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Decision looms on defensive line and other Dolphins tidbits; Canes, Marlins, Heat


 Mostly Dolphins chatter three days into camp:

### Aside from kicker and possibly right guard, there’s only one starting job in much doubt, and it’s a fascinating one, because it involves the team’s highest-paid member and two of their most promising young players (Dion Jordan, Olivier Vernon).

No Dolphins player will earn more in base salary in 2013 than Randy Starks, but he opened practice on the second team, not with the starters, on two of the first three days of camp after missing most of the offseason program protesting being slapped with the $8.45 million franchise tag. Starks said Tuesday if he ends up playing off the bench behind Jared Odrick, with whom he’s rotating and competing, he won’t complain.

Weeks ago, the Dolphins told NFL people they preferred to enter this season like last season, with Odrick at defensive end in the base defense and at tackle on passing downs. But they recently had a change of heart on the first part of that equation after determining Odrick is probably better at tackle and after watching Olivier Vernon thrive with a larger role. Starks said it now “seems like” Odrick will be a tackle primarily.

So far in camp, Vernon has logged all the first team snaps at defensive end opposite Cameron Wake, with Odrick and Starks alternating in the base defense alongside Paul Soliai. Odrick and Starks would play together at tackle on obvious passing downs, with Soliai on the bench.

The Dolphins have by no means ruled out moving Odrick back to end in the base package to start the season if neither Vernon nor Jordan seizes the starting job.

Some internally believe Vernon might be better suited coming off the bench in his second season, but he has earned a chance to win the job, and coach Joe Philbin loves him. Vernon has had a very good first three days, including one play Tuesday where he annihilated Mike Gillislee in the backfield. And Vernon has given Jonathan Martin all he can handle during practice.

“He’s getting off the snap count very well,” Philbin said. “I’m really pleased with what he’s doing."

The Dolphins now see Odrick as a better long-term fit at tackle and likely will re-sign either Soliai or Starks next spring to play alongside him.

How would Starks react if he doesn't start?

“Whatever role they want me to play, I’ll accept,” he said. “I haven’t been here [most of the offseason]. Odrick has done a good job. I wasn’t starting my first year here and was still making plays. I’m not worried about it.”

Starks' body of work the past two years suggests he should start, but Odrick has been very good in camp so far, and he's also worthy of starting. As Wake said: "We're loaded on the d-line. Trying to find a role for everyone is a good problem to have."

Last season, Odrick played 951 snaps, Starks 826, Soliai 627 and Vernon 445.

### Ryan Tannehill says he can “now be the leader I want to be.” But is he comfortable yelling at teammates if needed, which Dan Marino did?

“For sure,” he said. “You have to be able to get on guys if the situation calls for it. That’s part of leadership." He admits it's "not really my style to be a yeller. I’ve definitely yelled at some guys in my career, gotten in some guys’ faces.” He said people can expect him to "a fiery leader" during key moments.

Brian Hartline joked: “He won’t bark at me. I’ll punch him.” But Hartline said: “Before, he might not have wanted to step on toes.” Now he’s willing to if needed.

Offensive linemen have good-naturedly asked Tannehill to buy them jet-skis, but he said he declined. Instead, he bought them iPads after last season.

### Encouraging to see the Dolphins get three interception Tuesday. Consider this: ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us that the Dolphins held onto only 28.6 percent of potential interceptions last season, well below the league average of 40. That includes any balls that players were “close enough” to reasonably expect to haul in. Brent Grimes should be better than Sean Smith in that regard.

### By the way, Joyner also shared with us that Hartline last season actually averaged more yards per attempt on throws of 20 yards or more (12.2 on 66 passes) than Mike Wallace (9.1 on 55 attempts). Remember, those averages include lots of incompletions, so that's also a reflection of quarterback play. Hartline’s numbers in that regard were also were better than Roddy White’s, AJ Green’s and Brandon Marshall’s.

“Simply put, Miami now has two wideouts that can stretch the field with great success,” Joyner said.

### The lofty talk by Dolphins players – Dannell Ellerbe and others have spoken glowingly about the talent – has some NFL people scoffing.

“They’ve got the best at every position – I keep hearing their players say that,” one executive with a 2012 playoff team said. “The safeties, linebackers, receivers think they’re the best. But they’re not better than New England, and I haven’t yet seen Tannehill do something that wows me.”

That executive also worries about Jonathan Martin and said “Lamar Miller has to prove he can be a tough and physical runner.”

Philbin isn’t a fan of the bold talk, so it’s not surprising players have pulled back on that in recent days. “I’m not going to shoot my mouth off because it doesn’t get you anywhere,” Odrick said. Ellerbe, by the way, said Tuesday the Dolphins have a faster team than his Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens of last season.

### Running back Marcus Thigpen has been getting significant second-team snaps since the offseason program and into training camp –- and some first team work when Miller rests –- and says the Dolphins want to expand his role offensively. “I can bring a boost of energy, make something happen every time I get the chance,” he said. But Daniel Thomas remains the favorite to be Miller’s backup.

### Michael Egnew continues to take a step back for every step forward. On Tuesday, De’Andre Presley stripped Egnew, and Jelani Jenkins recovered the fumble. Egnew tells us general manager Jeff Ireland “is always in the back of my head when I’m trying to make plays” because he wants to validate Ireland’s faith in him. “I always want to impress him. I look up to him.”

### Dimitri Patterson said he isn’t worried that Miami would save $4.5 million against the cap if he’s cut. He’s likely safe IF he remains one of Miami’s top three corners, which he has been through three days of camp. Patterson would be at serious risk if he is surpassed by Will Davis (very good Tuesday) or Jamar Taylor (sidelined Tuesday from soreness from May's sports hernia surgery).

### Our favorite recruiting story of the offseason: Elite Palm Beach Central offensive tackle K.C. McDermott, a UM oral commitment, told Bleacher Report that when he told Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that he wasn’t interested in coming there, Meyer “literally looked like a kid the first time you tell him, ‘No, you can’t do something.’ It looked like he was a baby about to cry. It was so funny. It’s got to be one of the top five reactions of someone ever. My coach was tearing up and had to go in his office and laugh.”

### Homestead's Ermon Lane, the No. 2 receiver in the country and the highest-rated non-committed player that is being pursued by UM, told 247sports.com that he will pick a school next month. Rivals.com has UF as the front-runner, but UM and Alabama remain in play and potentially others.

### Third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins’ first-round pick in last month's draft, is 4 for 15 (.267) with a homer and double in his first week at Single A Greensboro.... Outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, promoted by the Marlins this week, were rated 12th and 39th among all prospects by ESPN at the all-star break. Yelich had hits (three single) in his first three big league at-bats against Colorado Tuesday. According to Elias, Yelich is the first player with at least three hits and at least two RBI in his first major-league game since Toronto's J.P. Arencibia in 2010.

###  Please see the last post for an update on the Heat's pursuit of Greg Oden

Though Miami has its $3.2 million exception, Miami's strong preference is to offer him only the minimum. Whether Pat Riley is willing to exceed the minimum, or offer a multi-year contract, presents an interesting decision in the coming days, with Oden eager to make a decision next week.