Highlighting the Best Upcoming Battle at Miami Dolphins Training Camp
Young talent with potential, veteran talent that's yet to realize its full potential, and Chad Ochocinco.
That's the Miami Dolphins training camp battle at wide receiver in a nutshell. And while the roster is littered with castoffs and also-ran receivers, a wide open battle could be just what the Dolphins need to find their next men up after the trade of Brandon Marshall.
What makes this such a juicy battle is that any receiver can be the first option on any given play. The same play may have two, three or more potential first options depending on down-and-distance, time remaining, what the offense is trying to accomplish and other variables.
As a result of that built-in philosophy, every receiver needs to be able to step up when called upon as the first option. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin touched on that, and gave us a template by which he measures receivers in a press conference (via ESPN):
We don’t design plays necessarily to a number one, two, or three guy. Now do we move receivers around? Sure, we put them up in the slot and outside and we motion them across the formation to get mismatches, absolutely.
Whether he’s number one, two, or whatever, we’re going to look for the same things. We’re going to look for someone who go out and catch the ball the ball consistently, get open against man coverage, play the ball down the field, and block for his teammates.
If we're going off the presumption that wide receivers Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are roster locks, that leaves just three or four spots for 10 receivers to battle it out over.
The question, however, is whether they can challenge a defense vertically. That's the primary element missing from the depth chart, and while it may not be important to have a bona fide No. 1 receiver, they'll still be trying to locate mismatches and create problems for opposing defenses.
This could be a make-or-break offseason for Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace and even second-year receiver Clyde Gates. All three are receivers who have the long speed, but need to polish other aspects of their game in order to make an impact.
The team drafted Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham in the sixth round and Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews in the seventh round of April's draft. Both receivers were highly productive in 2011—Cunningham's senior year, and Matthews' sophomore year—and both are seen as solid fits in the West Coast offense (though Matthews more so than Cunningham).
While the battle at quarterback will get the long look from most fans, whoever wins the job, assuming it's not the No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill, will eventually relinquish the throne to Tannehill. Whichever receivers emerge victorious from this battle will set the tone for the Dolphins' offense in their first year running the West Coast offense, and for the future of the offense beyond 2012.
But it's about more than just showing their mettle in practice; they'll also have to get it done on Sundays.
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