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Countdown To Training Camp: WR's

We move from the TE’s to the outside to cover the wide-receivers, in our countdown to training camp. This unit has drawn some of the harshest criticism from media pundits to fans themselves.  A stockpile of potential with no one standing out as a front running legit number 1 WR.  Can Ted Ginn, entering his 3rd year as a pro, break out from his inconsistent play?  Can Greg Camarillo come back from an ACL tear and become the Dolphins newest Wes Welker?  Will Davone Bess continue to impress while being challenged by a pair of rookies looking to make more than a typical rookie wr impact?

All of these questions surround the upcoming training camp and season for the Miami Dolphins.  Who will flourish and who will falter?  And above all else, who will not be on the roster come September?  The Dolphins currently have 10 wide-receivers on the roster.  They may keep a total of 5 on the final 53 and 4 on the game day active roster.

Here is a look at each rostered WR and who, in my opinion, may or may not be here come September.

Ted Ginn:  Ginn has the hands and the speed to expose defenses for long gains but in his first two season with Miami, Ginn instead has struggled with his physical capabilities instead.  Unable to consistently get off the line of scrimmage, Ginn enters his 3rd year drawing high praise from his coaches and his General Manager.  Ginn is not considered a legit number 1 WR but he has the tools to become that go to guy even with a QB who’s arm strength is not deep down-field.

Flashes of excellence have kept him around but the potential tag will likely come to an end when the 2009 season concludes.  Will the Dolphins part ways with the “potential” star or will Ginn show that indeed, the third year is a charm?

I see only one possible way that Ted Ginn is not on the opening roster.  A trade prior to the start of the season.  While highly unlikely, injuries around the NFL could open a possible trade partner and the Dolphins who have previously said that no one was un-tradable, may, for the right price end the 3rd year season before it begins.  Unlikely yes.  Ted Ginn should open the season on the outside as the number 1 split WR.  He will however be challenged for that roll throughout training camp.

Greg Camarillo:  Camarillo was in the process of making Dolphins fans forget about the Wes Welker departure.  Of all the Dolphins WR’s, Camarillo has been the most consistent over the last two seasons and despite an ACL injury that ended his year last season prematurely, Camarillo again is expected to be that go to guy.

The question for Camarillo is when and how will he return from his injury?  He says that he will be ready for the start of camp and already has participated in some individual route drills during OTA’s.  A good sign for sure.

The Dolphins will not likely entertain trade options with this WR and there is no danger of Camarillo not making the roster.  A relapse in his injury or rehab issue is the only enemy of Camarillo’s impact on the 2009 roster.  Healthy, Camarillo will be lined up on the outside as the number 2 WR on an offense that will rely heavily on the position.

Davone Bess:  Bess was undrafted last year and the Dolphins found a gem among the free agents they signed immediately following the drafts conclusion.  Bess became a favorite of QB Chad Pennington after Camarillo went down and in the stretch of the season, Bess’ numbers were as good as almost any other drafted rookie last season.

The Dolphins still have a problem with Bess and that is where to utilize him the most.  Bess makes a good slot receiver but the Phins will not always run with a slot guy and will sometimes substitute a TE or a RB into the position when they switch to the WildCat formation.

Bess, in theory could push Ted Ginn for the number 1 spot moving the speed burner to the inside where the Phins could make some major mismatched formations.  Bess could potentially take over the number 2 WR position thus putting Camarillo into the slot where he too could face LB coverages.

For the Dolphins, Bess is that wildcard that could dictate how the rest of the WR’s lineup.  A solid training camp could push the Dolphins to utilize him on the field full time and if that happens, the shake-up of who moves, Ted Ginn or Greg Camarillo, could be a fun one to watch play out.  In any case, Bess is in no danger of losing his job or his roster spot.

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Brandon London: The tall WR showed some flashes towards the end of last season.  The Dolphins picked up London as a free agent in the hopes of having a large target to throw to in the end-zone.  London however only contributed 30 yards on 3 catches and no TD’s.

