With the Hall of Fame Game about a week away, the Miami Dolphins are doing some fine tuning. Last year, Miami entered training camp with major competitions at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. This year's question marks are not as bold, but with so much new talent, not all of the pieces will fit as expected.
Will Dion Jordan be an immediate starter?
Who will complement Brent Grimes, Richard Marshall, Reshad Jones, and Chris Clemons in nickel packages?
Will John Jerry keep his hold on the right guard position?
Who will join Dustin Keller in two-tight-end sets?
Will Caleb Sturgis become Miami's clutch kicker?
Miami's training camp will likely answer all of these questions.
Dan Carpenter vs. Caleb Sturgis
While the battle to be the Miami Dolphins kicker is not the most compelling, the loser will suffer the worst of NFL fates: being cut.
Florida standout Caleb Sturgis was arguably the best collegiate kicker in 2012. Miami spent a fifth-round selection for his services, making him the overwhelming favorite to take over for Dan Carpenter.
In 2012, Sturgis made eight of nine attempts from a distance of 40 yards or longer, including three of three from 50 yards or beyond. Carpenter made 10 of 15 attempts from a distance of 40 yards or longer, including two of five from 50 yards or greater.
In the end, Sturgis' accuracy from long distances will send Carpenter packing.
Michael Egnew vs. Dion Sims
While Egnew has shown improvement this offseason, he is clearly behind Miami's playmaking tight end, Dustin Keller.
Keller put up decent numbers as a New York Jet despite receiving passes from Mark Sanchez (and his career 71.7 quarterback rating) for four of Keller's five NFL seasons. In every season except last year's injury-riddled campaign, Keller caught at least 45 passes and surpassed 500 yards, including 815 receiving yards in 2011.
The next rung for Egnew features a battle against rookie fourth-rounder Dion Sims. Sims has a huge frame, at 6'5" and 262 pounds, and he was a good pass-blocker at Michigan State.
The Dolphins second tight end will have to be a good blocker, as Keller is not known to excel in this facet. As we all saw in last year's Hard Knocks documentary, blocking is not Egnew's strength.
WINNER: Dion Sims
John Jerry vs. Josh Samuda
Jerry was Miami's starting right guard for the entire 2012 regular season. Jerry believes that the only man threatening his hold on said position is newly signed Lance Louis, but during the latest training camp session, Josh Samuda played right guard with the first team.
With Tyson Clabo, Jonathan Martin, Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner, Will Yeatman and Louis expected to make the team, the last spot on the offensive line will likely come down to Jerry or Samuda.
It is hard to think that someone who started 16 games in 2012 is not good enough in 2013. Thomas will be Pouncey's backup.
Dimitri Patterson vs Jamar Taylor
As of now, Grimes and Marshall are the Dolphins' two top cornerbacks. While Marshall is better suited to be a slot corner, rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis may be too raw to assume the responsibilities across the field from Grimes.
This opens the door for Dimitri Patterson, who is fighting for his life. Patterson is a journeyman heading into his ninth NFL season. The Tuskegee product played for the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns before joining the Dolphins.
Joe Philbin insists he wants his defense to create more turnovers. If this is truly his focus, Patterson is not his guy. In 73 career games, Patterson has only five interceptions.
Patterson must hold off Taylor as Miami's third cornerback to make the team. Taylor boasts a unique combination of speed and strength. In the NFL combine, Taylor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and benched 225 pounds 22 times.
The second-round Boise State talent will surely make the team, but the Dolphins hope he can be more than a nickelback as the regular season progresses.
In the end, Taylor's physical talents will be the difference.
Dion Jordan vs. Olivier Vernon
Jeff Ireland traded up to draft Dion Jordan solely with quarterback sacks in mind. While Jordan may become a complete defensive end or linebacker, his job as a rookie is to hunt signal-callers. Mike Mayock of NFL.com believes Jordan is very similar to former Dolphins great Jason Taylor.
In limited action, Vernon had 3.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. Despite his low sack total, Vernon was a game-changer throughout the season, forcing a fumble, blocking a field goal and scoring a touchdown after his teammates blocked a punt.
With Vernon's development and the addition of Jordan, the Dolphins have two fast right ends. Philbin has enough confidence in his promising pass-rushers that he is moving Jared Odrick into the defensive tackle rotation with Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. This creates more snaps for Jordan and Vernon and also prepares Miami for the impending departure of Soliai or Starks in 2014.
While Miami fans would love to see Jordan start immediately, Vernon has paid his dues and is more prepared with a season under his belt.
Regardless, there is no doubt that Jordan will be on the field for Miami's first defensive third down and will eventually see the field more than Vernon.