The end of July is upon us, and NFL training camps are commencing across the league.
It is a time of great interest for fans, as a great many of the questions which have been mounting all off-season will finally be answered.
Friday, the Dolphins will take the field for their first camp session, but before they do, here is a look at the likely candidates to make the 2010 roster.
The following 53-man roster projections are predicated on the timely recovery of all injured personnel. 25 players have been selected on each side of the ball, and three on Special Teams.
The final roster will obviously vary slightly.
Randy Starks is the clear starter here, and I do believe he will fit the bill in his new position. How well he is able to get off blocks will be a
deciding factor in Miami's ability to stop the run this year.
Should some mixing around be necessary, Paul Soliai is also a capable nose tackle. You wouldn't expect someone of his size to move so quickly.
I included recent pickup DT Montavious Stanley here, though his role is not yet clear.
Marques Douglas was just picked up last week, and may earn starting honors in the coming weeks, but he's going to have to battle Kendall Langford, who will want to prove that his continued employment is a value to the team.
If I could choose just one Dolphins rookie who is bound to start this year, it would definitely be Jared Odrick.
He should sign with the team any day now, and I know I am joined by many other fans who can't wait to see what the Fins' first draft choice can do for this defense.
As new DC Mike Nolan prepares this team for a shift from a hybrid defense into a more traditional 3-4 scheme, the LB's are going to play a critical role.
What the unit lost in veteran experience over the offseason, they hope to gain back with youthful exuberance.
Depending on the outcome of camp and the pre-season, we could very well be seeing another rookie starter in Koa Misi.
Newcomer Karlos Dansby will be leading a talented bunch alongside CFL transplant Cameron Wake, in his second season with Miami.
Every LB the Dolphins employ in 2010 is going to have to be ready to play the best football of his life; Miami is going to rely heavily on this group to stop the run.
The strength and skill of the Dolphins cornerbacks could very well be what decides this team's fate.
A lot of people are talking about Davis and Smith, and the fact that they will each need to elevate their level of play to make Miami's defense competitive in 2010.
Rookie Nolan Carrol is known for his speed, so I can see him being utilized as a safety net of sorts.
Will Allen's return will also make a huge impact on the secondary's effectiveness.
SS - Yeremiah Bell
FS - Tyrone Culver
The safety group looks slightly better than do the cornerbacks.
Led by Pro Bowl SS Yeremiah Bell, who is a relentless pursuit tackler, these men are going to be the Dolphins last line of defense.
I have liked what I've seen from Tyrone Culver, and believe he will emerge as the clear starter opposite Bell.
Some folks have the job going to Reshad Jones, but I have to go with experience on this one, and Culver has got him there.
In all honesty, this unit, along with the Corners, could not possibly do a worse job than the embarrassment put forth in 2009. I expect that the Dolphins would have made a return-visit to the playoffs had it not been for breakdowns in the secondary.
LT - Jake Long
RT - Vernon Carey
The Dolphins sport a group of offensive lineman as impressive as any in the NFL, and it starts with their Pro Bowl left tackle.
Jake Long is arguably the best in the game, making him the obvious standout, but he's been joined with quite a bit of new talent as well.
Andrew Hartline stepped up in 2009 to compensate for the loss of Vernon Carey, who was ravaged by injury, not unlike several of his line-mates.
Carey is higher-paid than any other Right Tackle in football, and as such, will be expected to bounce back from injury in 2010 to re-assume his role on Henne's far right flank.
With Carey and the rest of this unit at full health, Chad Henne should have far less trouble avoiding the rush.
LG - John Jerry
RG - Ritchie Incognito
Rookie John Jerry worked out his deal with Miami just recently, and barring some major disappointment before opening day, is likely to win the starting role at left guard.
Garner was one of the Dolphins' interior lineman who sustained a foot injury in 2009, but should still see ample playing time in a group that is going to have to focus on staying fresh to avoid injury
problems like we saw on last season's line.
