FINAL ROUND

Sunday is the deadline for NFL teams to get down to the roster limit of 53 players, and that means that Thursday night's preseason finale against Chicago is the last chance for players on the bubble to make their case for being on the team. And the Dolphins have a few hotly contested battles going on.

The four areas that quickly come to mind are the offensive line, defensive tackle, wide receiver and safety.

Let's take a look at the players at each position on the roster and evaluate the battles.

QUARTERBACKS — Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels.

Evaluation: Everything is set here, with those three guys making the roster.

HALFBACKS — Ricky Williams, Travis Minor, Robert Edwards, Leonard Henry.

Evaluation: This also appears pretty set, with Williams, Minor and Edwards making the roster. Henry is a good candidate for the practice squad if no other team picks him up.

FULLBACKS — Rob Konrad, Deon Dyer, Obafemi Ayanbadejo.

Evaluation: Ayanbadejo was supposed to become a factor at this position, but he hasn't done enough to unseat Dyer for the backup job behind Konrad, so it will be Konrad and Dyer here.

WIDE RECEIVERS — Chris Chambers, Oronde Gadsden, Dedric Ward, James McKnight, Jeff Ogden, Albert Johnson, Robert Baker.

Evaluation: The first four have the team made, but the battle for the fifth wideout spot might be too close to call. Ogden is the incumbent and the Dolphins know he is highly dependendable and productive. But he isn't the breakaway threat you like in a punt returner, and that might be his downfall. This is where Johnson might steal his roster spot. Johnson has looked like he's been on the verge of breaking a long return throughout the preseason. Baker looks like a more accomplished receiver than Johnson, but he's nowhere near as dangerous as a returner. This is one position that could be decided tonight, but for now we'll give a slight edge to Johnson.

TIGHT ENDS — Randy McMichael, Jed Weaver, Ed Perry, Shawn Draper.

Evaluation: Another easy call. It will be McMichael, Weaver and Perry.

OFFENSIVE LINE — Mark Dixon, Jamie Nails, Tim Ruddy, Todd Perry, Todd Wade, Leon Searcy, Seth McKinney, Marcus Spriggs, Troy Andrew, Anthony Cesario, Greg Jerman, Dwayne Pierce.

Evaluation: The Dolphins will keep either eight or nine at this position. Besides the five starters (Dixon, Nails, Ruddy, Perry and Wade), McKinney, Spriggs and Searcy appear to be the next in line. If the Dolphins keep nine, then Andrew makes the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE — Adewale Ogunleye, Jason Taylor, Tim Bowens, Larry Chester, Rob Burnett, David Bowens, Jay Williams, Rod Kelly, Henry Taylor, Jermaine Haley, Dario Romero, Ernest Grant.

Evaluation: The Dolphins probably will keep five defensive ends and four tackles. The five ends are set with Ogunleye, Taylor, David Bowens, Burnett and Jay Williams. The first three tackles also are set, with Tim Bowens, Chester and Haley. It's an awfully close call for the fourth tackle spot, but Grant looks like he's going to lose his spot on the roster because he has been outplayed by both Romero and Taylor throughout the preseason. In fact, Taylor has been one of the most impressive linemen on the team this summer, so we'll give him the nod. But it's no lock.

LINEBACKERS — Zach Thomas, Derrick Rodgers, Morlon Greenwood, Scott Galyon, Twan Russell, Tommy Hendricks, Joshua Symonette, Kevin Rollins, Scott Shields.

Evaluation: The weakest position on the team. Rollins and Shields are still on the roster only because they carry roster exemptions, and Symonette is too inexperienced at linebacker to make the team. That means the other six will make it.

DEFENSIVE BACKS — Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Brock Marion, Arturo Freeman, Jamar Fletcher, Ray Green, Omare Lowe, Cedric Donaldson, Shawn Wooden, Jason Moore, Trent Gamble, Scott McGarrahan.

Evaluation: The sure things here are the four starters, along with Fletcher and Wooden. The Dolphins are very thin at cornerback, but they probably will keep five, with Green and Lowe the two likely survivors. At safety, it appears Gamble, McGarrahan and Moore are fighting for two roster spots, and all three have played well during the preseason. But Gamble and McGarrahan get the nod in a close call. Something to keep in mind here: The Dolphins will be looking hard at the waiver wire for available cornerbacks. It wouldn't be a great shock if Green is released at some point and Lowe, who is still nursing an ankle injury, winds up on injured reserve.

KICKERS — Olindo Mare, Mark Royals.

Evaluation: Pretty obvious.


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