AFC East: Mike Gillislee

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins held their second practice during organized team activities that were open to the media Monday. ESPN.com's Dolphins page was there to take in all of the action.

Here are some additional observations from Monday's practice:
  • Keep in mind that it's very early, but I've been pleasantly surprised so far with the development of second-year guard Dallas Thomas. The Dolphins are playing Thomas with the first team at left guard, and he's holding his own next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Thomas suffered through injuries and looked mostly confused last year as a rookie playing guard and offensive tackle. But he's healthy and more experienced this year. Thomas has to hold off rookie third-round pick Billy Turner in training camp.
  • Speaking of Turner, he looks a little raw in the two practices I've seen him. Turner still plays a bit high, which is understandable because he was a left tackle at North Dakota State. The stance at guard is much different. Turner also needs to work on some of his footwork and fundamentals, such as his punch, at the NFL level.
  • New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is trying many new things, which is refreshing to see. Miami's offense was stale and predictable last year under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. But Lazor is doing several creative things, such as moving No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace around and using a lot of motion and tempo to dictate to the defense.
  • Miami head coach Joe Philbin said the team should have about 85 percent of the new offense installed by the end of this week. One of the biggest storylines to watch this offseason is how quickly third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the group can pick up the offense. This week's practice was more crisp that last week's session.
  • One interesting wrinkle I saw in practice Monday was Miami using Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller in the same backfield. There are plenty of possibilities with that pairing.
  • Dolphins' second-year defensive end Dion Jordan continues to impress with his athleticism. This week he ran Miami tailback Mike Gillislee down from behind. Keep in mind Jordan is 265 pounds. Miami must find a way to get Jordan on the field. He looks ready for increased responsibility.
Jamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis AP Photo, Getty ImagesJamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis made a minimal impact as rookies.
Most of the attention over the next three weeks will be focused on the 2014 NFL draft, as each team tries to shape its present and future by identifying the right college players to fill needs.

But for the Miami Dolphins, success or failure this season will depend more on the development of the 2013 draft class. Few teams got less production from their rookies last year than Miami. Only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks had fewer snaps from first-year players -- and those teams, which competed in Super Bowl XLVIII, were stacked with established veterans.

The Dolphins, who faltered down the stretch and finished 8-8, did not have that luxury.

It's time for Miami's second-year players to come of age during an important time for many within the organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is entering an important third year after going 15-17 his first two seasons, and there could be a lot of change next year if the Dolphins aren't successful.

Most of Miami's top picks -- including defensive end Dion Jordan, offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis -- basically had red-shirt seasons in 2013, thanks to injuries, inconsistency and lack of confidence from the coaching staff. That lack of production was one reason why the Dolphins failed to get to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

"They got less than anybody in the league out of their draft class, and they had high picks. That's a huge issue," ESPN.com NFL scout Matt Williamson said. "But if that group, the corners and especially Jordan, can play up to what Miami thought they were and what most people thought they were, the Dolphins could rebound."

"We have a lot of hope for the draft class from last year," Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings in late March. "A lot of them have been back early, working. You want to see development throughout the course of an individual player's career, but I think all of you guys would agree you usually see a significant jump between Year 1 and Year 2. These are guys we thought highly of a year ago when we drafted them.

"They had some injury issues that kind of curtailed their development in Year 1. So I'm excited about working with them, developing them and seeing them progress here this season."

The 2013 draft class was one point of contention last year between Miami's coaching staff and the front office. Philbin didn't feel his rookies were ready to take on larger roles. Jeff Ireland, then the Dolphins' general manager, believed in the talent of his draft picks and felt they were not being used properly. Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, was perhaps the biggest example.

Due to offseason shoulder surgery, Jordan missed time in training camp and the preseason. He never found his footing in the regular season and he fell behind veteran defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby.

Williamson described Jordan as "a ridiculous athlete." He has immense potential but spent most of the season as the third or fourth defensive end and on special teams. He was involved in 321 snaps and had a disappointing 26 tackles and two sacks.

There have also been offseason trade rumors involving Jordan, which Philbin has denied. Miami's head coach expects Jordan to have a larger role in 2014.

