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A look at position battles heading into preseason

Everyone has been seemingly mesmerized by the much-heralded struggles of Vontae Davis as he tries to fend off Richard Marshall for a starting cornerback job. As the Dolphins' official depth chart below shows, Davis is behind Marshall.

It is up to Davis if he'll stay there or not, although he's had good practices the past couple of days and is clearly the more althletic player. So that will play out in the coming couple of weeks.

But the depth chart begs other questions and speaks to issues elsewhere. Some of those issues:

The deep secondary offers a three-man race for the starting job and really a two-man race because while Chris Clemons and second-year player Jimmy Wilson are jockeying back and forth, Reshad Jones seems to have solidified his spot as a starter.

The fourth safety is interesting. Free agent acquisition Tyrell Johnson has been something of a disappointment given his credentials as a former high draft pick and veteran. He's mired on third team. Anderson Russell has made some plays in practice but is also inconsistent.

Tyrone Culver continues to be the most likely player to win the fourth spot, given his experience and ability to play special teams at a high level.

The linebacker spot is interesting in that I see Austin Spitler and Jason Trusnick as very good special teams players but lacking as actual backups. If starters Koa Misi or Karlos Dansby get hurt, I don't have a great feeling about Miami's depth with Spitler and Trusnick. Thank goodness Gary Guyton can play multiple positions.

Spitler and Trusnick are better on special teams right now than third-team players Cameron Collins and Josh Kaddu. And the irony? Both Collins and Kaddu have the potential to be better linebackers than Spitler and Trusnick.

So one pair is great on special teams but not so much on defense while the other pair isn't as good on special teams but have better potential on defense.

Depth at defensive tackle is a concern. Other than Tony McDaniel behind Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, the Dolphins are relying on untested players such as rookie Kheeston Randall to perform. The problem is we don't know if he will perform and two of the three tackles behind him are also rookies -- the third is veteran Ryan Baker who has experience and grit but is apparently the last guy on third-team.

I'm feeling better about the offensive line than I did a year ago. Everyone, except the Dolphins apparently, knew that Marc Colombo was not the answer at right tackle when they signed him. That issue was never resolved until the draft this year.

And Jonathan Martin has been outstanding so far. He practices well, he takes great notes in meetings and he has the physical capabilities to be a very good right tackle. Yes, games will add another layer to the challenges he is facing.

Ultimately you have to perform in games.

But I believe Martin will be fine, indeed, better than that. I believe he'll be good. Moreover Martin gives the Dolphins something they haven't really had since 2008 when they drafted Jake Long and that is a backup for Long.

I know, I know, you see on the depth chart that Lydon Murtha is the second-string LT. The truth is if Jake Long goes down for an extended period, I believe Martin will move over from right tackle. He played left tackle most of his career at Stanford and I think he could be a good left tackle in the NFL given experience.

So in a situation where Long is out for an extended period, Martin would be the guy moving over. It might be different over a short period where Long is missing one game. But multiple games, Martin is the guy and then Murtha would go to right tackle.

If you look at the depth chart, it is hard to fathom John Jerry making the team. He is overweight. He weighed 360 pounds a week or so ago. He isn't picking up his assignments well on pass protection (particularly on stunts) and he doesn't stay on his feet enough -- this all according to coaches.

He's running third team. It'll be interesting to see how he actually plays because in the past he's been unimpressive in practice but efficient in games. We'll see if that continues or if his tanking has too much momentum to stop.

One more note about the offensive line: Ray Feinga was supposed to make his big move this year. But he's running third team now and is nursing some sort of injury as well. Not good.

A look at tight end shows you that not a whole lot has changed from last year. Anthony Fasano remains the best one in camp. And while I have hopes for big things out of Charles Clay in his second year, I must inform you he hasn't been the monster in practice I hoped to see.

Clay has been good. He's made occasional plays. But he hasn't been dominant and if he's going to have a 50-catch season as I thought he might, logic dictates he would be showing that in this camp. He's not.

By the way, Les Brown, who is a great story and a great athlete and has great speed at 4.4, is not a great tight end. He's not even a good tight end right now. I'd like to tell you he's fifth out of five tight ends because of mitigating circumstances like a lack of experience or strength or technique or toughness at the point of attack.

But all of those apply to Brown. At this stage, he strikes me as a practice squad project. He needs to get stronger. He needs more coaching than he'll get in the next four weeks before the regular-season opener to be a viable contributor. He was and remains a project.

By the way, Michael Egnew has been unimpressive in camp. He's just ... just ... there. He doesn't flash with any degree of consistency. He doesn't get open consistently. He needs to seriously step it up in the next month.

At the wide receiver position, the Dolphins have an interesting situation. Their three "starting" receivers are players no one else wanted at some point in their careers. Chad Johnson and Legedu Naanee were cut from their teams in the offseason and they are starting in Miami. Starting slot receiver Davone Bess went undrafted once upon a time.

And yet they are Miami's top receivers right now.

Behind them, it gets interesting.

Brian Hartline is hoping to get back into practices next week -- perhaps as early as Sunday. He did some work in the walk-thru Wednesday so that was encouraging. He's a big factor because the Dolphins don't really have a deep threat to speak of.

Clyde Gates, perhaps Miami's fast receiver, has been inconsistent. He's good one day and a ghost the next. He's inconsistent. Julius Pruitt is interesting because, as you can see on the depth chart below, he has passed both Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace.

