Miami Dolphins: Breaking Down Fins' Biggest Training Camp Battle

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Miami Dolphins: Breaking Down Fins' Biggest Training Camp Battle
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With one week of training camp in the books, we have a slightly better picture of the 2013 Miami Dolphins, although one that is still wildly incomplete. Chemistry is being developed before our eyes, rookies are getting their first taste at football in the NFL, and position battles are being fiercely contested each day. 

Like most teams, the Dolphins have their fair share of training camp battles playing out right now. Veterans and newcomers alike are currently competing for an offensive guard, wide receiver, kicker, and tight end position in Miami.

While all of these battles will be exciting to watch, none are more important than the current battle in the secondary. Not the No. 1 corner, as Brent Grimes has that locked down. Rather, we're focusing on who will fill in behind Grimes as the No. 2 corner. 

Currently in the running are veterans Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson, as well as rookie Jamar Taylor. Each player appears to have a pretty good chance at winning the position, so it will certainly be interesting to see how this one plays out. 

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall started out camp as the No. 2 corner but, according to the Miami Heraldwas unseated prior to this past Sunday's practice. Patterson lined up with the first team defense that day. 

The former Carolina Panther and Arizona Cardinal corner was brought to Miami last season to add a hard-hitting edge to the secondary. He only recorded 17 tackles and one interception in four games before two ruptured discs sidelined him for the rest of the year. 

Marshall enjoyed his best years of production in 2009 and 2010, when he was a full time starter in Carolina. Amassing more than 150 tackles, 16 pass deflections, and seven interceptions, Marshall was a force for the Panthers' secondary. 

This interception as a Cardinal shows the kind of explosive defensive plays Marshall is capable of.

Now, fully recovered and back in camp after his back injury, Marshall is ready to compete and ascend back to the heights he achieved in Carolina. However, if his early demotion is anything to go by (and it might not be--it's still a little too early to tell), the veteran corner still has some work to do. 

Marshall's usurper, Dimitri Patterson, had similarly short playing time with the Dolphins last year. The journeyman joined Miami for the final two games of the season after being acquired on waivers. He recorded five tackles in those two games. 

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously his barely-there stats from 2012 don't speak very loudly about Patterson's abilities, and the seasoned veteran's previous stats aren't overly impressive either. Head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle have said they want Miami's defense to generate more turnovers in 2013. 

To that end, Patterson doesn't seem like he's the best fit as a starting corner in Miami. After eight seasons in the league, he only has five interceptions. In fact, Patterson hasn't recorded a pick since 2010. Not exactly the turnover-producing ball hawk the Dolphins are seeking. 

That's not the only strike Patterson has against him. The veteran is due approximately $4.5 million this year. Considering Miami is already paying Grimes a little more than $5 million and Marshall about $5.8 million, both of whom have posted better numbers throughout their careers, it doesn't seem terribly likely the Dolphins would willingly pay another corner nearly $5 million unless they earn it. 

Patterson returns a pick for six against the Redskins a few years ago.

While Patterson's performance has been praised by Philbin lately (via Miami Herald), it's still hard to believe it will take anything less than a stellar performance over the next month for him to secure the No. 2 position.

That brings us to the guy who, frankly, is least likely to win the No. 2 spot—for now. Rookie Jamar Taylor has the skills and physical attributes to eventually claim the second corner position for himself, but injuries have kept him on the sidelines during his first professional training camp.

In fact, according to the Sun Sentinel's live notes of Wednesday's practice indicates that Taylor finally saw his first bit of action. However, even this was limited; Taylor reportedly only did positional workouts and did not compete in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.  

The former Boise State Bronco began his career with the Dolphins dealing with kidney issues. However, despite his kidneys apparently only being 42% operational at the time, Taylor still had an impressive performance at the combine earlier this year. 

He recorded a 4.39 40-yard dash, a 4.06 in the 20-yard shuttle, and 22 reps in the bench press. There's no question about Taylor's physical prowess, and his stats as a senior back up his abilities. He notched 51 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and four interceptions as a senior in 2012.

Taylor shows off his abilities in this highlight reel from his Boise State days.

Taylor may be on the outside looking in right now, because you have to imagine that his best chance to see the field in 2013 (at least for the early stages of the season) is as the nickel corner. That's assuming Marshall wins the No. 2 spot and Patterson doesn't make the team.

That said, Taylor's on-the-field abilities and imposing physical prowess give the impression that he will line up opposite of Grimes, and perhaps even take over as Miami's top corner some day. After all, the Dolphins didn't draft him to be a perennial backup.

If the first week of camp has been any indication, we likely won't know who the Dolphins' No. 2 corner will be until they suit up against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. As of Wednesday's practice, it still appears to be Patterson. But with a competition this fierce, all it takes is one mediocre practice to be leapfrogged. 

What do you think? Will Patterson surprise and claim the number two corner spot, or will a healthy Marshall line up opposite Grimes? Can Taylor put together a remarkable camp and pass them both? Sound off in the comments.   

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