London will not be a lock to make the final roster.  A 2nd season with these coaches and this system will help London gain some confidence in himself in terms of how he reads the defenses and uses his body to block out smaller defenders but he will do so competing for a roster spot.  The Dolphins are in no short supply of “potential” at the position and after the first 3, no one is guaranteed a roster spot.

I am a fan of Brandon London and I think that with another year under his belt, he could develop into the type of player that the Dolphins think he can be, the problem is that there is very few slots available and in the end, I don’t know if London will be able to show more on the field than the younger guys waiting to showcase their raw talent.  I think in the end, it leaves London looking for a job.

Ernest Wilford:  The Dolphins and their fans continue to wait for Wilford to show why he was worth so much free agent money.  Wilford was a non-factor in last years season spending most of it on the inactive list.  Something that will not happen this year.  The Dolphins tried unsuccessfully to trade the expensive mistake prior to and during the draft (according to some reports).  The Dolphins have since moved Wilford to the H-back/TE position in the hopes of using him in the “Wildcat” formation to confuse defenses.  It’s worked in practice so far, but TC and the season is a different story.

Wilford has the size and the hands but severely lacks the speed to be a number 1 WR as the Dolphins envisioned.  His move to the TE/H spot seems more like a last ditch effort to get something out of the money spent.  Many felt that Wilford would have been cut last season but that never happened.  Today, many still believe that it will be a stretch for him to make the final roster again.

I don’t think that Wilford will be on the roster come opening day.  The Phins will try and trade him once again as injuries hit the league and maybe the get someone to throw away a 7th rounder and take on his contract.  If not, Wilford is going to need a stellar training camp to make the team.  I don’t think he can.

Anthony Armstrong:  Armstrong spent last year on the practice squad after impressing the coaches during training camp.  Already he has received accolades from teammates for his continued improvement.  At 5’11, Armstrong is neither the shortest or tallest receiver on the roster.  Armstrong has good hands but is still raw and still a project.  He doesn’t factor into making the final roster as a contributor.

For Anthony Armstrong, the practice squad is not going to be an option this year.  There are too many younger guys behind him so he needs to show that he can make an impact now rather than later.  In the end, I don’t see Armstrong being on the final 53 and I don’t see him taking up a practice squad spot again this year.  Barring multiple injuries to the WR corp, Armstrong will be a number casualty come August.

Patrick Turner:  The USC product was labeled a reach on draft day.  A one year wonder at USC with Mark Sanchez as the QB.  Still, the combination of speed, height, and game film, impressed the Dolphins management to take a shot.  Turner is 6’5 and possesses the hands and speed to take over a game.  He simply has shown it over a long period of time in the college ranks.

Turner has already impressed some of this fellow teammates with his work ethic and his ability to learn the playbook and Turner himself has said that he want to make an impact this year.  He also is smart enough to know that he needs to learn the playbook before making the next step.  His work ethic is impressing his coaches.

The Dolphins are not likely going to release Turner and it’s very likely that he will be on the active 53 on game days.  His size and speed will make it more difficult for a guy like Brandon London to stick on the roster and his drafting is a tell tale sign that the Dolphins are trying to rectify the WR position.  Turner could become the number 1 WR that the Dolphins need.  But that is down the road.

Brian Hartline:  Hartline is another Ohio State wide-receiver on the Dolphins roster.  His contributions in year one should be on special teams where he is capable of playing on both sides of the kick-off team.  A smart cerebral WR, Hartline is expected to pick up the playbook fairly easy.  He resembles Indy’s Anthony Gonzalez who also played for OSU.

Hartline is hard-headed and loves to hit people.  In his post-draft interview, Hartline made mention of his desire to just get on the field and hit someone.  Not exactly the type of talk you expect from a WR.  It’s that attitude that makes him a good candidate for the final roster.

Hartline is going to have to play very good on special teams to make the active 53 and it very well could be his training camp performance that dictates the future of Ernest Wilford.  With the Dolphins likely to keep no more than 5 WR’s…at best…Hartline could steal away that final position.  If not, the Dolphins will keep their fingers crossed and try and hide him on the practice squad.