That doesn't mean he'll stay ahead of them because four weeks remain, but Pruitt has very good speed like Moore and (this camp) more consistent hands than Wallace. He doesn't have Wallace size and I have no idea how he'll contribute on special teams, but he's caught the coaching staff's attention.

As you've heard him say on this blog, Wallace knows this is put-up-or-get-out time. He got a chance to stick with the team last year. This year, he has to take the next step. Same with Moore. So far ... well, they have to do better.

By the way, rookies Rishard Matthews and B.J. Cunningham had their best week of practice this week. Perhaps they're starting to make their move. We shall see.

Back to Hartline a second: If he's healthy, he makes this team. No question.

2012 MIAMI DOLPHINS TENTATIVE DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

WR 19 Legedu Naanee 11 Julius Pruit 83 Jeff Fuller 86 Rishard Mathews

15 Davone Bess 10 Clyde Gates 16 B.J. Cunningham

81 Chris Hogan

LT 77 Jake Long 76 Lydon Murtha 69 Ray Feinga

60 Will Yeatman

LG 68 Richie Incognito 65 Erich Steinbach 63 Chandler Burden

C 51 Mike Pouncey 64 Josh Samuda 62 Ryan Cook

RG 73 Aris Hicks 75 Nate Garner 74 John Jerry

RT 71 Jonathan Marin 67 Andrew McDonald 61 Will Barker

TE 80 Anthony Fasano 42 Charles Clay 88 Jeron Mastrud 84 Michael Egnew

87 Les Brown

WR 85 Chad Johnson 82 Brian Hartline 14 Marlon Moore 18 Roberto Wallace

QB 9 David Garrard 8 Mat Moore 17 Ryan Tannehill 7 Pat Devlin

FB 41 Jorvorskie Lane 6 Ryan Mahaffey 35 Jerome Messam

RB 22 Reggie Bush 33 Daniel Thomas 23 Steve Slaton 44 Lamar Miller

34 Marcus Thigpen

46 Jonas Gray

DEFENSE

LE 98 Jared Odrick 79 Derrick Shelby 70 Jarrell Root

DT 94 Randy Starks 78 Tony McDaniel 66 Chas Alecxih

DT 96 Paul Soliai 97 Kheeston Randall 95 Isaako Aaitui 90 Ryan Baker

RE 91 Cameron Wake 50 Olivier Vernon 52 Jamaal Westerman 72 Jaquies Smith

LB 56 Kevin Burnet 59 Gary Guyton 49 Jonathan Freeny 48 Shelly Lyons

LB 58 Karlos Dansby 53 Ausin Spitler 45 Cameron Collins

LB 55 Koa Misi 93 Jason Trusnik 57 Josh Kaddu

CB 24 Sean Smith 28 Nolan Carroll 25 Jonathan Wade 47 Trenton Hughes

32 Marcus Brown

CB 31 Richard Marshall 21 Vontae Davis 36 Quinten Lawrence 38 Kevyn Scot

43 Vincent Agnew

S 30 Chris Clemons 27 Jimmy Wilson 26 Tyrell Johnson 37 Kelcie McCray

S 20 Reshad Jones 29 Tyrone Culver 40 Anderson Russell

SPECIALISTS

P 2 Brandon Fields

K 5 Dan Carpenter

KO 5 Dan Carpenter

H 2 Brandon Fields

KOR 34 Marcus Thigpen 44 Lamar Miller 23 Steve Slaton 10 Clyde Gates

PR 15 Davone Bess 34 Marcus Thigpen 10 Clyde Gates 86 Rishard Mathews

LS 92 John Denney

2012 Rookies Underlined

Comments

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Tannehills wife is scrawny and breakable. Pretty face but not a babe to rave about, I see better everyday just out and about.

Preseason preseason!! I'm excited to see the new PHINS !!! But it preseason! After the season is over than let's talk about stats!
But yes RG3. Said it was easy, practice is harder!! LMAO!!! He should of kept his mouth shut!

I overslept.

Pretty obvious we get a lot of Jets fans and Dolphins haters on here. Really, you guys choose NOW to start hating on Philbin. You mean NOW, when everything is positive and heading in the right direction. Pretty obvious that some of you guys are worried better days are ahead. Interesting that you choose NOW to pick up on the fact that Philbin didn't make the calls in GB and for that reason wouldn't be a successful head coach in Miami. Too funny! Viva Le Jets!!......LOL.

Craig, watched episode one this morning. Someone was nice enough to post the torrent.

I tried watching it on HBO.com last night Mark and of course they've blocked it for those of us in Canada. Umbelievable! I'll check out torrent later on today. Thanks Mark.

Mark,

I meant to say, I read some of your comments on Travis Snider yesterday and the Jays. I just don't see it with this guy. He'll forever be the big tease. I just don't think he'll ever be consistent enough to make it as a major leaguer. I hope I'm wrong. I got so tired of listening to Mike Wilner's lovefest with this guy I had to unfollow him on Twitter and don't read any of his blog's any more. Really disappointing team and I'm glad I don't go and watch them play any more. Don't evem watch them on TV any more. Easy to find other things to do.

Mark,

One other thing, I just noticed that Kory Sheets is playing in the CFL now. Perfect league for him, I think. Think he's playing for Edmonton.

Of course we know that most Canadians are envious of the States. We's no fools.

its fairly obvious everyone hates the crap dolphins lol

The Miami Dolphins under Jeff Ireland will always be remembered or all the draft busts they picked. Its all happening once again- the EXCUSES! This is still a below average team. No stars on the roster. I see yet another 5 wins this season. The only hope is Tannehill.

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