Some football teams preach competition. But come on, seriously, is there really competition in Atlanta for Tony Gonzalez today? Is there competition in Pittsburgh for Hines Ward or Ben Roethlisberger? Do you seriously believe Ray Lewis is being pushed for his starting job in Baltimore even though he's going on 34 years old?
Some teams want competition. The Dolphins live competition -- at least so far under Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano.
This offseason, the first full offseason the current regime has enjoyed in Miami, there exists competition throughout the roster. There is competition for unaccomplished and accomplished players alike. There is competition for youngsters and veterans. Practically everyone outside of kicker Dan Carpenter has competition for his job.
Don't believe it?
Chad Pennington was the Dolphins MVP last season. He is by far their most accomplished offensive player. Coach Tony Sparano named him the starter for 2009 at the end of the 2008 season. And yet he's working his tail off this offseason because he realizes that although he's already earned and been handed the starting job, he's got to compete to keep it.
Chad Henne is on Pennington's tail and is, by any account, the regime's fair-haired. He is the franchise quarterback in-waiting. He is the future. He is pushing Pennington.
And now he is being pushed by Pat White.
"Obviously I have a high regard for Pat [based on] where we selected him," Ireland said. "And I don’t know that you can have too many good players at that position, and there’s a little bit of an unknown about Chad (Henne) and there’s obviously an unknown about how we’re going to use Pat. But I don’t think you can have too many good players at that position. Your vision's going to be for the future. Heck, I don’t even know if Chad Pennington’s not going to be here so they’re going to be competing for playing time and I feel good about having three
four really good players at that position.”
How sold are the Dolphins on competition? This week the team has talked with Jason Taylor's representative about the possibility Taylor might return to Miami. That addition, were it to happen, would immediately create a competition at the weakside linebacker spot Joey Porter manned so well last season.
And it would create competition between Taylor, Porter, Cameron Wake, Quentin Moses, Erik Walden and William Kershaw for the right to be part of the four-man line in the nickel and dime packages. It's called competition.
Ronnie Brown competed with Ricky Williams last training camp and even lost his starting job (few remember this) at the beginning of the season when Williams started the first two games. Then Brown recovered and reclaimed his starting job. Then Williams regained it for a week against Oakland. And on it went.
Coaches didn't let either get comfortable or allow either to settle for being the backup.
This training camp, both will be competing for carries with Patrick Cobbs. Yes, the Dolphins love this kid. Cobbs is a relative unknown and Brown and Williams have both been Pro Bowl players, and that will mean absolutely nothing during the competition.
Brown will also have another competition on his hands. The unquestioned triggerman of the Dolphins 2008 Wildcat package has to hold off the charge of White, who seems like a natural for the spot. The outcome of that competition could have us renaming Miami's signature offensive package the WildPat if White is the better triggerman.
Cornerback Will Allen is the most experienced member of the secondary and it would be a huge upset if he doesn't start throughout the season. But the fact is he's unsigned for 2010 and the Dolphins drafted two cornerbacks in the first two rounds. So assuming the two rookies live up to their billing and draft status, and assuming they improve with time, they could be pushing Allen by the end of the season.
I'm not predicting that will happen. Both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith would have to be cornerback prodigies to make this come to pass. But the fact is competition does not end after training camp and with a handful of Pro Bowl caliber receivers on the schedule, anything can happen.
Jake Long has the left tackle job sown up for the next decade right? Probably. But the Dolphins will give sixth-round pick Andrew Gardner, who might be as able a pass-blocker as Long, the chance to compete and earn his backup role.
I've told you in the past Bill Parcells likes tight end Joey Haynos because he is 6-8 and 270 pounds and shows promise as a redzone threat. Haynos will try to push David Martin and Tony Fasano. So what do the Dolphins do? They draft John Nalbone to be a redzone threat that pushes Haynos.
The receiver position is loaded with competition. Nobody's job is secure there. Not Davone Bess, not Greg Camarillo, not Brandon London, obviously not Patrick Turner nor Brian Hartline, and not even Ted Ginn Jr.
Although Ginn has a skill none of the others have -- namely, scary speed -- he will have to work hard on making himself more readily available to the quarterback to remain the No. 1 option.
The fact is both Bess and Camarillo have a way of finding open spots in the defense and Ginn needs to improve on that if he wants to continue being the team's leading receiver, which he was last season only because Camarillo got injured and Bess didn't start the entire season. (Ginn caught 56 passes to lead the team, Camarillo had 55 catches and Bess 54.)
There are other solid competitions on the roster. They involve names such as Randy Starks and Phillip Merling, Reggie Torbor and Akin Ayodele, Brandon Fields and Jy Bond, Joe Berger and Donald Thomas and Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe.
It's about competition on the Dolphins. More players than not are in one. And that's a good thing.
I know I've missed a couple so feel free to add those in the comments section. I also expect you have an opinion on how the competitions I've laid out will turn out. So give those predictions in the comments section also.
One last thing: You might argue the Dolphins have so much competition because they are still an incomplete team that hasn't found the right combination of players yet. Fair. The only way to find that right combo is to have them compete.
But what does that say about previous incomplete Miami teams that didn't have nearly this much competition? Hmmmm.