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CB shuffle, other notes from morning practice

Herald at work 

A new practice week has begun and the Dolphins and The Herald (see photo by David Agudelo of CBS-4) are back to work.

It's starting off as a good week for Sean Smith, Randy Starks, Quentin Moses and Cameron Wake.

It's not starting off as well for Eric Green and Phillip Merling.

As I reported earlier this morning on my Twitter account, Smith has parlayed some good work the first week of camp plus the only turnover of the entire scrimmage Saturday, an interception, into a chance to work with the first-team defense.

Two things: I'm certain Tony Sparano will praise Smith during his press conference in the next 90 minutes. I'm fairly certain he'll underplay the fact Smith is on first-team because, as you must know, the coaching staff wants to see different guys playing with the firsts and eventually Vontae Davis may get his chance also.

[Update: "We wanted to shuffled the deck at the end of the first week," Sparano said during his press conference. "We wanted to mix some things up and see some people against different people."]

But ...

The fact remains that even to this naked-eyed reporter who never played the game, Smith simply looks better than either Green or Davis at the moment. He's around the ball more. He's a very imposing looking figure, a combination of Joe Lavender (look him up) with a little Sean Taylor (far as ball skills are concerned) in one very raw, very young, but potential-filled package.

Smith showed some of that promise during one-on-one drills as he ran step-for-step with Ted Ginn Jr. on a 9 route and batted the ball away harmlessly.

On the other hand, Green, the starter much of the offseason and the first week of practice, showed why he's opened the door to losing his starting job. He was soundly beaten by Greg Camarillo on a 9 route and he was easily a step behind.

So what up with Vontae Davis? He is the first-round pick, after all. Well, he's not struggling by any means. But neither is he surging to the front of his class.

"He's a young guy and he's done some young guy things," Sparano said. "He got double-moved out here the other day in the scrimmage. Really, got double-moved twice during the course of the scrimmage. [But] he's very physical. Has good catch-up speed and is not afraid. he's got a pretty short memory out there which is good for a cornerback.

"There are some fundamental things we have to work on. He's got to get his eyes out of the backfield. that's a natural thing for young guys. He's just got to get his eyes out of the backfield and concentrate on some fundamental. But I like the way he's coming. He's not afraid to compete."

At the open competion for the starting right defensive end job, Randy Starks is getting his chance with the starting unit now. The Dolphins have a plan. They definitely will give everyone an equal, fair opportunity to win that job and Starks has seen his time come.

Phillip Merling, who the Dolphins expected would win that job after a fine offseason, has lagged the first week of camp and after watching Tony McDaniel get more first-team reps than him last week, now he's seeing Starks being given a chance.

Merling is working with the second team but that is not permanent. He can still wake up and turn the tide. But the Dolphins are a team in motion. So Merling can either plow ahead or get left behind as he currently seems to be.

"It's nothing against Phil one way or the other," Sparano said. "I thought, actually, Phil was pretty productive out here the other day in the scrimmage. But it goes by the whole week's worth of work and maybe who you want to see play up a little bit. And one guy that had not had that opportunity yet was Randy.

"And Randy is a guy that every time we sit down and make an evaluation, his evaluation is pretty good. So let's see Randy against some good people as well while we can." 

I told you earlier that Wake and Moses are also having good days today. The truth is both started to "flash," as Sparano likes to say, late last week. And then both had a productive scrimmage.

The reward for that production is a greater opportunity to open the coaching staff's eyes. They've been trusted with small things and now the staff is seeing if they can be trusted with bigger things.

That's why Wake got a few snaps with the first-team defense while Joey Porter rested on a couple today. No, Wake is not about to replace Porter. But the staff wants to see how he does against better competiton. Some guys play up to the competiton while others demure. We'll see what Wake does.

Moses, who has been very active, has proven a great frustration to quarterbacks at times. It's not so much that he's getting great push all the time. It's not that he gets to the QB all the time. It's just that he has this incredible knack for batting balls down at the line of scrimmage. He had one today and one in the scrimmage.

So Moses, working almost exclusively with the third-team defense last week, got a lot of repetitions with Wake on second team this morning. We'll see if he can stand the prosperity.

Two more play-by-play tidbits from practice: Yeremiah Bell, solid and better in coverage since this camp started than I've ever seen, had an interception of Chad Pennington during practice. Will Billingsley, who is not making this team but is fighting for a practice squad spot, also had an interception.

The Dolphins announced the signing of WR James Robinson, of Fort Lauderdale, to the squad. A product of Westminister Academy, Robinson won four state medals in track and field. No doubt. Sparano said he impressed the team with his speed in the tryout. He is, however, a developmental type of player.

If you are in South Florida and planned to attend this evening's 5 p.m. practice, go do something else instead. The Dolphins announced at noon that the afternoon practice will be held inside the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) and will not be open to the public.

The Dolphins apologize profusely. Not really, but I thought I'd throw that in there on their behalf.

[Update at 4:50: The Dolphins have signed K Connor Barth to a two-year contract. Barth was with KC last year and was cut July 28. He will compete with Dan Carpenter. Nobody gets a free ride around here. Nobody!]