In one last chance to back up their work, several Dolphins on the bubble did just that Saturday night against Philadelphia.
And along the way, they made looming roster decisions increasingly difficult for team management.
Instead of starting to release players before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. to reach the 53-man limit, the Dolphins instead added an 81st player Sunday, agreeing to terms with veteran defensive end/outside linebacker Trey Flowers.
With Andrew Van Ginkel’s status for the first game uncertain because he had his appendix removed, the Dolphins turned to Flowers, who had 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks in seven games for the Lions last season. He had two sacks in seven games and five starts for Detroit in 2020 after recording seven sacks in 15 games for Detroit in 2019.
Flowers, 29, was a former fourth-round pick of the Patriots who spent four seasons with New England and the last three with Detroit. Until Sunday, he had remained unsigned since being cut by Detroit on March 16. Flowers worked for the Dolphins on Wednesday.
Even before Flowers agreed to terms, expect a tough call among backup tight ends or linebackers among Brennan Scarlett (out two weeks with injury), Porter Gustin (strong camp), Cameron Goode (rookie in the seventh round has shined) and Darius Hodge (higher odds). Only one of those four can make the team after Flowers is signed.
Van Ginkel is expected to return for the start or Week 2.
A look at other positions where tough calls await, especially after Saturday’s 48-10 thrashing of the Eagles:
▪ Third and possibly fourth quarterbacks (this is in addition to running back Alec Ingold, who will likely be on the team): This might have been an easy decision if Sony Michel had a strong camp. But he didn’t. He ran 9 times for 13 yards in games and his practice was limited at times and uneven on other teams.
Meanwhile, 2021 starter Myles Gaskin carried the opportunity 14 times for 78 yards (5.6 avg) in the preseason. Ahmed rushed 11 times for 50 yards (4.5 per carry) in the preseason and caught a pass for 28 yards Saturday.
Gaskin would be the most expensive ($2.5 million, none of it guaranteed), Ahmed the cheapest ($895,000, none guaranteed). For Michel, the Dolphins have already guaranteed $500,000 of his $2.1 million. If money wasn’t a factor, Gaskin would probably be the better choice. But money is often a factor.
▪ Sixth Receiver: Five jobs are set with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr., Eric Ezukanma and most likely, Trent Sherfield. The question now is whether the Dolphins keep River Cracraft — or less likely, someone else, as the sixth receiver — or opt to keep just five.
Cracraft threw one pass Saturday, but caught a touchdown, got open several times and caught four passes for 54 yards. Lynn Bowden returned first-half punt returns for the second straight week, but lost two yards on his return and again didn’t play offensive snaps until the second half.
The odds are against Bowden and Preston Williams and Mohamad Sanu, and Miami could try to sneak Mississippi rookie sensation Braylon Sanders onto the practice squad.
▪ Eighth and ninth forward line: Guard Robert Jones and center Michael Dieter should be two of the backups. Tougher calls are guards Solomon Kindley and Greg Little, who led all Dolphins offensive players in snaps Saturday (40 each, or 62 percent). Little played well in his preseason debut, better than Larnel Coleman had in previous weeks.
If Miami chooses not to keep Little or Coleman as the No. 3 tackle, they could claim waivers from the 49ers (who have good depth at the position) or another team.
▪ Backup safety in addition to Eric Rowe: Elijah Campbell made a case for the No. 4 pick with his second interception of the preseason. But the Dolphins also appreciate Clayton Fejedelem’s special teams work.
Fejedelem restructured his contract and $1 million of the $1.7 million is guaranteed, compared to none of Campbell’s $895,000.
Keeping five safeties may be a luxury they cannot afford unless Rowe’s shoulder injury – which forced him out of Saturday’s game – proves problematic.
▪ Backup cornerback: Noah Igbonoghene started and broke away with a pass. He seems more likely than not to stick, as a fourth/fifth corner with Keion Crossen behind Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham.
Undrafted rookie Kader Kohou played the most snaps of any other Dolphin on Saturday (40) and played well, making his case to remain as the sixth cornerback. If Jones (on the physically unable to perform list) isn’t cleared for the first, Kohou’s chances improve.
If Jones is not removed from the PUP list by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, he will have to miss the first four games of the season.
▪ Backup defensive tackle: Benito Jones had a tackle for a loss Saturday and rookie Ben Still shined again. Both had strong Augusts, but the question is whether the Dolphins prefer the veteran experience — and career total — of John Jenkins.
▪ Backup inside linebacker: Sam Eguavoen – who had another strong August – looks safe as the fifth inside linebacker behind Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley and Channing Tindall. This puts Calvin Munson in danger.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Skylar Thompson’s 138.4 passer rating and five touchdowns led all NFL quarterbacks in the preseason. It seems very likely that he will reach 53.
▪ Check back for news from Mike McDaniel’s press conference at 3:45 Sunday.