Dolphin decision deadline
Tonight’s game with Minnesota will influence roster cuts.
Miami Dolphins running back Storm Johnson understands the urgency of today’s preseason finale at Minnesota.
The first and only cut, which trims the roster from 90 to 53, must be made by 4 p.m. Saturday, so today’s game against the Vikings is the last chance to make a statement.
“I try not to focus on that,” said Johnson, who played at the University of Miami and then Central Florida. “I try just to get better every day, look at film, get my craft together and put my best foot forward.”
For some players, Saturday’s cut-down day will be the end of their NFL career, and for others, it’ll mean the end of their Dolphins career.
And then there’s another group that could include Johnson. For them, Saturday’s cut could mean the difference between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, basically a group of 10 players that practices all week but isn’t eligible to play on gameday.
“What’s it like?” Johnson said of the practice squad, a slow smile coming across his face. “You want to be on the 53.”
The Dolphins might play some guys who are vying for starting jobs against the Vikings.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, who still hasn’t gone through a full practice because he remains overweight and out of shape, has an outside chance of playing.
So, too, does cornerback Alterraun Verner, who is fighting with Byron Maxwell for the starting job on the left side.
And at left guard, where the starting job seems to be up for grabs among Anthony Steen, Jake Brendel and Jesse Davis, who also plays tackle, Davis could get some work against Minnesota.
But overall this game belongs to the guys trying to make the 53-man roster, not earn starting jobs.
Coach Adam Gase knows what he wants to see.
“Really, it’s going to be more about can we execute a little better than we have been, especially with those backup guys,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of busts and not quite being in the right spot and not doing our job consistently. I know these guys will play fast. I know they’re going to play hard. We just need to execute a little better.”
Johnson, who spent time on the Dolphins’ practice squad last season, is mainly battling fellow running back Senorice Perry for a spot on the 53-man roster behind Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams.
Both Johnson and Perry are also kickoff returners and play on all four main special teams units — kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return and punt coverage.
Perry sustained a knee injury last week against Philadelphia, however, and has been sidelined.
“He did do a lot of good things early [in camp] and I feel bad for him, because he wants to be out there,” Gase said. “We’ll see how everything plays out. He’s done well and we’ll see how everything comes out numbers-wise.”
In the big picture, Johnson and Perry are not only battling each other, they’re also battling a group of linebackers, defensive backs and offensive and defensive linemen for spots on the 53-man roster.
Gase isn’t sure how many roster spots will be won or lost Thursday. It’s thought the Dolphins could return as many as 45 players from last year.
“We’ll get together on this over the next few days and start talking the beginning stages of what our numbers are and where we have to make decisions,” Gase said. “We wanted to make sure we gave a full four games to do our evaluation and we have plenty of time afterwards.”
The other unknown in filling out the final 53-man roster is who might be available after the massive roster cuts on Saturday, during which more than 1,000 players will be released.
Players know being on the roster Saturday afternoon doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be on the roster next week when preparations begin for the Sept. 10 opener against Tampa Bay.
“Obviously, yeah,” Johnson said. “But I trust in God and trust in these coaches and trust in my ability, and just let the rest show for itself.”
Former Miami Hurricane and present Miami Dolphin, running back Storm Johnson, is one of the many players whose immediate future in the NFL will be decided tonight and this weekend.