The Miami Dolphins may have lost their final practice of training camp because of what coach Mike McDaniel called “gastric gate”, but they still have the preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, which will be an important showcase for players vying for final roster spots.
The Dolphins canceled a scheduled joint practice with the Eagles on Thursday amid the spread of a stomach bug that affected a number of players, hoping to keep the team healthy for Saturday’s meeting with Philadelphia, giving roster hopefuls a chance to leave long before on a busy day.
“For a lot of guys, it’s the most important game of their career, and I think it’s a big deal and I didn’t want to compromise in any way,” McDaniel said Thursday of the decision.
Indeed, between Thursday and 4 p.m. Tuesday, NFL teams must cut their roster from 80 players to 53 players.
“We need to settle some issues,” the Dolphins coach said. “We have more NFL players than seats. That’s the point.”
Everything the players did on and off the practice field, from organized team activities and mini-camp to training camp and Saturday’s preseason finale, will be evaluated in determining which players will survive the final stretch. Sometimes it can even come down to how a player reacts to unforeseen circumstances, such as the one the team had on Thursday.
“It was an unintended consequence of the Zoom meeting this morning,” McDaniel said of the team’s virtual meeting that has become all too common for teams over two seasons playing amid heightened COVID-19 protocols. “The guys were in the tank. The boys wanted to practice. The guys doubled up, asked to enter the building.”
McDaniel notices these things.
“Every circumstance you face, there’s something you can make of it,” he said after discovering some players were eager to have some sort of team activity on Thursday. “I found out they wanted to be in the building. I thought so, but you don’t know until you see their faces and they’re just like, “Well…” and I’m like, “Relax.”
“It was difficult for all of them. I think they are all aware of missed opportunities. But in turn, they also feel a sense of responsibility: “Okay, I’d better use this day to rest, recover, and also make sure I’ve fully handled all the responsibilities I’ll be responsible for on Saturday.” »
Most dolphins probably have a good idea of their fate at this point. More than half of the remaining 80 players know their spot is locked. A few longshots on the roster should know where they are. Then, there are those in between.
They can range from undrafted rookies to veterans who have experience on active NFL rosters but may be on the decline or simply in a crowded group.
Undrafted cornerback Kader Koch is an intriguing player at the injury-free position and needs someone to step up and provide depth.
“I definitely feel like I belong,” said the 5-10, 195-pound Texas A&M-Commerce defensive back, who was guaranteed $130,000 to sign with Miami, including a $30,000 signing bonus. “I just have to show you everything. We have a preseason game ahead of us. I’ll let my play do the talking.”
Kocha, who hails from Cote d’Ivoire, said the biggest adjustment for his small Southland Conference school to the NFL was a defensive game that went from 15 plays to 70 or 80. But other than that, it’s just football.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a dramatic difference,” Kochow said. “I choose [the playbook] as we go, but at the end of the day it’s football. Just more fans in the stands. Much more.”
McDaniel has a decision to make on whether to keep the No. 3 quarterback on the 53-man roster after rookie Skylar Thompson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State, impressed this preseason.
How does the holdover from the Brian Flores days fit into what McDaniel wants to do?
Where do running backs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed fit in after Miami signed Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel as quarterbacks in free agency? What can the team do with wide receiver Preston Williams, who has been invisible throughout camp and the subject of trade rumors? Can guard Solomon Kindley, a starter in 2020, save himself a spot in a different blocking scheme? Between a host of viable quarterbacks — Brennan Scarlett, Porter Gustin, Darius Hodge and seventh-rounder Cameron Hood — who might win?
“I think 53 is for the 53 best players,” McDaniel said Sunday of future decisions when asked about the Thompson possibility. “You are open to everything. You have to consider a lot of different things, and sometimes that makes you short or difficult in certain positions, but what I’ve found in my career is that you don’t make absolute judgments. You’d like to take a certain number of players with you and you’d like to have your cake and eat it too, a lot of items, but if the performances of individuals deserve it, you’ve got to keep the top 53 players.”