"We feel like with a full offseason, with more time devoted to his fundamentals, he will have a better grasp of the position he's playing," Philbin said. "We do want to do a better job with the numbers, rotating him in. ... We want to get him more snaps on first and second down. "

The Dolphins also are counting on young corners Taylor and Davis, who were drafted in the second and third round, respectively. Both had injury setbacks last season and played a combined 104 snaps.

Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes will occupy one starting job, and Taylor and Davis will compete with veteran free-agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan for the other spot. Finnegan, a former Pro Bowl corner, is the favorite to start due to experience. But Philbin is not going in with any preconceived notions.

"I want to see the best player, whoever can help us win football games," Philbin explained. "Whoever performs the best should be the starting corner."

Miami got most of its rookie production last year from unlikely sources. Fifth-round kicker Caleb Sturgis proved to be the Dolphins' best rookie acquisition last season. He beat out longtime Miami kicker Dan Carpenter in training camp and led the Dolphins with 111 points.

The Dolphins also had decent production from undrafted rookie guard Sam Brenner, who made four starts and played 274 snaps. Brenner stepped up following the suspension of guard Richie Incognito in Miami's high-profile bullying scandal.

Brenner's production highlighted the fact that Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick, was too green to step in and be productive. Thomas was rotated between guard and tackle in training camp and never got comfortable in either position. Thomas must find a home at this season in order to provide quality depth.

In fact, it will be vital for Miami's entire 2013 draft class to find roles and contribute next season. The Dolphins used nine draft picks last year, and most have yet to make an impact.

"The Dolphins have a young quarterback [Ryan Tannehill], so they need to build a real core for the long term," Williamson said. "They need last year's draft and this upcoming come to build around Tannehill. They don't need to live for today. A strong core is more important than winning it all this year, although that philosophy can get you fired in Miami if you're 6-10."
The Miami Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. While the initial hype included Lazor’s experience working with quarterbacks and the passing game, a big question is whether he can improve Miami’s 26th-ranked rushing attack.
Thomas
Lazor helped previously unknown Nick Foles go from a backup quarterback to a Pro Bowler this season. But a little-known stat is Philadelphia’s offense actually led the NFL in rushing last year under Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Lazor certainly picked up some pointers from Kelly’s offense and the successful running game that he hopes to bring to Miami.

“When you come off of a season like we did where we were the leading rushing team in the NFL. We had the leading rusher. We had the highest-rated passer. We were able to be an explosive offense,” Lazor said last week. “Certainly a lot of things that led to that are going to have a great impact on what I believe works going forward.”

Miller
The Dolphins can do a better job in personnel this year to help Lazor. Miami relied on inexperienced former draft picks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to carry the load. In fact, the Dolphins only spent $2.412 million of their cap last year on running backs with Miller, Thomas and 2013 fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL last season in money spent on running backs, according to the Roster Management System.

Miami has resources in both the draft and free agency to upgrade the running-back position. Big names in free agency include Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Potential draft targets include Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and James White of Wisconsin. White will play in the Senior Bowl this weekend.

Miller and Thomas were not the answer in 2013. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins upgrade at running with a new offense and offensive coordinator in 2014.
One of the biggest criticisms on the 2013 Miami Dolphins is the lack of production from their rookie draft class. The Dolphins drafted nine players – and each made the team out of training camp.

Here is a look at how each Miami rookie fared last season:

Joseph
Jordan
DE Dion Jordan, first round, No. 3 overall

Stats: 26 tackles, two sacks

Analysis: The bar was high for Jordan entering the year. Miami traded up to the No. 3 pick to get Jordan, which shows how much its front office thought of him as a player. Jordan never got his footing following offseason shoulder surgery. He wasn’t 100 percent in training camp or the preseason and fell behind more productive players like Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby. Jordan must put on more weight and get stronger against the run in 2014. He will start next year as a backup.

CB Jamar Taylor, second round, No. 54 overall

Stats: 3 tackles

Analysis: Similar to Jordan, offseason ailments stunted Taylor’s growth. He had multiple health issues before and during training camp, which put Taylor behind. The Dolphins could certainly use their second-round pick at corner in 2014. The secondary is not deep and has some pending free agents. Taylor should get multiple opportunities to find a role next season.

