After the Miami Dolphins made some surprising releases after the third preseason game, the nature of the 2019 season came into focus. It's obvious that in spite of head coach Brian Flores's insistence they want to win every game, the Dolphins front office is more focused on 2020 and beyond. Most already surmised that, but now there's no hiding it. Miami is carrying a Brink's Truck worth of dead cap space with them into the season, over $40 million worth. Those bad contracts coming off the books can only help the Dolphins future, but the painful present still has to be endured.
2019 is going to be about developing players for the future, a youth movement like no other, unless the drastic happens and Miami trades Laremy Tunsil for Jadeveon Clowney. But that's a story for another time.
With a long list of players expected not to play against the Saints, here is the best of the rest worth watching.
Patrick Laird, RB
Strange though it may seem, Laird has been Miami's best running back this preseason. Yes, that includes Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage. Laird is shifty, determined, and can catch passes out of the backfield. His numbers so far rank him fifth overall in the preseason, running the ball 19 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.3 yards a carry. True, the defenses he plays against by the time he sees the field aren't impressive. But with how terrible the Dolphins offensive line is projected to be, it's still worth mentioning.
Clearly, the battle for the third and possibly fourth running back spots are still up for grabs. The only ones not playing against New Orleans are Drake and Ballage. So this is Laird's (as well as Walton and Gaskin's) last chance to prove they deserve to make the team. If things go the way everyone thinks, that means Laird will make it on.
Nate Orchard, DE
In a stunning turn of events, the preseason leader in sacks is none other than five-year veteran Nate Orchard. He currently ties with Panthers rookie pass rusher Brian Burns with four. With Charles Harris sitting the final preseason game, it's clear he's one of the starters as a pass rusher. So this final game will decide who gets to start alongside him. Right now, Orchard seems to have a solid lead over fellow veteran Tank Carradine, but there's still time for that to change.
Both Orchard and Carradine's careers have been plagued by unfortunate circumstances. Whether it's injuries or just a lack of roster space, their talent hasn't had a chance to shine. Is there more to them than meets the eye? 2019 may be their audition for other teams, or an opportunity to stick long term as a depth player.
Josh Rosen, QB
It's honestly sad that this is still being discussed. Nevertheless, Josh Rosen is not listed among the many, many players scheduled to sit out the final preseason game. So it's very possible he will play. For what purpose? Perhaps to give him more reps and practice. Maybe the coaches believe he still has some kinks to work out. But if that's the case, it's also likely that coach Brian Flores has made his decision as to who will start the regular season.
If it's Ryan Fitzpatrick, then the argument will be made that the best man didn't win. Most fans believe he's earned the right to start the season after his preseason performances. For some reason, the coaches seem to disagree. It is Flores's first year as a head coach, maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt. But all of these rumors swirling around the team, paired with questionable decisions like this one...things could unravel quickly.