The Miami Dolphins are set to kick-off their 2010 season on Friday morning regardless of whether their two top rookies are under contract. With that in mind, there are a lot of questions going into this season. Will this offensive unit be a high-scoring machine or their typical grind it out meat and potato offense? Time will tell for sure, but even on the offensive side of the ball, position battles are being set up and on a team full of youth, the slightest hiccup could cost you your job.
Here is a look at the offensive positions and the players who may or may not make the roster. QB:
Chad Henne – A lock to make the roster, will he take the next step and become the best QB this team has had since Dan Marino? Shane seems to think so. He believes that Henne will become the franchise QB we have all been dying for.
Chad Pennington – Pennington won’t see much time in training camp this off-season. Still recovering from shoulder surgery, the Dolphins already know what they have in him. A reliable accurate back-up to their starter.
Tyler Thigpen – Thigpen has been on the rumor trade block since last season ended. Will the Phins trade this capable number 2 who could keep Pennington sitting on the bench as the emergency 3rd QB or will an injury somewhere else in the league, give him a shot to start VIA trade?
Pat White – No other QB on the roster will be under more scrutiny than Pat White. His devastating concussion to end last season still resonates in the minds of fans and doubters. Reports indicate that he has built up his body mass but many still wonder if he can make it in the NFL as a QB. Reluctant to change positions, White could find himself outside looking in much of the season. The problem here is the Dolphins are not likely going to carry 4 QB’s.
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are back and in terms of Brown, his health seems to be much better and almost to 100 percent. Brown himself has called this his “most important season”. It will be if he has any desire to stay in Miami after this year.
A free agent to be, Brown’s biggest nemesis is his own body. Injuries have plagued his career. On the Williams side of things, the questions surround his “reality TV show” and the final year of his contract that could see Williams come back next year or walk away from football all together. Either way, the Dolphins will be looking at their young corp of back-ups for the future.
Patrick Cobbs - Coming off an serious ACL injury, Sparano favorite Cobbs should be back in the fold for his typical 3rd down heroics. A solid runner with great pass catching ability, Cobbs is looking to get healthy and make an impact. A lock to make the team if healthy, Cobbs will not be the heir apparent to the running game if both Brown and Williams leave after 2010.
Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets – Both runners bring a different athletic ability to the team. Last year, Hilliard did well filling in for an injured Brown but the Dolphins still lacked that explosiveness that Brown seems to have in this system. Sheets is much faster and could be a sleeper to make the roster.
Much like the QB position, the Dolphins are not going to go into the season with 5 running backs so someone needs to go. The Phins are pretty happy with the play of fullback Lousaka “All I do is make 4th downs into first downs” Polite so it would be a complete shock if he was supplanted by newcomer Rolly Lumbala even though Lumbala is listed as the teams only true fullback.
Tristan Davis is on the far outside looking to make a practice squad spot.
Of all the above mentioned positions, WR will get a lot of attention in training camp.
Brandon Marshall – Fans call it the “Marshall Plan”. A legit number 1 top 3 elite NFL WR who has caught over 100 balls in each of the last three seasons. The last time the Dolphins went out and bought such a high-profile WR was Irving Fryar back in the days of Marino and Shula. Many mainstream media personalities believe that Marshall alone will change the way teams game plan the Dolphins offense. If Marshall can draw the 8th man out of the defensive front, the Dolphins should be able to easily exploit the weaknesses in the defense. But they have to get the ball to Marshall consistently to make that happen.
Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo – The first true battle of training camp will start here. Both vying for the right to line up at number 2 opposite Marshall. Both have very solid hands and know how to use their bodies to create separation from faster and bigger corners. Barring any trades for Camarillo, both are locks to make the roster.
Davone Bess – The slot belongs to Bess and this year should see more opportunity for the product out of Hawaii. Barring a trade, he too is a lock to make the roster.
Ryan Grice-Mullen – Grice-Mullen impressed during OTA’s and mini camps but as is more often the case, a solid performance then does ZERO to assure you a roster spot. While he won’t be taking a spot away from those WR’s already mentioned, he could make an impact as a return guy on the special teams.
Patrick Turner – Turner dressed only two times last season and neither times was he on the field. A 3rd round pick that so far has done nothing to please fans, it’s a good possibility given the current crop of Phins wide-outs that Turner will never play a meaningful game for the Phins. Turner is battling more than the other WR’s. He is battling the number of WR’s.
Marlon Moore, Taurus Johnson, Roberto Wallace, and Julius Pruitt – If your playing our “Pick the 53″ contest, these 4 should be easy names to leave off that final roster.
John Nalbone – Last year the Dolphins were able to stash John Nalbone on the practice squad. They likely will try and do so again.
Kory Sperry - Sperry looked good filling in for an injured Anthony Fasano last year but unfortunately it was only for a couple of series. His main battle in camp this year will be with Joey Haynos for the 2nd TE spot. While the Phins could stick with 3, it’s unlikely.
Joey Haynos – My personal favorite, I realize that he needs to step up and improve if he wants to stay on the team. Haynos last year made some very solid strides but TE has been an issue for the team and neither Haynos or Fasano really took over the spot last year.
Anthony Fasano – Fasano was supposed to break out last year. Instead, he just broke down. Spending most of last season nursing injuries, Fasano was outspoken about his concern for a new CBA that would have made him a free agent. Fasano went as far to say that he wanted to test the market and get paid. Now, entering what will officially be his contract year, Fasano needs to step up his game all around.
It’s easier to say who the locks are up front rather than waste a bunch of time talking about the individually first.
Jake Long, Vernon Carey, John Jerry, Nate Garner, and Joe Berger are all locks for various reasons including, as in the case of Berger, being versatile.
Jake Grove – The Dolphins are happy with Grove but they are not jumping up and down and some media members have expressed thoughts that Grove could be beaten out by Berger, and if that happens, suddenly he could become expendable although unlikely.
Donald Thomas – Thomas never really returned to the promise he showed in his first season with the Dolphins…o.k., his first game with the Dolphins. Still, he has talent. The Dolphins need to get that talent out of him and Thomas needs to start developing a killer instinct.
Richie Incognito – This is one mean-ass-mother. Voted the dirtiest player in the NFL, Incognito wants to tone down his off-field issues and become a more admired player. Without losing his mean streak. Not sure how that will work out and my money is on Incognito being in a few fights this training camp…probably the first one of the season.
Cory Procter – A 6 year veteran, Procter is well known to the Miami staff having played with them in Dallas. Tony Sparano will get everything out of the guard and he should make the roster as a reliable substitute.
Dmitri Soumpas, Rey Feinga, Lydon Murtha, and Andrew Hartline – These guys are all on the bubble and it’s likely that none of them will make the roster. Of the 4, I would give a nod to Murtha who could beat someone else out as a tackle having experience from in-game play last season.
Andrew Gardner – At times he has shown the ability to make himself a permanent fixture on the roster but at other times he is too inconsistent. He has a shot at making the final 53 but he will be pushed from some others.
The Dolphins have locked up Brandon Fields, Dan Carpenter, and John Denney to extensions. Currently there is no one in camp to challenge them.
We will have the defensive preview up tomorrow.