Brennan Marion: Marion has become a fan favorite if for no other reason the road he took to get to the NFL.  He has 4.5 speed and runs great routes.  He only lacks a long college career of playing.  A solid “after the catch” WR, Brennan works well over the middle and in the seams but the problem is that he faces a numbers game that does not sit in his favor.

Much like Davone Bess last year, Marion comes to the team with everything you want in a WR, especially one you find un-drafted.  The only limit to Marion’s potential is himself and again the numbers on the Dolphins roster.  In training camp, the Phins may try and use him as a punt/KO returner to see if there is value there.

Marion’s college resume’ holds an impressive yards per catch seasonal average.  At Tulsa he averaged 31.9 yards on 39 carries with 11 TD’s…his first year at non-junior college.  He finished his 2008 season at Tulsa with 25.9 YPC average on 43 carries.

Come August Marion will need to make an impression on ST’s to make the roster and his likely home will be the practice squad unless he completely surprises the coaches with his diligent work ethic and determination.  He possesses the tools and drive to make the roster but numbers will dictate his future with the team.

Chris Williams: Williams played 4 years at New Mexico St. and caught 32 TD passes over his last 3 years.  He added two 90 plus TD returns to that resume.  Williams is on the small side of the Dolphins roster standing 5’8″.  He is a long shot to make the team and could likely find himself off the team by the first or second round of cuts.  Williams has some potential but wit the names in front of him, he will find it hard to make the practice squad.

Williams is auditioning for other teams this training camp and he could be a replacement name on the practice squad as the season progresses.

The wide-receivers will be one of the groups to watch this training camp as it will be one of the hottest contested roster battles.  10 names and at most 5 active positions leaves 5 on the outside looking in with one or maybe at best 2 guys getting practice squad slots.

Ted Ginn and Davone Bess are locks for the roster .  The health of Greg Camarillo will go a long way in determining the names that make the final roster.

I think the roster will shake-down like this.  Ted Ginn and Greg Camarillo will be pushed hard by Davone Bess and a strong showing by Bess could force one of the others to move inside allowing Bess to take over one of the outside spots.  My guess is Camarillo could be that guy to move into the slot where match-ups could be more favorable…if Bess can move into the number 1 roll which moves Ginn to number 2.

With 3 slots taken, the list pairs down to Wilford, Hartline, Turner, London, and Marion for the final 2.  Chris Williams and Anthony Armstrong will not make the roster.  I suspect that Wilford will be cut or traded leaving a spot open for Patrick Turner who has the size to become a legit red-zone threat.  That leaves possibly one more spot to fill between the 3 remaining WR’s.  With Turner, London becomes expendable and I think he will be released before the final cut so that the other remaining WR’s can get more practice time.

With only one spot up for grabs, Brian Hartline and Brennan Marion will play a battle of wills to get that final spot on the final 53 with the loser likely headed to the practice squad.

Final predictions:  53 man roster – 5 WR’s:  Ginn, Bess, Camarillo, Turner, and Hartline.  Practice squad – Brennan Marion.  Cut – Wilford, London, and Williams.

Barring injury to one of the top 3, I do not expect the Dolphins to explore adding any other WR’s before the start of training camp or the start of the season.

UPDATE:  Tony Sparano spoke about the WR situation saying that the upcoming cuts to the unit will be some of the hardest he will make.  He indicated that the team “could” keep up to 6 WR but I still find that an unlikely scenario.  However, if Sparano does intend to keep 6 WR’s it could be an interesting battle between Anthony Armstrong and possibly Brennan Marion for that final spot.

Sparano said that Armstrong has made a lot of improvement over last year.  He is pushing Brandon London for a spot but London himself may be out of a position regardless of what Armstrong can do.  One situation may be to keep Armstrong as one of those 6 and Marion sticking to the practice squad.  One thing is for certain however, the WR position is going to be a fight until the end.

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Tags: Brandon London Brennan Marion Brian Hartline Chris Williams Davone Bess Ernest Wilford Greg Camarillo Miami Dolphins Patrick Turner Ted Ginn

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