The Dolphins will break training camp Thursday. That means the opportunities to win jobs, particularly starting jobs, during training camp are dwindling.
"We're going to get into the paring down process now," coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday. "We're going to spend a lot more time in meetings and a little less time on the field."
And as the coach confirmed when I asked, less time on the field means the players working with the second-team will have fewer chances of erasing the gap the players working as starters established since July 30 when camp opened.
"When you have fewer opportunities, and the team knows this because I've told them, I've been very, very clear with the fact that they need to make opportunities now," Sparano said. "Because when training camp breaks, eventually I'm charged with getting the team ready to play that's going to get ready to play. I have to start to identify those people and get those people in positions to play.
"Some of these people that have been getting a lot of reps because you have two-a-days, those things are going to be fewer and further between. When that stuff starts to happen, yeah, you get fewer opportunities. So as I told the team you need to be showing us what you want to show us right now."
Well, in some cases where jobs were available at the start of camp, the decision has been made as to the starter. I am told by a source that barring a total meltdown in the coming two games -- an unlikely proposition -- second-year man Chris Clemons has won the starting free safety job for Miami. Sparano has not confirmed that, but he makes no secret of the fact he like Clemons with veteran Yeremiah Bell back there.
"I did this math yesterday and they've played 945 plays this training camp and they have four total mental errors between the two of those guys," Sparano said. "Early on during our first year year, I couldn't tell you the number of problems we were having back there. With those two players back there there's a good influence coming with young people in the ballgame. With the Vontaes [Davis]and the Sean Smiths and the [Nolan] Carrolls, having those two back there has been pretty good."
I am told by the same source that Joe Berger has similarly beaten out Jake Grove for the starting center job.
Again, if either Clemons or Berger totally tanks in the next two weeks, then the team reserves the right to make a change. That's the case with any player that tanks throughout the season. But the decision on them as starters is otherwise made.
And they are not alone.
Rookies Koa Misi and Jared Odrick have pretty much won starting jobs at strongside linebacker and right end, respectively. Misi, barring a total meltdown, has held off Ikaika Alama-Francis for the starting job. Odrick started training camp ahead of Marques Douglas and has remained there.
As for the still undecided starting jobs at right guard and left guard, the next several days will be key.
"The separation will come here in the next several days," Sparano said.