Which Miami Dolphins Have the Most to Lose in Training Camp?
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Miami Dolphins enter HBO's Hard Knocks without many big-time story lines (besides, of course, Ryan Tannehill's contract status) but they do have a lot of underrated camp battles.
As such, they also have a lot of players who are in trouble of losing their roles, whether it be rotational, starter or even special teams. When your role is in jeopardy, so is your job.
There are a lot of players to keep an eye on, as with most teams running a new system; schemes change, personnel needs change, the demands on those players change and all the while, the players who were trained to do things one way must learn to do them a new way while learning new words and new techniques.
With so much changing, here are some Dolphins players who could see the negative impacts of those changes.
Can Matt Moore emerge victorious from the QB battle even with the odds against him?
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Matt Moore is getting tougher breaks than taffy. After taking the reins of a 0-4 team, the veteran journeyman quarterback took three games to get the Dolphins out of their skid. Once he and the team hit stride, though, they finished the season 6-3. Down the stretch, Moore played particularly well, completing 61.2 percent of his passes for 7.72 yards per attempt, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions with a passer rating of 97.8.
What did he get for his troubles? A three-way battle for the starting job, pitting Moore against the No. 8 overall draft pick Ryan Tannehill and veteran quarterback David Garrard. While it appears Tannehill will begin the year as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster, it looks like Garrard is the current front runner to be the starter.
Moore has never even won a starting job in camp (besides one year against Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen), much less been a playoff-caliber quarterback, but showed flashes of that potential last year as he has throughout his career. He has yet to sustain those flashes over the duration of a 16-game season, and it doesn't appear he'll get that chance in 2012, either.
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As a key cog in Miami's offense under Tony Sparano, Anthony Fasano has played over 86 percent of the offensive snaps every year since 2008. But with the addition of tight ends Charles Clay and Michael Egnew over the past two seasons, the Dolphins may be looking to go in another direction.
While Fasano has played more as a blocking tight end (2,238 snaps according to Pro Football Focus, 60.02 percent of his total) than as a pass-catcher (1,491 snaps, 39.98 percent) over the past four years, Clay and Egnew both offer more as receiving tight ends and H-backs than as true in-line tight ends.
Perhaps the Dolphins new offense under Joe Philbin will use their tight ends more like Packers tight end Jermichael Finley than like a "true" tight end. If that's the case, as useful as Fasano has been to the Dolphins offense, they may be looking to make more use of their younger tight ends.
If Fasano can do enough to prove the value of his veteran experience and to show off some of the route-running savvy he has learned in six years in the NFL, his job could be safe. For now, though, there is some danger to him losing his starting job.
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The Miami Dolphins are going to run a zone-blocking one-cut scheme in their offensive backfield. One could predict Steve Slaton to be a beneficiary of this due to his experience in that style of offense.
However, one would also be predicting him to get a high number of snaps; Reggie Bush is the team's lone big-play threat on offense, and with the addition of speedy running back Lamar Miller in the fourth round of April's draft, the Dolphins could be looking to create mismatches in the backfield rather than run directly at an opposing defense with any level of consistency.
The Dolphins have a lot of moving parts on offense, but Slaton's high cap number could mean his parts are moving out of Miami.
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The Dolphins fielded the league's sixth-best scoring defense in 2011, but pass defense wasn't one of their strong suits; they gave up the eighth-most pass yards in the league. Their 17th ranking in defensive passer rating with 83.7 is another reminder that their success against the run was pivotal in their success on defense.
The defensive backs were at the forefront of the issue, and Sean Smith in particular felt the wrath of opposing quarterbacks on more than one occasion. According to Pro Football Focus, he gave up completions on 58.7 percent of passes his direction as well as five touchdown passes.
The Dolphins showed commitment to improving the secondary by adding cornerback Richard Marshall in free agency; he should bring some consistency to the secondary, but that addition likely means the subtraction of some snaps for Miami's leader in defensive snaps at cornerback.
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Much like Smith, Chris Clemons is a once-promising prospect now riddled with question marks. The safety spot was an especially troublesome one for the Dolphins, even more so than cornerback. If it's any indication, the Dolphins made more additions at safety than cornerback.
Could one or a couple of those additions eventually spell the end for the struggling former fifth-round pick as a Miami Dolphin? Tyrell Johnson is an underrated veteran addition, having helped lead the Vikings secondary to a standout 2009 season. Undrafted free agency safety Kelcie McCray has the skill set to be a solid part-time safety in the NFL, a role which Clemons now fills.
There's a right side and a wrong side of the roster bubble. Clemson could get caught on the outside looking in.