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Some things are starting to come into clear focus. Other areas remain muddled, far too close to call. There is still time before decisions have to be made, before a starting lineup has to be finalized, before the key reserves are identified. But as each day passes, some of the most intriguing battles of training camp remain in full throttle.
Who will be the starting five on the offensive line against New England? How about the slot receiver? The nickel back? The starting running back? The second tight end? These are the decisions this coaching staff is trying to come to terms with each day. They are crucial decisions that will have so much to do with the fortunes of this team.
So with one preseason game down, with the opener racing toward us, with training camp in sprint mode, let’s take a look at what I believe are five of the most interesting summertime battles. Of course, there are others – there always are – but these are the ones I am paying the closest attention to.
• Starting guards: Barring injury or a sudden change in performance, it seems to me that three of the five spots on the offensive line are secure – tackles Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James and center Samson Satele. That leaves the two guard spots. On the left side, Daryn Colledge has gotten the most first-team reps, but Shelley Smith is also under consideration. On the right side, Dallas Thomas has seen most of the action, but promising rookie Billy Turner isn’t out of the picture. I’ve got a hunch we’ll know a lot more after Saturday’s second preseason game.
• Starting running back: This spot has belonged to Lamar Miller since camp began, but now that Knowshon Moreno is practicing again, things have begun heating up. If Moreno can return to his 2013 form in Denver, he will be tough to beat out. While Miller brings some real big play possibilities, Moreno excels more as a pass receiver and blocker. It is likely new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will take advantage of both of their skills. One thing is certain: We need to see signs, and soon, of an improved rushing attack.
• Slot receiver: I love this competition. In the forefront, you’ve got a talented fifth-year player in Brandon Gibson going up against an electric rookie in Jarvis Landry whose upside is off the charts. But there is so much depth at receiver, I wouldn’t be surprised if others make some kind of move as well. While the slot receiver is important – and, in fact, will start some games – I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Gibson and Landry on the field together in four receiver sets with some combination of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews. But who gets first shot in the slot? Right now, it’s too close to call.
• Nickel Back: This job belonged to Jimmy Wilson for the first few weeks of camp. But once it was announced that safety Reshad Jones would miss the first month of the season, things changed in a hurry. If Wilson moves into Jones’ starting safety spot – the likely scenario – then there are all sorts of alternatives at nickel back. Second-year corner Jamar Taylor has been working there some this week, and offers promise. Perhaps the favorite is veteran Cortland Finnegan who can move to the nickel with Taylor or Will Davis then switching to Finnegan’s spot at corner. I don’t expect to see a final decision on this until the last week of camp.
• Second tight end: Why focus on competition for a back-up position behind Charles Clay? Because two tight end formations have become commonplace in this league and you’ve got to have a pair of good ones. Right now, when healthy, it appears that second-year player Dion Sims has the edge. Sims has had an excellent camp and has clearly upgraded his receiving skills. But among those still in the mix are rookie Arthur Lynch, free agent Gator Hoskins, former third-round pick Michael Egnew and second-year player Kyle Miller, who had an excellent catch in the preseason opener.
Indeed, a summer of important decisions continues – with many of the most important decisions still to come.
(On Friday, AC in the AM takes a close look at Saturday’s second preseason game.)
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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