Miami Dolphins: A.J. Francis

Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Monday from around the web: Miami morning take: This is a big year for Ireland, who opened owner Stephen Ross' wallet and made a series of significant moves. Ireland needs the Dolphins to stay healthy and have a winning season in order to stay away from the hot seat.
Miami morning take: I really like this group, which should be faster and force more turnovers than last season. The only question I have is the overall depth at linebacker and in the secondary. Injuries could test those units.
  • ESPN.com's Matt Williamson tells the Finsiders that he likes the Dolphins' chances to compete.
Miami morning take: Williamson, a frequent contributor to this Dolphins page, is buying the stock of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If Tannehill has a big year, Miami could be playoff-bound.
  • ESPN.com's New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss takes a look at former Dolphins offensive lineman Chris Barker.
Miami morning take: Barker was one of two former Dolphins the Patriots claimed off waivers; defensive tackle A.J. Francis was the other. I’m not too high on Barker, based on what I've seen in training camp and the preseason. But New England obviously saw something.
The Miami Dolphins lost one of their top practice-squad candidates Sunday to an AFC East rival. The New England Patriots claimed former Dolphins defensive lineman A.J. Francis off the waiver wire, according to Francis’ Twitter account.

Francis was an up-and-coming defensive lineman for Miami, which had a lot of depth at the position. The Dolphins released both Francis and Kheeston Randall. It shouldn’t take long for Randall to also find work.

New England, the reigning AFC East champs, is looking for big bodies and more youth up front on defense. The Dolphins were the last team to announce their roster cuts, but that still didn’t stop a division rival from poaching at least one player.

Miami Dolphins cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: The Dolphins had several tough decisions to make at the bottom of their roster. Perhaps the biggest call was whether to keep three quarterbacks -- and Miami opted Saturday to keep third-stringer Pat Devlin. Devlin played nearly all of Miami’s fifth preseason game against the New Orleans Saints and threw for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Devlin showed some good and some bad, and it was just enough.

Several other bubble players didn't make the team. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt and defensive linemen Kheeston Randall and A.J. Francis were all in the running for the 53-man roster; all three are strong candidates for Miami’s practice squad. There's also the chance that any of the players cut will be scooped up by other teams. That probably explains why the Dolphins were the last NFL team to release their list of cuts Saturday night -- there had to be some gamesmanship involved.

Close calls: Several Dolphins who made the 53-man roster won't be able to rest easy. Cornerback R.J. Stanford, defensive back Don Jones, tight end Michael Egnew and offensive tackle Will Yeatman are among several bubble players who still have jobs.

For Egnew and Stanford in particular, injuries during the course of training camp and the preseason helped their case. The Dolphins might not be finished adding players this weekend, however.

What’s next: Like most teams, Miami will examine the waiver wires closely. Miami spent $200 million in free agency this offseason but is far from a perfect team. The Dolphins can use additional depth at positions such as offensive line, tight end and now wide receiver. By cutting McNutt and Chad Bumphis, the Dolphins only have four receivers on their roster. That will change soon. Miami runs a lot of three-receiver sets and needs more players at the position.

It’s also time for Miami to set its sights on a Week 1 road game against the Cleveland Browns. The Dolphins have playoff aspirations this season, but they must win their first road game to set the tone in 2013.

Dolphins cuts: G Chris Barker, C Sam Brenner, WR Chad Bumphis, WR Keenan Davis, DT A.J. Francis, RB Jonas Gray, S Keelan Johnson, S Jordan Kovacs, T Andrew McDonald, WR Marvin McNutt, TE Kyle Miller, DE Tristin Okpalaugo, CB Julian Posey, CB De’Andre Presley, DT Kheeston Randall, DT Tracy Robertson, LB Lee Robinson, LB Austin Spitler, WR Brian Tyms, OT Jeff Adams (waived/injured), QB Aaron Corp (waived/injured), LB Antwan Applewhite (terminated contract).

What to Watch: Saints-Dolphins

August, 29, 2013
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MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins will play their fifth and final preseason game Thursday against the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Here are three things to watch for the Dolphins:

1. Players on the bubble: Miami must make 25 roster cuts by Saturday evening to get down to the 53-man limit. Several key players to watch are defensive tackle A.J. Francis, third-string quarterback Pat Devlin and receivers Marvin McNutt and Chad Bumphis. Look for the bottom portion of the roster to get plenty of playing time. Shameless plug alert: I will do my roster projection Friday after the final preseason game.

2. Progression of tight ends: It was not a strong outing for Miami’s tight ends following the season-ending knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. The Dolphins got just three catches and 34 yards from the position. New starter Charles Clay had just one reception for five yards -- though he was targeted six times by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This will be an important game for Miami’s tight ends to get reps in preparation for the regular season, even if Tannehill isn’t on the field. Let's see what more Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and Dion Sims can do.

3. No injuries: To be blunt, there isn’t much for teams to gain in this final preseason game. The most important thing for the Dolphins is to exit without significant injuries. The real games start in about 10 days, when the Dolphins travel to face the Cleveland Browns. Miami head coach Joe Philbin has been coy about playing time for his starters. Some may play briefly, while others might not play at all. This is a game for backups and fringe players.

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