OL Dallas Thomas, third round, No. 77 overall

Stats: No stats

Analysis: Thomas was a major disappointment as a rookie. Miami’s offensive line had a plethora of issues on and off the field, and Thomas still was unable to see the field. Even undrafted rookie Sam Brenner took playing time from Thomas. Thomas appears to be a better guard than tackle, and the Dolphins will have a void with starters John Jerry and Richie Incognito as pending free agents.

Davis
CB Will Davis, third round, 93 overall

Stats: 8 tackles

Analysis: Davis was an interesting case his rookie year. He was the talk of training camp after constantly picking off Miami quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore in practice. Davis unofficially led the Dolphins in training camp interceptions and got one pick in a preseason game. Davis appeared on his way to finding a role on the team. However, a toe injury kept Davis out several weeks and he never got back into the rotation. Davis received spotty playing, but certainly not enough to find a groove. Davis should get another chance to get into the rotation in next year’s camp.

LB Jelani Jenkins, fourth round, 104 overall

Stats: 17 tackles

Analysis: Jenkins came to Miami as a raw product from the University of Florida. The Dolphins felt his athletic ability would translate well, and that got Jenkins on the field some in sub packages and special teams. Jenkins’ biggest play was a crushing blow on Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis in October that resulted in an NFL fine. The Dolphins need to see more big hits – albeit legal ones – for Jenkins to get more playing time in 2014. But there were some flashes.

TE Dion Sims, fourth round, 106 overall

Stats: Six receptions, 32 yards, one touchdown

Analysis: Sims had a decent training camp and translated that into playing time this year. A season-ending knee injury to Dustin Keller moved Sims up the depth chart to the second tight end behind starter Charles Clay. However, Miami used a ton of three-receiver sets. Sims didn’t get many reps, outside of being an extra blocker. Sims’ biggest play was a game-winning touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons.

Gillislee
RB Mike Gillislee, fifth round, 164 overall

Stats: Six carries, 21 yards

Analysis: Despite Miami’s inability to run the football consistently, Gillislee spent most of the year on the inactive list. He dressed on Dec. 1 against the New York Jets and rushed for 21 yards. The Dolphins could be looking for upgrades at running back this offseason via the draft or free agency. Next season could be make or break for Gillislee to prove himself.

K Caleb Sturgis, fifth round, 166 overall

Stats: 26-of-34 on field goals, 33-of-33 on extra points

Analysis: Minus some rookie hiccups, Sturgis had a strong rookie season as Miami’s new kicker. He replaced longtime Dolphins veteran Dan Carpenter and led the team in scoring with 111 points. Sturgis displayed a strong leg with field goals and kickoffs. The Dolphins appear set at the kicker position for years to come.

DB Don Jones, seventh round, 250 overall

Stats: 10 tackles, one tackle for loss

Analysis: Jones came to Miami as a long shot to make the team. But his ability to play special teams earned him a roster spot and he stayed there all year. Jones was one of the Dolphins’ best players in the third phase of the game. He made some big hits in kick coverage and that should help him find a roster spot again next season.

Miami Dolphins' inactives at Buffalo

December, 22, 2013
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Here are the Miami Dolphins (8-6) players you won't see in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills (5-9):
Miami tailback Daniel Thomas (ankle) is active and will provide relief for starter Lamar Miller. Thomas was questionable this week and only practiced on Friday.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have been reluctant to provide a heavy workload to starting running back Lamar Miller. There have been reasons (excuses?) such as durability concerns and sharing with Daniel Thomas that severely limited Miller's carries. But Thomas' significant ankle injury forced a shift last week in Miami's thinking.

[+] EnlargeLamar Miller
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Lamar Miller reaches for the pylon in mid-air during the first quarter of the Dolphins-New York Jets game at MetLife Stadium.
The Dolphins' coaching staff gave Miller a career-high 22 carries in Sunday's 23-3 victory over the New York Jets. Miller held his own against the NFL's No. 1 run defense with 72 yards, which included his longest run of 17 yards. He also helped grind out the clock in the fourth quarter to preserve the win for Miami (6-6), which remains in postseason contention.

