Miami Dolphins: Top Training Camp Battles of 2010
I've written six articles counting down the Miami Dolphins' top 10 training camp battles of 2010, but with camp starting today, it seems I need to accelerate things a bit.
You can check out the first six entries of the countdown on my website at www.phins-spotlight.com, but in order to get the rest of them out in a timely manner, I've decided to put together a slideshow for the top four.
Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins Web site at www.phins-spotlight.com and can be followed on twitter at www.twitter.com/phinsspotlight
No. 4: Starting Left Guard
The Dolphins parted ways with expensive and oft-injured veteran Justin Smiley, leaving the starting left guard job wide open.
Second-year player Nate Garner was surprisingly solid as Smiley's injury replacement in 2009, although his ceiling is questionable and his versatility to play nearly all of the line positions may make him a better asset off the bench.
It's possible 2008 sixth-rounder and former starting right guard Donald Thomas could get a shot now that Richie Incognito seems to be penciled in at his old position, but for now Thomas is expected to remain on the right side.
Possibly the favorite to win the starting left job is the guy with the least experience of anyone in the mix—rookie third-rounder John Jerry of Ole Miss.
Jerry has the size (6-5, 330), strength, and physical style the Dolphins love in a blocker upfront, and his upside is easily the highest of the team's guards.
If Peria's little brother doesn't stumble in camp, it's quite possible he could be lining up between Jake Long and Jake Grove on Sept. 12 in Buffalo.
No. 3: Starting Free Safety
Despite parting ways with free-agent bust Gibril Wilson, the Dolphins failed to address the free safety position in free agency or early in the draft.
In fact, the only new name added to the mix at all is Reshad Jones, who was drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth round out of Georgia in April.
Despite being ranked by some as a potential second- or third-round pick, Jones is not considered the favorite to start for the Dolphins at free safety in 2010.
Instead, it looks as if the Dolphins will sink or swim with 2009 fifth-round pick Chris Clemons.
Primarily a special teams player as a rookie, Clemons totaled just 13 tackles in 11 games (two starts). He failed to record an interception, pass deflection, or forced fumble on the season.
Clemons does have some potential though, and it looks as if he will get the 2010 season (or at least the beginning of it) to prove himself the man for the job before the Dolphins look elsewhere.
No. 2: Starting Outside Linebackers
The most troubling position on the Dolphins' defense—and perhaps the entire team—is the outside linebacker spot.
Although Joey Porter's departure is addition by subtraction due to his rapidly declining, one-dimensional productivity and his cancerous presence, the losses of Porter and veteran Jason Taylor leave the Dolphins with little experience at outside linebacker.
Odds are rookie second-round pick Koa Misi will get every chance to start on the strong side, so we'll see right away if he can improve on his somewhat limited college productivity.
On the other side, versatile veteran backup Charlie Anderson will get his first real shot at starting in the NFL.
Although he doesn't have much overall productivity as an NFL linebacker, Anderson has had his moments, such as his six-tackle, two-sack, two-forced-fumble performance against the Buccaneers last season.
Providing Anderson the most competition will be second-year player Cameron Wake.
Although he played mostly defensive end when the Dolphins went to four-man fronts, Wake is a pure pass-rushing outside linebacker in the team's base 3-4 scheme.
Coming off an astounding 39 sacks in two seasons in the CFL, Wake showcased his pass-rushing ability as an NFL rookie in 2009 with 6.5 sacks in limited playing time.
If Wake can prove himself at least adequate against the run and in coverage, there is absolutely no way he will be relegated to a reserve role again in 2010.
Of course, those are big ifs.
No. 1: Starting Wide Receiver
There is no doubt Brandon Marshall will be Chad Henne's No. 1 target once the regular season roles around, but who fills that No. 2 spot opposite him is quite undecided.
Former undrafted free agent Davone Bess is a fan favorite, but the reality is that he is no better than the FOURTH-best receiver on the team.
You cannot argue that Greg Camarillo isn't better than Bess, as he has comparable speed and route-running ability along with much better hands.
Thought by many to be a sure-handed possession receiver, Bess actually had the fourth-most drops (7) in the entire NFL last season. Camarillo didn't drop a single one.
Neither of those players, however, is my favorite to start opposite Brandon Marshall in 2010.
Instead, I believe second-year receiver Brian Hartline will win that job, and rightly so.
Hartline has the highest ceiling of any of the three receivers discussed here, posting an impressive, team-best 16.3 receiving average as a rookie in 2009.
An ideal No. 2 man, Hartline is ready to take that next step and see an increased role on offense.
Put Hartline in the starting lineup, Camarillo in the slot, and Bess as the No. 4 man.