Ritchie Incognito is big, powerful, and tough as nails, and if he's able to exercise a bit more self control than he has in the past, should prove an invaluable addition.
Incognito embodies the very essence of a present-day Dolphins lineman, and if I had to sum him up in just two words: Brute strength.
Donald Thomas is adequate, and will once again be clamoring to prove that he belongs on this team. Not known as the best pulling guard, he will have had to have worked on his foot speed in the offseason to make himself more effective on rushing downs.
Everyone is crossing their fingers for Jake Grove to stay healthy, after last year's ankle injury sparked a game of musical chairs for those who were required to snap the ball in his absence.
Were something to go wrong, and Grove were to become re-injured, Joe Berger has shown that he makes a quite serviceable replacement.
There are no question marks at Quarterback. 2010 will be the year that people look back on as Chad Henne's chance to prove that the Dolphins'confidence in him was not misplaced.
Either he is going to fall short of the mark, and go down in Miami history as yet another post-Marino QB disappointment, or rise to the occasion and be forever known as a savior of the Dolphins' organization.
Thigpen has proven his mettle as Henne's number two, and Pat White will continue to add wrinkles to the Wildcat. Expect the Fins to try out Pat's newly-strengthened arm this year as well.
Chad Pennington will of course be present, working with these young guys, however even if needed, he has expressed his uncertainty over whether his shoulder would be ready to go. He could spend the season on Injured Reserve, or possibly the Active PUP list.
It is most likely the final year of the "Ronnie & Ricky Show", and these two guys both have reasons to stand out.
Williams has alluded to this being his last season, and will want to be known as a guy who went out still having some gas left in the tank. He proved last year that he's still capable of carrying an
Brown's devastating foot fracture has been repaired, and he is fully expected to take the No.1 job. This is a contract year for Ronnie, who will seek to prove that he can make it through an entire season un-injured, and operating at peak efficiency. His
performance in 2010 will indeed dictate the circumstances of his future in the NFL.
Cobbs' return is expected and highly welcomed. Some people believe Patrick could be an every-down back, and he will almost certainly get a chance to show off in the offensive backfield, as well as returning kicks.
I'm certain people are tiring of hearing about how much the pickup of Brandon Marshall means to this Dolphins offense. That doesn't make it any less true.
The real question is at the No.2 position. With Davone Bess best suited as a slot receiver, the battle comes down to Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo.
I, for one, believe Camarillo to be reliable in a pinch, but overall, I would take a rapidly-improving Hartline as the favorite. He added strength/weight over the off-season, and should hit training camp
with a vengeance.
The Fins are still waiting for a return on their investment in Patrick Turner.
Anthony Fasano will be largely unchallenged for the role of starter, and Joey Haynos made sufficient contributions in 2009 to solidify his spot on the active roster.
While not exactly a Pro-Bowl TE, Fasano still makes a big target, and one who is extremely tough for any one defender bring down in the open field.
Haynos stepped up to make a few touchdown catches, including one that allowed the Dolphins to best the Jets for the second time in 2009.
While I would like to see Kory Sperry get his chance, it just might not happen this year.
Big Lou isn't going anywhere.
This man never fails to convert on 3rd or 4th & 1 situations, and I mean never. I'm not sure that even a brick wall could stop him within a range of a couple yards.
Without Polite, Ricky Williams might not have been able to step up for Ronnie Brown and immediately begin returning starter numbers.
The Dolphins would also have been forced to punt quite a lot more if not for the aptly-named Mr. First Down.
LS - John Denney
The Dolphins are happy with Denney as the long-snapper, having recently extended his contract by three years.
K - Dan Carpenter
He isn't lovingly referred to as DC-Money for nothing.
Dan Carpenter has only missed seven FG's and one PAT in two years as a Dolphin.
P - Brandon Fields
While Dolphins fans are hoping to see him on the field as little as possible in 2010, when a punt is necessary, Brandon Fields is exceedingly reliable.
He pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 25 times last year.