After the first two days of training camp, 10 different Miami Dolphins have been seen returning punts and kick offs. It’s still very early, but it’s clear that both of these jobs are wide open. For some, winning either of these two jobs could be the only way they make the roster to begin the season. An extremely tough task should Miami keep the same amount of WR’s and RB’s as they did last year.
4 players have had oppotunities with punt returns thus far. These 4 players have also gotten time returning kicks.
Davone Bess – He is also competing for the starting number 2 receiver spot, though he is sure to thrive in the slot role. Returned punts often last year.
Brian Hartline – Seems to be the front runner for the number 2 receiver spot after a very productive rookie campaign. Not likely to be used in the return game.
Ryan Grice-Mullin (RGM)- Signed from the BC Lions of the CFL in January. Has experience as a punt returner, did well returning punts in the CFL.
Taurus Johnson – Joined the Miami Dolphin practice squad in December 2009. He returned kick offs during his college career at USF.
As of now I’d have to say Bess has the best chance at returning punts this year, unless RGM can impress the coaching staff enough to keep a roster spot just for him to return punts. His skill set matches that of a slot receiver, which the Dolphins have an abundance of already. In order for him to make the roster, I think he’ll have to earn a spot as a kick off returner as well.
There are 6 others competing for the kick off return job to go along with those 4 players.
Kory Sheets – A practice squad RB who saw very little time last year. His speed makes him the most explosive returner Miami has in camp.
Patrick Cobbs – A coaching staff favorite. Has very little big play potential. Seems to have recovered well from a torn ACL last season.
Nolan Carroll – A 5th round selection at CB in this years draft. Had some experience as a KR at Maryland, but played little his senior year due to breaking his leg early in his senior season.
Tristan Davis – Signed to the Miami Dolphin practice squad in November 2009. Had good success at Auburn as a kick returner.
Marlon Moore – A standout WR receiver at Fresno State. Had success as a punt returner early in his college career, but battled injuries later in college.
Julius Pruitt – A practice squad WR last year, has little experience returning both punts and kick offs.
Due to his speed and big play potential, I really hope Sheets wins the KR job. Miami already has 4 running backs worthy of making the team, with Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs securing the top 3 spots, and Lex Hilliard holding down the 4th spot entering camp. Sheets would almost have to beat out Lex Hilliard to make the roster. Hilliard played well when given the opportunity last season and should make a strong push to make the team this year.
With only so many roster spots to throw around, Miami definitely has some tough decisions to make. So do they save room for a couple return guys with big play potential, or will they opt for more depth on their offensive and defensive lines and go with a serviceable return man who handles more duties?
Let me know what you think!