With the Miami Dolphins’ first released depth chart of the season, there are sure to be overreactions aplenty. It bears remembering that the Dolphins are still in evaluation mode and, just as importantly, they’re trying to properly motivate players on the roster to elevate their play and claim the jobs that were envisioned for them.
Some of those head games may be in play with the team’s depth chart release. Some positions, like quarterback and cornerback, are pretty open and shut. But by and large, we should approach this first depth chart with caution. Here are three examples from the first 2021 depth chart of assignments we are selling as long-term resolutions.
Jason McCourty over Jevon Holland at free safety
Perhaps this is a “right of passage” for a rookie. But Holland has drawn rave reviews and, just as importantly, looks the part at free safety. After being inserted with the first-team defense this past week, Holland obliged with three turnovers in three practices. Perhaps the confirmed return of Xavien Howard will allow Miami to keep McCourty at safety but it’s a hard sell that McCourty should play over Holland unless Holland is swimming in the details of the playbook.
By most accounts around practice, that isn’t the case at this point in time; even if there is a long way to go before Week 1.
Durham Smythe as TE3
The Dolphins seem to be hoping that rookie Hunter Long can be a player to fill the role of multiple players in the tight end room. And, depending on Long’s status after leaving practice this weekend on a cart, perhaps he will be before the end of the year. But to open the season, we’re not ready to buy Adam Shaheen sitting ahead of Smythe on the depth chart given the reps Smythe has seen in camp. Smythe out-snapped Shaheen in eight of the team’s final 11 games in 2020 and we’d currently inclined to think the traditional “Y” role as an attached tight end still has Smythe in the driver’s seat.
Salvon Ahmed as RB3
Miami’s current pecking order features Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed as the top three running backs. But if the Dolphins see Gaskin go down for any extended period of time, we’d venture to bet that Ahmed would get the first crack at filling the void and not Brown. Brown can be an effective short-yardage and goal line runner and he clearly has a role to play. But Ahmed has a year of sweat equity and was fairly productive during his play down the stretch in 2020. As a more dynamic runner, we’d bet on Ahmed as the true backup to Gaskin.
But with that said, there’s one area Ahmed must improve in 2021 to fully take over those reps: the passing game. Gaskin and Brown both scored well in pass protection in 2020 and Ahmed must close that gap in Year 2.
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