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Projecting Miami Dolphins' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason

Mario CuadrosContributor IIDecember 19, 2016

Projecting Miami Dolphins' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason

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    The Miami Dolphins have had a very good offseason with their free-agent signings and draft picks. They have brought in good talent that will compete for a starting role this upcoming season.

    Some positions such as quarterback, center and safety are very much locked up. Tight end, linebacker and the No. 4 and No. 5 wide receiver spots will have some interesting competition.

    The Dolphins have brought in veteran talent as well as rookies to fill some of their weaker positions. Even though the aforementioned position battles will be some to keep an eye on, there are a few that will be even more interesting.

    Let's see which positional battles will be the most heated this offseason.

Pass-Rusher

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    When a team uses a No. 3 overall pick on a player, especially after they trade up for him, they expect him to start or at least be used in situational occasions.

    The Dolphins needed to get Cameron Wake some help. That's why they drafted Dion Jordan with their first-round pick. Jordan was considered by many to be not only the best pass-rusher but the best overall defensive player. 

    Jordan will not just be handed the starting job. He will be in a fierce competition with Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon. 

    Odrick has been the starting defensive end opposite Cameron Wake for the past two years. However, when Miami switched to a base 4-3 defense last year, Odrick played out of position. His body projects more as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle. Odrick's production was not very good last year which is why Miami is trying to upgrade the position. With Paul Soliai and Randy Starks becoming free agents next year, Odrick may be ready to make a move to the inside.

    Vernon was drafted in the third round last year with the hopes of becoming the complementary piece to Wake. He was used on passing downs and had a pretty solid season. He is still a very raw pass-rusher but showed some upside last season.

    Jordan will come in and compete with both Odrick and Vernon for a starting role. Jordan's advantage is that he can also play linebacker which will allow the coaching staff to move him around while keeping either Vernon or Odrick on the field at the same time as Jordan. 

    Winners: Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan

Running Back

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    When the Dolphins decided not to re-sign Reggie Bush, it became apparent that they were pretty comfortable with Lamar Miller as their starting running back. However, when Mike Gillislee fell to them in the fifth round, they weren't hesitant to grab him. He will join a crowded backfield with Miller, Daniel Thomas and Jonas Gray. 

    Miller was used sparingly last season and showed some potential. He has great speed and can hit the hole hard or extend runs to the outside. Miller wasn't used as much last year because he really struggled with his pass-blocking. 

    Thomas has been disappointing during his two years with the Dolphins. He has had fumbling issues and can't seem to stay on the field. He has struggled running the ball and may be given his last chance to prove himself this season. 

    Gray spent all last season on IR after tearing his ACL during his senior season at Notre Dame. He is a big-bodied back who can be used on third-and-short and goal-line situations. Gray still has a lot to prove since he was unable to set foot on the field last year.

    Gillislee will be competing for the starting role from day one and may surprise a lot of people. He is a good blocker and shows soft hands when catching the ball. This makes him a four-down player. If Miler shows that he hasn't improved his blocking skills and Thomas remains the same player, Gillislee may find himself as the starter when the regular season begins.

    Winner: Lamar Miller

Cornerback

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    It was clear the Dolphins needed cornerback help going into the draft. They lost Sean Smith in free agency and signed Brent Grimes, who is coming off an Achilles injury. Richard Marshall—who's coming off a season-ending back injury—Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll where the other cornerbacks in the roster.

    Jeff Ireland pulled the trigger on a cornerback in the second round when he drafted Jamar Taylor. Taylor was considered by some to be a late-first to early second-round pick. After trading out of the third round, Ireland traded back into the round in order to draft Will Davis. 

    It is expected that Grimes will be one of the starting cornerbacks but the No. 2 spot is wide open. The favorites are likely Marshall and Taylor, which will be one of the best positional battles this offseason. Nobody knows how well Marshall will respond after his injury and Taylor will certainly want to be a starter along with Grimes. 

    The cornerback competition does not end with Taylor and Marshall. The nickel spot will also be one to keep an eye out for. Davis and Carroll will be in heated competition along with Marshall, who was brought in last year to take over the nickel position. Carroll was given the task of being the No. 2 cornerback last year after Marshall was lost for the season. He had an up-and-down year. Davis will certainly come in and push him for his spot.

    Cornerback will be the most competitive battle this offseason. The position was a weakness going into the draft, but it became a strength when it was over. 

    Winners: Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor

Guard

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    After the Dolphins added Dallas Thomas, guard became an instant positional battle. 

    Thomas, Richie Incognito, Lance Louis and John Jerry will all be competing for the two guard positions. Incognito and Jerry were the starters last year, but they just don't fit the zone-blocking scheme the Dolphins are trying to implement. 

    Joe Philbin stated that Thomas will most likely play on the left side, which is where Incognito has played the last few seasons. He will be in direct competition with the Pro Bowl guard and, even though I don't think Thomas will take over the starting left guard spot this season, he will most likely be Incognito's replacement.

    On the right side of the line, Louis and Jerry will be battling it out. Louis is coming off an ACL injury and is not 100 percent yet. Jerry has been put on notice that if he doesn't continually keep his weight down, he will not see any playing time. If Louis is able to recover in time for training camp, he will give Jerry a run for his money and likely take over the starting right guard spot.

    With Jonathan Martin penciled in at left tackle, Mike Pouncey at center and recently signed Tyson Clabo at right tackle, the guard position will be critical for this upcoming season. That makes these two battles that much better.

    Winners: Richie Incognito, Lance Louis

Kicker

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    It wasn't a big surprise that the Dolphins drafted a kicker. It may have been a surprise that he went in the fifth round but Miami needed one.

    Dan Carpenter is slated to make around $2.5 million this season, which is a lot of money for a kicker you can't rely on. Carpenter cost the Dolphins two games last season and finds his job in jeopardy with Caleb Sturgis coming into town.

    Sturgis has a strong leg and was one of the most consistent kickers during his time at Florida. It's presumed that if the Dolphins drafted a kicker in the fifth round, there's no way they could cut him. I definitely agree with that sentiment.

    The coaches may not want to admit it, which is why they say the kicker position has not been guaranteed to either Sturgis or Carpenter. However, when Sturgis was drafted, many believe it was the end of the Dan Carpenter era in Miami.

    Winner: Caleb Sturgis

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