Many prominent roles are still up for grabs with the Miami Dolphins and no position group is having more competition than the Wide Receivers.
The three players that have secured roster spots are Legedu Nanee, Devone Bess and despite his calf injury, Brian Hartline.
The Dolphins desperately need Harline to return from his injury so they can allow Bess to remain in his slot position, where he’s among the NFL’s elite.
Nanee has been a pleasant surprise in camp and earned himself a starting role on the outside after being initially signed to serve as a camp body.
Nanee has had success in this league but has often been derailed by injuries. Thus far he’s had a healthy offseason and has provided the Dolphins with everything they’ve asked for; a solid season should be expected of him.
He won’t be a huge playmaker but he will provide dependable hands to help move the chains and excellent downfield run blocking.
When healthy these three Receivers, which possess quality game experience, should be the catalysts for Miami’s passing game.
Unfortunately, Dolphins brass has been vague about a timetable towards Hartline’s return. So one of the main focuses in training camp has been the evaluation of other Receivers competing for the two, possibly three remaining spots, and one prominent role in the passing game.
The three Receivers in a fierce battle for that one prominent role are Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, and Julius Pruitt.
Of the three, the player with the biggest upside in easily Wallace. God doesn’t make men with his physical skill set too often. He’s tall with a solid frame, freakish athleticism and deep speed.
His main problem all offseason and his career has been inconsistency. One minute he looks like a Pro-Bowler and the next, like a member of the Practice Squad.
It’s probably because of his limited football experience having been a soccer player before trying his hand at football in college.
If he can ever put it together and play fast, he would be special and Jeff Ireland could say he found the Dolphins their Miles Austin.
Remember, before injuries paved Austin’s way into the lineup in Dallas, he had the same rep as Wallace when Sam Hurd was his competition for a roster spot.
Wallace’s main competition has been Marlon Moore, a player this front office has kept around for as long as Wallace.
What Moore has going for him is that he’s more consistent with his production than Wallace is and although he’s smaller, he brings the same kind of deep speed to the table.
The catch is his hands are inconsistent, he doesn’t catch the ball well in traffic, and he’s a poor man’s Brian Hartline at best; he’s not someone with the potential to be special like Wallace.
The player that excites me the most is Julius Pruitt, who’s been with the club the longest and who’s roster spot is almost guaranteed thanks to his excellent special teams ability.
Pruitt is a lot like Wallace in the sense that he’s an amazing physical talent. He’s got the height, weight, speed ratio you look for.
Having only played community college football, his learning curve has been steeper than Wallace’s and Moore’s, who both benefitted from playing in west coast offenses at their division 1 colleges.
Pruitt has made some serious strides this offseason though and has made bigger strides from last season to this season than either Wallace or Moore, and that encourages me to think that he’s ascending faster
With that being said, Pruitt has been Bess’s understudy at the slot position throughout camp, but as we near the start of the regular season, I find myself asking why he isn’t being given an opportunity to play on the outside?
It baffles me that the coaching staff trusts him to learn the slot position, which may be the hardest receiver position to learn, but doesn’t have the confidence to play him on the outside?
Maybe it’s something they’ve had him doing in practice and held back the first two pre-season games, but all I know is it’s something I’d like to see soon.
The top candidates competing for the last spot with the loser of Wallace vs Moore would be roster holdover Clyde Gates and undrafted free agent Jeff Fuller.
Gates has been one of the offseason’s biggest disappointments, after a year as an understudy he was thought to be poised for a breakout but his development has been slow and route running is hurting his chances. Like Wallace it’s because he didn’t play football until college.
Gates‘ job can only be saved by breaking a couple returns and catching some bombs in the last couple games or if Jeff Ireland determines to save him this year to develop that world class speed of his.
Giving up on Gates, a forth round draft pick, after only one season could be considered dumb when considering the same front office gave Wallace and Moore three years and Pruitt four to develop as undrafted free agents.
Jeff Fuller looks the part with height and good speed but his inconsistent hands and stiff hips are concerning.
He is a big body though, that makes plays and is familiar with our starting quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Don’t be fooled in thinking that having Ryan Tannehill and Mike Sherman in his corner won’t go a long way in snagging the last spot or a spot on the practice squad.
Tonight’s game against the Atlanta Falcons will go a long way in determining the fate of these receivers.
The player with the most to lose tonight just might be Marlon Moore because if he doesn’t outshine Roberto Wallace for that prominent role, he might find himself out of a job.
Wallace and Pruitt are better special teams players than Moore and the front office might be more inclined to cut ties with him in order to continue with the development of either Gates or Fuller.
Whatever happens, it’s evident the Dolphins will be looking hard for good hands tonight.