As the offseason is comes to a close, it is about time for players to wipe the dust out of their lockers and for fans to make sure they have their favorite game-day chair ready to go.
As the Miami Dolphins are presumably eager to start the season, they have to get through a rigorous training camp so they can show the staff and fans what they are made of.
The Dolphins are set to begin training camp July 30th, at the Nova University practice facilities.
Chad Henne comes into the season as the clear-cut starter. His play last season allowed the coaching staff to make that decision long before this offseason.
He was 7-6 as a starter, and he is only going to get better as time goes on.
The real battle will be between Tyler Thigpen and Pat White for the second quarterback spot. Many feel that White is a bust, especially after Miami reached to get him in the second round.
Thigpen is definitely the likely candidate for the backup spot, and he has more experience. Depending on the outcome, either player could warrant trade value in the upcoming season.
Running Backs and Fullbacks
The coaching staff has a hard decision to make for this position. Ronnie Brown is coming off of another injury, and Ricky Williams isn't getting any younger.
Last season showed that Ricky is feeling rejuvenated, and if Brown doesn't end the season on a healthy note, his days could be numbered.
Williams has shown that he thrives out of the spotlight, but he can also carry the load when necessary. Brown brings a more complete style while Ricky is a brutal, between-the-tackles runner.
As those two will be locks to make the roster, there are three other players that will be competing for one to two spots.
Patrick Cobbs is coming off an ACL tear, and while he is an incredibly versatile player, he may not be ready for the wear and tear that his versatility brings.
Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets could be the odd men out if Cobbs shows he is healthy. Hilliard is a solid third or fourth running back, and Sheets is a fast, shifty type of runner.
No matter the line-up, this is a pretty deep group.
Lousaka Polite is also a lock to make the roster at fullback after his stellar 2009 season.
After a solid first season with Miami, Anthony Fasano had a definite sophomore slump with the team in 2009. His play last season has left the door open for the likes of Joey Haynos and Kory Sperry.
Sperry has a ton of upside, as does Haynos. They are both young and they both possess big bodies suitable for red zone success.
Haynos is the tallest of all the tight ends, but Fasano has the most experience.
John Nalbone is also competing, but he is the least likely to make a push.
Fasano will most benefit from the Brandon Marshall acquisition, as he will finally have room to run his routes. Even if Fasano has a good season, Miami will likely try to look for a young playmaker at tight end in the draft.
All of these players are suitable for Miami's system, but none of them have deep threat ability.
Miami finally has a number one receiver.
Brandon Marshall helps this entire team. He helps the offense score more points, and he gives the defense a little breathing room.
Brian Hartline, Greg Camarillo, and Davone Bess will all also make this team. Hartline and Camarillo will likely compete for the spot opposite Marshall, while Bess will solidly play in the slot.
Bess had 76 receptions last season, which is the fourth-most in Miami Dolphins history.
Hartline is able to stretch the field a little more than Camarillo, however, Camarillo has possibly the best hands in this corps.
Patrick Turner, who didn't see the field last season, is on the verge of losing his roster spot. Newcomer Ryan Grice-Mullen, who played with Bess at Hawaii, could make a push for the fifth receiver spot. There is other decent talent competing for this last spot, but it is most likely down to Turner or Grice-Mullen.
The locks to start are Jake Long at left tackle and Vernon Carey at right tackle. It will be interesting to see who will start on the interior line. There will be six players competing for the three interior line spots, which also gives this offensive line incredible depth.
At center, Joe Berger will try to take Jake Grove's spot. Grove has been banged up in his time here with Miami, and Berger has shown the ability to make his presence felt when the team needs him.
As for the other two guard spots, newcomers Richie Incognito and John Jerry will battle it out with Nate Garner and Donald Thomas. You can’t go wrong with any of these guys in the starting position. as each has tremendous upside.
The only issues reside in Incognito’s ability to keep his head on his shoulders and Thomas’ ability to stay healthy. Other than that, I expect a very competitive training camp from these six players.
This defensive line consists of all types of players. Possibly the most talked about player has been Randy Starks, after he was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. Starks had a brilliant season at defensive end, and with Paul Soliai’s struggles and Jason Ferguson’s recent retirement, Starks will have to be just as brilliant to anchor this line.
Ryan Baker is also a decent rotation guy.
At the moment of me typing these words, Jared Odrick has yet to sign his rookie contract, which should (hopefully) change by the time July 30 rolls around. At this point, Odrick has the edge to start at the defensive end spot opposite Kendall Langford.
Phillip Merling, who is facing legal troubles, was recently injured. In response to this injury, Miami signed former Jet Marques Douglas. If Douglas doesn’t make a push to start, he will at least bring a veteran tenacity to this young line. For the second year in a row, Miami has great depth on their defensive line.
Miami also recently signed Montavious Stanley from Jacksonville. Stanley played defensive tackle in the Jags 4-3 scheme, which likely means a transition to 3-4 defensive end.
If Stanley can play in the middle and outside, he will quickly become an asset to this team.
Before the off season began, Miami had a huge hole at inside linebacker. After signing Karlos Dansby, releasing Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor, drafting AJ Edds and Austin Spitler, and trading for Tim Dobbins, this group has been infused with tons of young talent.
If Channing Crowder can make a full recovery, the inside linebackers would be very solid. As Edds is more suited for pass coverage, he will likely play more on passing downs than Crowder.
Dobbins is serviceable at any linebacker spot, and will be a big time contributor on special teams. He could also push Crowder for the starting spot next to Dansby.
Spitler has the chance to sit for a few years, which will help the former Ohio State captain learn this defense.