Miller's yards per carry (3.3) were not impressive. But Miller showed he could be a workhorse against one of the most physical defenses in the league.

"I'm delighted," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said during his Monday news conference. "I thought [offensive coordinator] Mike [Sherman] did a great job sticking with the run. ...I thought [Miller] did a nice job. I thought his reads were good and he stayed on course pretty well. The thing we're looking for with all our backs is the ability to break more tackles and have more explosive runs."

The Dolphins were as close to a one-tailback system than they've been all year against New York. Miller received more carries Sunday against the Jets (22) than he received the previous three games combined (21). Miami rookie Mike Gillislee was second on the team with six carries.

Sunday's game was perhaps a peek into where Miami is heading offensively the rest of the year. Thomas is expected to miss a few more games and possibly the rest of the season. That leaves a bulk of the responsibility on Miller to carry the load during Miami's important playoff push. He leads the team with 547 rushing yards this season.

"With Daniel being out, he was told by me and his coach, Jeff Nixon, that he would carry the bulk of the load and, therefore, he was able to do that," Sherman said. "Most backs will tell you the more carries, the more effective, and I would tend to agree. They get a better feel for the game, a better feel for the cuts."

W2W4: Dolphins at Jets

November, 30, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins (5-6) will travel to New York to face the rival Jets (5-6) in what is a playoff eliminator for both teams.

Here are three things to watch from Miami's perspective:

Can the Dolphins run? On paper, Miami's running game is at a major disadvantage against New York's No. 1-rated run defense. The Dolphins are No. 26 running the football this year and they just lost their second-leading rusher -- Daniel Thomas -- to a significant ankle injury. Dolphins rookie tailback Mike Gillislee will combine with Marcus Thigpen to add depth behind starter Lamar Miller. Miami will need at least some success on the group to keep New York's aggressive defense honest.

Focus on Tannehill: Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is nearly complete with his second season. But we haven't seen signs of Tannehill taking over games and putting the Dolphins on his shoulders. It's time for Tannehill to remove the kid's gloves and try to carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins haven't scored more than 27 points all season. It's important for Tannehill to get hot down the stretch for Miami to have a shot at the postseason.

Vulnerable Geno: After facing quality quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck this year, Miami's defense gets a relative reprieve this week with Jets quarterback Geno Smith. New York's quarterback is struggling and vulnerable. He has just one touchdown and 10 interceptions in the past six games. Miami would love to continue to pile on Smith and pick up a key win. Look for New York to protect Smith with a running game and solid defense. The Dolphins will try to make Smith beat Miami through the air.
DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins rookie tailback Mike Gillislee knows what it’s like to wait his turn.

Gillislee
Gillislee waited until his senior year to become the featured back at the University of Florida. His one productive college season was enough for the Dolphins to draft Gillislee in the fifth round.

This season Gillislee has been mostly inactive and hasn’t received a carry as Miami’s third-string tailback.

That's about to change.

With a significant ankle injury to Daniel Thomas, Gillislee is projected to be a key backup behind starting running back Lamar Miller.

The Dolphins (5-6) have used two tailbacks in their running game all year and would like to continue that in the final five games.

“It gave me an opportunity to grow and become a pro,” Gillislee said of watching from the sidelines this year. “Just by me watching, it made me hungrier and ready to take advantage of this opportunity that I’ve been given.”

Gillislee is expected to play Sunday in a huge game against the New York Jets (5-6). Both teams are among the half-dozen clubs fighting for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Dolphins-Jets game essentially will serve as a playoff eliminator. The winner will gain an inside track with four games remaining, while the loser will fall behind the pack.

The Dolphins are 26th in rushing this year and need a spark. Perhaps Gillislee can provide it off the bench. But it will not be easy going against New York’s No. 1-ranked run defense.

“I’ve been ready to go,” Gillislee said about Sunday’s game. “I’m ready to go now. But until I put those pads on, that’s when I’m really ready.”

Projecting Dolphins' Week 5 inactives

October, 5, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins (3-1) have play Sunday against the defending champion Baltimore Ravens (2-2).

