Dolphins' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles
If competition breeds success, the Miami Dolphins training camp should bring about a successful 2021 campaign.
The Dolphins have a lot of reasons to be excited about the future. Tua Tagovailoa enters Year 2 with a greater chance to be better in 2021. Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller V are bringing excitement to the receiving corps, and last season's strong defense is back for another year under Brian Flores' watch.
But there are still some questions across the roster that need to be sorted out. The Dolphins entered training camp with a handful of position battles that would go through camp. With one preseason game in the books, those battles are becoming a little clearer.
Let's check in on the most important position battles and predict who has the edge with two preseason games left on the docket.
There are multiple positions up for grabs on the offensive line, and left guard appears to be a battle between Solomon Kindley and rookie Liam Eichenberg.
Just one week into the preseason it's still too close to call. Kindley did not do himself any favors in the first preseason game against the Bears. He posted a scary PFF pass-blocking grade of 45.7. For reference, other notable scores along the line were Matt Skura (81.5), Jesse Davis (81.3) and Robert Hunt (75.0).
The only positive for Kindley is that Eichenberg remains day-to-day with an injury, and he's also repped at right tackle.
"Liam is day-to-day (after the injury) and working his way to get back out there. We saw him at left guard. We've seen him at right tackle. I think Solomon (Kindley) did a nice job yesterday so that's good competition there at left guard with Liam," Brian Flores said, per Kyle Crabbs of Dolphins Wire. "But like we've said, we're going to play the best five, and they've all got some versatility."
Ultimately, the winner of the left guard position might depend on who wins the right tackle spot. Given the team's performance in the preseason game against the Bears, it would be safe to say that Jesse Davis holds the advantage outside, which might give a healing Eichenberg the nod at left guard.
Projected Winner: Liam Eichenberg
While the left guard competition is pitting two young talents against one another, the battle at free safety is a question of proven veteran vs. high-upside rookie.
With Bobby McCain getting his walking papers before camp started, the centerfielder position is open in Miami. Brian Flores has two options.
Jason McCourty is now in his 13th season and has experience as both a corner and free safety, as well as previous experience with Flores in 2018. Jevon Holland was a 2020 opt-out in his final season at Oregon but he's shown coaches a lot in camp.
Despite the long layoff for the Oregon product, he has reportedly been taking snap with the first-team defense, and Flores has been high on him.
"He's doing a lot of good things from a communication standpoint, from a fundamentals and technique standpoint," the coach said, per the Associated Press. "He's a hard-working kid. It's showing up a little bit on the practice field."
With Holland already making serious ground this early in camp, he should be considered the odds-on favorite to start. The fact that McCourty can line up as a corner or safety makes him more likely to fall back into a utility role as the defense trends toward versatility.
Projected Winner: Jevon Holland
The Dolphins signed Matt Skura to a one-year, $1.75 million deal in free agency this season, which is far from guaranteeing him a starting spot on the offensive line.
The veteran center was a starter for the Ravens' dynamic running attack last season, but reports from camp would indicate he could be relegated to a backup role in Miami. That's because Michael Deiter began camp as the starter and has not relinquished his spot.
Deiter only played 23 snaps last season and registered a lowly 46.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. In 2019, he had a much larger role, playing 996 snaps and allowing six sacks while posting a 42.5 grade.
Skura, on the other hand, played 661 snaps last season, only surrendering one sack but posted a 50.2 grade.
As mentioned when talking about the left guards, Skura posted the best pass-blocking grade in the preseason game. That could be the beginning of the turning of the tide in the position battle.
Flores has already shown he's going to be patient in naming his starting offensive line. But as the regular season starts, Skura's experience and growing comfort with the playbook could be the difference.
Projected Winner: Matt Skura