Five thoughts on the Dolphins’ cut-down day:
1. The prime decision affecting the first month of the season wasn’t whether Miami kept Skylar Thompson or what happened with Preston Williams. It was the decision on cornerback Byron Jones. The Dolphins didn’t activate him off the physically-unable-to-perform list after offseason lower leg surgery and the starting cornerback won’t be active for the first four games. That means general manager Chris Grier is looking for a trade for help as well as studying what cornerbacks are released by other teams.
If there was an easy trade, Grier would have made it by now, considering the Dolphins surely knew Jones wasn’t going to be ready for the start of the season. As it stands, the Dolphins have to decide how to play their cornerbacks opposite Xavien Howard (who missed practice Tuesday). Nik Needham, who also missed practice Tuesday, heads into the season as the No. 2 cornerback but played inside most of last year. Noah Igbinoghene started outside in the third preseason game with the No. 1 defense, but struggled all offseason. Keion Crossen and rookie Kader Kohou are expected to be the other cornerbacks on the team.
As things stand, you know what opposing quarterbacks will do. Needham talked about his first start when quarterback Matt Schwab threw every pass on the drive at him. The first four opposing quarterbacks: Mac Jones, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.
2. The signing of Trey Flowers, coupled with Melvin Ingram, gives the Dolphins two veteran edge players who have been impactful in their careers. They also aren’t the players they once were. Can they help in the right role? Absolutely. The larger question for a team thinking playoffs is where their bodies will be come December and January. Flowers is only 29, but has gone on injured reserve in November and December the past two seasons. Ingram is 31, and was let go by two smart organizations who valued short-term help in Pittsburgh and Kansas City in the past year. Andrew Van Ginkel’s appendix issue seemed to open the need for Flowers. But the story of Flowers and Ingram will be if they can impact games in the first half of the season — and, if so, where their health is the second half.
3. There was good work done to the receiving group that last preseason consisted of four of the top receivers sitting out with injuries. Getting Tyreek Hill obviously changed the offense. Jaylen Waddle, Dallas free agent Cedric Williams and fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma were locks to make the team and each has shown strengths. That left two positions open. Regardless, the Dolphins have cleaned the shelf of marginal and injured receivers and have a dynamic group.
4. Don’t underestimate coach Mike McDaniel’s ties with San Francisco and offensive coordinator Frank Smith’s ties with the Los Angeles Rams, especially when it comes to judging offensive linemen. San Francisco is weighing who to release on the line. The Rams, as Super Bowl champs, have some decisions, too. The Dolphins released Solomon Kindley, who seemed the classic cost of changing systems — a power guy who could use a few pounds in a system that now wants better athletes. Alan Panckey was a versatile lineman.
5. Quick hits:
— The Dolphins have five tight ends. No chance they enter the season with five tight ends … is there?
— Cornerbacks and tackles are the priority to pick up off the waiver wire from other team’s cuts. Problem is, that’s most every team’s priorities.
— Igbinoghene had a tough summer and preseason, but seems safe as a former first-round pick. The question is if he’s the starter with Jones out, as the Dolphins lined up in their final preseason game.
— The Bills released tight end O.J. Howard? Hmm.