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Omar Kelly: Ten Dolphins players whose seats are getting warm

A culture is being created by new head coach Mike McDaniel and his coaching staff.

A new offense is being installed by the Miami Dolphins, meshing what worked for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the core foundation of the play-action-based West Coast Offense.

A defense that returns most of its core players is being tinkered with, and new leaders are stepping forward to show young players the way.

While everything that takes place during an NFL team’s offseason program happens without pads, there’s plenty to be achieved during a week of minicamp practices, like the sessions the Dolphins will begin on Tuesday.

That means there’s also plenty at stake. Here’s a look at 10 players whose futures with the team aren’t on solid footing, therefore their performance in these practices, and upcoming training camp will be critical to their survival.

Running back Myles Gaskin

Gaskin has started 17 games for the Dolphins the past two seasons, but his 3.8-yard-per-carry average for his career is underwhelming. It possibly explains why the Dolphins added three veteran backs — Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel — this offseason. But expect Miami to take a tailback-by-committee approach, and don’t expect Gaskin to bow out of the competition, because this 2019 seventh-round pick is a fierce competitor. That’s how this former third-teamer won the starting spot.

Guard Solomon Kindley

Kindley went from rookie starter in 2020 to forgotten offensive lineman in 2021, with 124 offensive snaps last season. Whether or not he fits into this wide zone running scheme the Dolphins are building comes down to the type of shape this 340-pounder can get himself into this summer, and how he moves when it come to run blocking when the pads come on in August. Every offensive lineman gets a clean slate with this coaching staff so we’ll see if this former fourth-round pick will make good use of it.

Wide receiver Preston Williams

Two seasons ago, Williams was viewed as one of Miami’s top young talents. The former Colorado State standout burst onto the scene as a play-making undrafted rookie and earned a starting role quickly. But he’s battled injuries the past two seasons, and his struggle digesting offenses has hindered his growth. Williams, who the Dolphins re-signed to a one-year deal that could potentially be worth $1.3 million, needs to prove he’s still the dynamic talent who dominated training camp his first two seasons.

Wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr.

The talent was obvious in his rookie season. Bowden can stop on a dime and his run-after-the-catch skills make him a unique athlete. Problem is, he’s struggled to learn NFL offenses, and hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past two seasons. Bowden, whom the Dolphins traded for five months after the Las Vegas Raiders drafted him in the third round, must carve out a role for himself in the West Coast Offense, and become a playmaker to safely make it onto the 53-man roster.

Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene

A player’s status as an early draft pick can keep him safe for only so long. Igbinoghene, the 30th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, has struggled in his first two seasons, slotted behind Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham on the team’s cornerback depth chart. His technique is the issue, and until that gets fixed he can’t be relied on. That’s where position coaches Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain come in, because they could potentially help Igbinoghene clean up his game and become a reliable contributor.

Tight end Adam Shaheen

Shaheen has started seven of the 26 games he’s played for the Dolphins since Miami traded a late-round pick for him days before training camp opened in 2020. He’s a versatile, dual-purpose tight end who can catch passes (12 each season) and serve as a red-zone threat (seven career touchdowns in five seasons). But he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, and last year’s knee injury watered down his impact to the offense.

Running back Salvon Ahmed

Ahmed has a unique skill set that could entice Mike McDaniel. His speed, elusiveness and pass catching makes him a standout when the Dolphins are practicing in shells. He was one of training camp’s top standouts early last season. But the minute the pads came on, he pulled a disappearing act. It’s on Ahmed, who is entering his third NFL season, to prove he’s a good fit for this offense to extend his stay in South Florida.

Tackle Greg Little

The Dolphins acquired this former Panthers second-round pick last season when they realized the offensive line needed reinforcements, but Little didn’t contribute at all before ending up on injured reserve around midseason. The former Ole Miss standout possesses the athleticism needed to excel in the Dolphins’ new scheme, but must prove that he can be a reliable tackle, or else he’ll be churned again, and will officially become an NFL journeyman.

Tight end Cethan Carter

Carter was signed to a three-year deal last offseason to serve as a backup tight end and core special teams player, but he failed to have a significant impact on either unit. And with Miami adding two fullbacks — Alec Ingold and John Lovett — the odds of him carving out a role as an H-back are slim unless he’s ultra-productive during training camp and the exhibition season, because cutting Carter would create $2.5 million in cap space.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen

Eguavoen, a former CFL standout, has teased the Dolphins with playmaking potential for three seasons, but after losing his starting spot after six games in 2019 he’s struggled to find a consistent role. Sometimes he’s an edge rusher, and sometimes he’s an inside linebacker in this scheme. The versatility, including special teams contribution, has provided him staying power. But the Dolphins need to discover if there’s potential for this 28-year-old to do more.


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