However, questions still loom on the outside of this linebacker group. Cameron Wake has not proven that he can be an every down player, and second round pick Koa Misi will need to mature quickly in order to acclimate himself to the speed of the NFL.
Quentin Moses hasn’t really shown that he can be a consistent player on the outside, and Charlie Anderson has shown flashes, both good and bad.
Late round pick Chris McCoy hasn’t been talked about much, but he has the physical tools that the NFL craves.
Erik Walden will also fight for a roster spot on the outside.
In their second year, both Sean Smith and Vontae Davis will try to avoid the sophomore slump. If Vontae steadily improves this year, he should be a great corner for this team for the next decade. Sean Smith, who compiled a grand total of zero interceptions last season, has personally guaranteed that he will get more interceptions this season.
As these two are prepared to start opposite each other, questions remain whether Will Allen will be ready to play and if Nolan Carroll can prepare his mind for the NFL.
Allen, who has started at corner with Miami for the past four seasons, will likely begin the season in a backup role. His veteran leadership is more valued at this point than his play is.
Former first round pick Jason Allen will also try to make the team as a special teams contributor.
Yeremiah Bell comes into camp as the starting strong safety, while a battle looms at free safety between Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver. Clemons, who was drafted last year, has more physical tools than Culver, while Culver has the intelligence to play the position. If Clemons shows he can play intelligently, he will be the answer at free safety for this team.
Reshad Jones will also be in the mix, though his skill set is more suited for the strong safety position.
Brandon Fields and Dan Carpenter have shown that they are reliable enough to keep around.
Miami has yet to find their option in the return game. With Ted Ginn’s departure to San Francisco, Miami is left with a sub-par return game. Davone Bess was average as a punt returner, however, Miami needs to find a more explosive option for a returner.
Ryan Grice-Mullen could make the roster as a returner. Kory Sheets could also make a push as a returner.
Backup Quarterback : Tyler Thigpen over Pat White
- Thigpen has more experience and a better NFL arm. White has struggled thus far with everything. Thigpen would be suitable if Henne were to get injured.
Third Running Back : Patrick Cobbs over Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets
- Cobbs tore his ACL last season, but if he is up to the challenge, this team will need his contributions. He can do everything from being a third down running back, a slot receiver, and a gunner on special teams.
Fifth Receiver : Ryan Grice-Mullen over Patrick Turner
- Grice-Mullen was in a pass happy offense in Hawaii, and showed that he can catch a ton of passes. At this point, he would be more valuable to this team than Patrick Turner.
Offensive Guard : Richie Incognito and Donald Thomas over Nate Garner and John Jerry
- This can really go any way. It will depend on who brings their A-game. Incognito and Thomas have more experience than Garner and Jerry, but that doesn’t count those two out at all.
Center : Jake Grove over Joe Berger
- See above explanation. Grove has more experience than Berger, but this group is so deep that you cannot go wrong with any starting rotation.
Defensive End : Jared Odrick over Marques Douglas
- Odrick has already been getting praise, while Douglas is a new addition to this team. This is an interesting battle between a rookie and a veteran, while in this case Odrick has an edge. (Langford will start at the other end spot)
Inside Linebacker : Channing Crowder over Tim Dobbins and AJ Edds
- With Karlos Dansby present, Crowder will no longer be looked at as “the man” in this corps of linebackers. Crowder will benefit from Dansby, and he will also benefit from being out of the spotlight.
- Dobbins has shined when he got the chance to play, but it has yet to be seen whether he can shine as a full-time starter. If Crowder wins the starting spot, Dobbins and Edds will battle each other for playing time.
Outside Linebacker : Cameron Wake and Koa Misi over Quentin Moses and Charlie Anderson
- The Dolphins and their fans hope Wake and Misi show the ability to be starters. If Wake improves as a stand up linebacker, he will thrive in Mike Nolan’s defense.
- Misi, on the other hand, needs to show that he can be a pass rushing option. Moses and Anderson should see playing time, although, barring a catastrophe on Wake and Misi’s end, they will not start.
Free Safety : Chris Clemons over Tyron Culver
- Clemons has the speed and instincts to be a ball hawking safety, while Culver has shown he can minimize the big play by playing smartly.
- If Clemons is not ready for this role, Culver will be a suitable stop-gap player until Clemons has matured or until a new safety is brought in.
- In Clemons' case, he needs to show what he can do in order to ensure his future with this team.
Kick/Punt Returner : Ryan Grice-Mullen over Davone Bess, Kory Sheets, and Patrick Cobbs
- Grice-Mullen will, hopefully, show the burst necessary to be a solid option at returner. Bess is shifty, but doesn’t have breakaway speed. Cobbs has a decent burst, but coming off an ACL tear, he might not be able to take this role.
- Sheets needs to show he can make the team as a running back, although it would be a great find if he was the answer as a returner
- With lots of unlikely candidates at receiver to make this team, this could be the calling for guys like Julius Pruitt, Taurus Johnson, Marlon Moore, and Roberto Wallace.
This is year three of the Bill Parcells, Tony Sparano, and Jeff Ireland experiment. This roster has been completely transformed from when they first took over the team.
This is when the team should start showing the mentality of a contender. It is too early, still, to put any of the coaching staff on the hot seat, although don't expect it to go over easily if this team struggles this season.
Surprises on the final roster should be expected, although a good bit of this roster is already set in stone.
Henning should have more success this season as a play caller, and Mike Nolan has some good pieces to make this a tenacious defense.
The first results can be seen August 14, in Miami's first preseason game against Tampa Bay.
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