BIG GAME FOR MANY

The preseason finale against New Orleans very well could determine the final make-up of the roster. With that in mind, we handicap the races for the last few openings.

Quarterbacks — Everything is set here, with Jay Fiedler, Brian Griese and Sage Rosenfels on the team.

Halfbacks — It's a battle between Robert Edwards and Leonard Henry for one spot. Coach Dave Wannstedt said last week the possibility existed the Dolphins would keep five halfbacks, including kick returner Charlie Rogers, but we just don't see it happening. Right now, we'd give a slight edge to Edwards, but Henry still has a shot.

Fullbacks — Obafemi Ayanbadejo has all but locked up the job of backup behind starter Rob Konrad. Sedrick Irvin would need to have a monster game to have any shot.

Wide receivers — It's looking pretty much like youngsters Sam Simmons and J.R. Tolver will get the fourth and fifth spots behind Chris Chambers, James McKnight and Derrius Thompson. That means Oronde Gadsden, Kendall Newson and Ronald Bellamy probably are out of luck.

Tight ends — Randy McMichael, rookie Donald Lee and long-snapper Sean McDermott will make the team. The question is whether the Dolphins keep four tight ends and Marco Battaglia makes the team. A big game against the Saints would help his cause.

Offensive linemen — The Dolphins will keep eight or nine, and seven players are locks (Todd Wade, Todd Perry, Tim Ruddy, Jamie Nails, Wade Smith, Mark Dixon and Seth McKinney). Taylor Whitley probably is secure because he was a third-round pick, so that leaves one spot at the most. That will go to either Greg Jerman or rookie free agent Billy Yates. That's one a toss-up. On the one hand, Yates has way more upside. But on the other, the Dolphins probably need a tackle more than they need another guard.

Defensive linemen — There's only one spot available here and it looks pretty safe that it will go to rookie free agent Otis Grigsby, unless the Dolphins shop the waiver wire.

Linebackers — That also appears pretty set, with rookie Corey Jenkins and Tommy Hendricks locks to earn backup jobs and former CFL standout Brendon Ayanbadejo looking pretty solid as well.

Cornerbacks — The battle here is for the fifth and last spot. Right now, we'd probably give a big edge to former CFL star Alphonso Roundtree over Korey Banks and former fifth-round pick Omare Lowe, who simply hasn't shown much.

Safety — This is set. Sammy Knight, Brock Marion, Trent Gamble, Arturo Freeman and Shawn Wooden will be your five safeties.

Kicker — Olindo Mare is the only kicker on the roster. Case closed.

Punter — Kevin Stemke has been fighting an uphill battle throughout camp, and even though he has outperformed veteran Mark Royals in the preseason, it's still looking like Royals will remain the punter.


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