, as players try to show they can contribute on special teams as well as in a supporting positional role.
In answering a question about Miami possibly going without a traditional fullback, Philbin gave a reply that all players on the bubble should note.
“I think we’re going to keep the best 53 players that we on the football team, however that may shake itself out,” Philbin said. “I wouldn’t rule out anything.”