Here are the players who may not suit up for Miami this week.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson: He is ruled out for the fourth straight game with a groin injury. The Dolphins are hopeful to get Patterson back before the bye week.

Running back Mike Gillislee: The Dolphins’ No. 3 running back cannot seem to get ahead on the depth chart. The increased use of Marcus Thigpen only further moves Gillislee out of the rotation.

Quarterback Pat Devlin: He’s the third quarterback and has been inactive all season.

Linebacker Josh Kaddu: Miami’s backup linebacker was activated for the first time last week against the New Orleans Saints. But look for him to be back on the inactive list.

Guard Dallas Thomas: The rookie is still green and learning the system.

Guard Danny Watkins: He joined the team late but is making progress. With Miami’s offensive line struggling, the team may add him in the rotation at some point after the bye week.

Wildcard: Miami Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake's status has been up in the air all week. He will be a game-time decision for the second game in a row. If Wake plays, a banged-up special teamer like Don Jones (elbow) could sit.

Dolphins inactives: Cameron Wake out

September, 30, 2013
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NEW ORLEANS – Here are the Miami Dolphins players you won’t see in Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
The Dolphins activated starting defensive tackle Paul Soliai. He was listed as questionable during the week with a knee injury. Coaches took a close look at Wake during warm-ups and determined he wasn't ready to play.

Projecting Dolphins' Week 3 inactives

September, 21, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins will try to improve to 3-0 Sunday when they host the Atlanta Falcons (1-1).

Here is a list of Dolphins you may not see at Sun Life Stadium:

Defensive tackle Paul Soliai and cornerback Dimitri Patterson: Both defensive starters have been ruled out. Soliai has a knee injury and Patterson has a groin injury.

Quarterback Pat Devlin: Miami’s emergency quarterback is getting healthy again following an ankle injury. He’s listed as questionable. But considering quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore will be active, Devlin can afford to rest another week.

Running back Mike Gillislee: The Dolphins’ third running back was inactive in the first two games, and I don’t see that changing. Miami finally showed signs of running the football with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Linebacker Josh Kaddu: Miami hasn’t been able to find him a spot on game days. Other backup linebackers contribute on special teams.

Guard Dallas Thomas: The rookie third-round pick is still green and hasn’t earned the trust of the coaching staff. With Miami’s offensive line in good health, chances are he sits out another week.

Cornerback Jamar Taylor: Miami’s second-round pick is finally ready to return from a groin injury. But Taylor can use another week of rehab and practice to shake the rust. Taylor hasn’t played since the preseason.

Miami Dolphins' Week 2 inactives

September, 15, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are the Miami Dolphins players you won’t see in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts:

Dolphins (1-0)

The biggest change on the lineup card this week is cornerback Nolan Carroll is listed as starting in place of Dimitri Patterson, who is active but injured. Patterson may be limited to nickel duty Sunday due to his groin injury. That could present a problem for Miami's defense against Indianapolis' passing attack led by quarterback Andrew Luck.

Projecting Dolphins' Week 2 inactives

September, 14, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins (1-0) will look to remain undefeated Sunday when they travel to face the Indianapolis Colts (1-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Based on this week’s practices and injuries, here are the projected players you might not see Sunday for the Dolphins:

Quarterback Pat Devlin and cornerbacks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor: All three players were ruled out for this weekend’s game. Davis has a toe injury, but practiced this week. He’s the furthest along of the three.

Running back Mike Gillislee: The Dolphins are sticking with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, despite their Week 1 struggles. Miami also needs a spot reserved for fullback Tyler Clutts.

Linebacker Josh Kaddu: The backup was inactive last week against the Cleveland Browns. There is a good chance that’s the case Sunday.

Offensive lineman Dallas Thomas: The rookie is still green. He has some versatility, but needs to be solid enough at one position before the coaches can trust him in a game.

Offensive lineman Danny Watkins: Miami signed the former first-round pick two weeks ago, and he’s still learning the system. He should provide depth at some point. But Week 2 might be too early.
The Miami Dolphins will face the Cleveland Browns in their regular-season opener on Sunday. Here is a preview of players you may not see based on this week’s practices:

QB Pat Devlin, CB Will Davis, CB Jamar Taylor: All three players are ruled out on Miami’s final injury report. They missed every practice this week.

