Breaking Down the Depth Chart

Tony Sparano is like a lot of NFL head coaches, and one of the things many of them have in common is that they don't like having to release a depth chart. But it's part of the NFL rules, so the Dolphins produced their depth chart with the preseason opener against Tampa Bay six days away. Even though Sparano cautioned against reading too much into it, it's still worth analyzing.

Keep in mind it can and likely will change before the start of the regular season, there still are some things that stand out. So here we go, with the rundown of the depth chart, followed by an analysis of every position.

QUARTERBACK

Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Pat White, Chad Pennington

Analysis: Nobody really expects Pennington to be the fourth quarterback on this team, right? This was done perhaps as a signal that Pennington won't play much at all in the preseason because Sparano knows what he's got with him, but the truth is that should something happen to Henne, it almost undoubtedly would be Pennington and NOT Thigpen or White in the action.

RUNNING BACK

Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, Tristan Davis

Analysis: Nothing really surprising here, even though some might put Hilliard ahead of Cobbs.

WIDE RECEIVER

Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Roberto Wallace, Julius Pruitt, Ryan Grice-Mullen

WIDE RECEIVER

Brian Hartline, Greg Camarillo, Marlon Moore, Patrick Turner, Taurus Johnson

Analysis: At the first wide receiver spot, the only thing of interest is Grice-Mullen being fifth when we figured he'd have a legitimate shot at making the roster. His leg injury early in camp clearly set him back. As for the second wide receiver spot, can't help but notice Patrick Turner behind rookie free agent Marlon Moore. Tells us Turner clearly is no lock to make the team.

TIGHT END

Anthony Fasano, Joey Haynos, Kory Sperry, John Nalbone, David Martin

Analysis: Martin is only fifth because he just signed. He'll be second -- if not first -- by the end of the preseason.

LEFT TACKLE

Jake Long, Lydon Murtha, Andrew Gardner

LEFT GUARD

Richie Incognito, Donald Thomas

CENTER

Joe Berger, Jake Grove, Andrew Hartline

RIGHT GUARD

John Jerry, Cory Procter

RIGHT TACKLE

Vernon Carey, Nate Garner

Analysis: The thing that jumps out on the offensive line, of course, is Berger being listed ahead of Grove. Grove has battled injuries early in camp and this regime is known not to have a high degree of tolerance for guys who get hurt (see Smiley, Justin). Beyond that, Jerry being listed first as a rookie is impressive, but Gardner landing at No. 3 at left tackle doesn't bode well for the 2009 sixth-round pick.

DEFENSIVE LINE

LEFT END

Kendall Langford, Tony McDaniel, Charles Grant, Ryan Baker, Phillip Merling

NOSE TACKLE

Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Montavious Stanley, Travis Ivey

RIGHT END

Jared Odrick, Marques Douglas, Lionel Dotson

Analysis: Nothing really jumps out here. Merling is still listed on the depth chart because he hasn't been put on IR or the NFI list yet.

LINEBACKER

STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER

Koa Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Quentin Moses

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, Austin Spitler

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Karlos Dansby, J.D. Folsom, Micah Johnson

WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER

Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, Chris McCoy, Erik Walden

Analysis: Again, nothing stands out here. Misi is listed with the first team, but Ikaika Alama-Francis has stood out more in camp and might make a push for that starting job. The weakside linebacker job appears to be Cameron Wake's to lose after Charlie Anderson lined up with the first team in the OTAs.

SECONDARY

LEFT CORNERBACK

Vontae Davis, Will Allen, Nate Ness

RIGHT CORNERBACK

Sean Smith, Jason Allen, Evan Oglesby, Nolan Carroll, Ross Weaver

FREE SAFETY

Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones

STRONG SAFETY

Yeremiah Bell, Tyrone Culver, Jonathon Amaya

Analysis: No surprises here. Jason Allen has performed well lately after a rough start in camp, but it wouldn't surprise us to see Nolan Carroll move past not only Oglesby but Allen as well as the backup to Sean Smith. At free safety, we're not ready to concede the starting job to Clemons, who hasn't made big mistakes at camp but also hasn't made many plays. Jones, meanwhile, has flashed while breaking up some passes.

SPECIALISTS

PUNTER

Brandon Fields

KICKER

Dan Carpenter

KICKOFF SPECIALIST

Dan Carpenter

HOLDER

Brandon Fields

KICKOFF RETURNER

Patrick Cobbs, Tristan Davis, Nolan Carroll

PUNT RETURNER

Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Taurus Johnson

LONG-SNAPPER

John Denney

Analysis: The Dolphins have no backups at punter, kicker or snapper, which means they're relying on Denney, Carpenter and Fields continuing to get the job done and not getting hurt. In terms of returners, you can pretty much cross off Tristan Davis because he's not likely to make the team. Bess should hang on as the punt returner, but we get a feeling Carroll's explosiveness could push him ahead of Cobbs as the kickoff returner before long.


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