RB Mike Gillislee: Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will get a majority of the carries. Miami needs a fullback (Tyler Clutts) on the active roster for certain formations as well. Gillislee could be the odd man out.

TE Michael Egnew: He brings no value on special teams and is a backup behind Charles Clay. Egnew’s lack of blocking also puts him behind rookie tight end Dion Sims.

OT Will Yeatman: Miami has nine offensive lineman, and Yeatman could get the short end of the stick on game day.

LB Josh Kaddu: He’s a backup linebacker, and fellow backups Jason Trusnik and Jelani Jenkins play special teams.

DB Don Jones: The Dolphins are thin at defensive back, but Jones is on the back end of the depth chart.

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

August, 19, 2013
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MIAMI -- Three preseason games are in the books for the Miami Dolphins.

Let's take a look at whose stock is rising and falling for Miami:

Falling

1. Dolphins’ tight-end depth: This weekend, Miami lost starting tight end Dustin Keller for the year with a knee injury. This is a big blow for the Dolphins, who were counting on Keller to stay healthy, produce and provide veteran leadership. Now Miami is scrambling to find answers with young players. The Dolphins have four young tight ends on the roster: Dion Sims, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and H-back Charles Clay. This will be a good test of Miami’s depth. Sims, Egnew and Clay were all recent draft picks of the past three years by Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. If Ireland got it right, at least one of these in-house tight ends should be able to step up and play a bigger role.

2. Dolphins backup O-line: If you thought Miami’s starters struggled at times, the Dolphins’ backup offensive line was worse. Players like offensive tackles Will Yeatman and Dallas Thomas did not do enough to inspire confidence from Miami’s coaching staff. Second-string quarterback Matt Moore (four sacks) was being thrown around in the second half. The Dolphins need some of these backups to step up and earn roster spots. Injuries happen every year on the offensive line, and someone needs to gain the confidence of the coaching staff. That hasn’t been the case so far in three preseason games.

3. Will Davis, cornerback: Miami’s third-round pick has been one of the surprise players of training camp. Davis has made a lot of big plays, but he struggled in his third preseason game against the Texans. Davis was beat on a double-move during a 38-yard touchdown catch by Houston Texans receiver Lestar Jean. Davis also played loose on coverage on a few other plays. Davis has made a lot of interceptions in practice and has a pick in the preseason. But he needs to work on being more consistent.

Rising

[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesDolphins fans finally got to see Mike Wallace, the team's prized free agent this offseason, catch some balls in Miami's preseason game against Houston.
1. Mike Wallace, receiver: Miami fans were prematurely getting antsy because Wallace hadn’t caught a pass in the preseason. But Wallace exploded in the first quarter of Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans with three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on one drive. Wallace showed a full array of skills against the Texans. He caught a short, intermediate and deep pass on the drive. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Wallace began a good week in practice and it carried over into the game. Dolphins fans can relax now that they saw the combo’s potential in the preseason.

2. Daniel Thomas, running back: With Lamar Miller the probable starter, the No. 2 tailback position was close between Thomas, rookie Mike Gillislee and Jonas Gray. But Thomas did a good job to separate himself with a strong performance against Houston. Thomas rushed for 25 yards on four carries and caught a 27-yard shovel pass. Health permitting, Thomas is now the clear favorite to be the first tailback off the bench to spell Miller. Thomas has been inconsistent and had issues with fumbling and injuries the past two seasons. But coaches have been raving about Thomas in Year 3, and he’s showing signs greater consistency.

3. A.J. Francis, defensive tackle: Miami’s defensive line is easily the deepest area of the team. The second- and third-string defensive linemen have been stout throughout training camp and the preseason. This week Francis, a third-stringer, had a good performance in limited playing time. Francis finished with two tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback pressure and a tipped pass. Francis was disruptive and showed good strength and movement down the line of scrimmage. It’s going to be very hard to make the Dolphins as a defensive lineman, but he made a good case Saturday night.

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