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Handful of starting jobs still wide open

The Dolphins begin their fourth week of training camp and will prepare for their third preseason game this week but there are still issues as fundamental as picking starting personnel at a handful of positions that need settling.

The club has yet to fully decide on a starting running back, starting right guard, starting defensive tackle next to Paul Soliai, starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, and perhaps even starting defensive end opposite Cameron Wake.

At running back, it's obvious Lamar Miller is the presumed starter but he hasn't exactly wowed yet, despite enormous potential to do so. The fact is he had the tough moment fumbling against Dallas and didn't really do much in carrying two times for 6 yards against Jacksonville.

Daniel Thomas, who has been given a smaller share of first-team snaps in practice, has avoided the turnover but also hasn't impressed in two games. Thus, we've got a no-decision so far.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman today said the competition is "pretty close."

At right guard, it seemed as if Josh Samuda had established himself as the favorite once John Jerry went down with a knee injury. Multiple players inlcuding Samuda were tried as part of the guard competition. But Samuda, who has started two games at the position, struggled against Jacksonville, giving up a sack and showing poor technique on another play. So he regressed somewhat.

That means the job is wide open again. Coach Joe Philbin said today that Nate Garner is "absolutely in the competition" for the starting job. Lance Louis has a chance as well, although he has yet to play in the preseason despite practicing. Louis is recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Best case scenario for the Dolphins is Jerry gets back to work this week and plays in two weeks. And he's in shape. And plays well.

Yeah, all that could happen.

Oh boy.

The kicking job is obviously open. Rookie Caleb Sturgis was brought in to replace veteran Dan Carpenter and after getting off to a slow start, has picked things up lately. He connected on a 58 yard field goal against Jacksonville, booted every one of his six kickoffs into the end zone and got four touchbacks for the trouble.

Message sent.

Do not be surprised if the Dolphins start shopping the loser of this competition in trade as both are actually kicking well this camp.

The cornerback job opposite Brent Grimes is being decided between Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson. Want a darkhorse?

Rookie Will Davis continues to make plays and although he is "inconsistent," according to coaches. He is seemingly always around the ball. He had an interception against Jacksonville and another against Dallas. Yes, he also had a PI against Dallas in the end zone, but picks are valuable commodities.

The competition for a starting job between Randy Starks and Jared Odrick was supposed to be a slugfest. Starks, however, has been battling a knee injury for over a week so he's not been in the battle. Odrick is the guy right now but if Starks gets back this week or next, the competition will resume.

Either way, the Dolphins plan to alternate DTs. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has said he has two starters at that position although it is obvious only one player plays the opening snap. The two players are good at different things so the job may alternate depending on the offense they face.

Everyone assumes the left defensive end job belongs to Olivier Vernon. Well, yes, he's making it hard to think otherwise. He's practicing well and there's nothing about his play against Jacksonville (only game he's been in) that suggested regression.

But ...

Rookie Dion Jordan is being groomed for that spot. The team wants him pushing Vernon. The team wants him to be good enough to be a three-down player. If he doesn't win the job, well, that's life and he can be used as a passing-down specialist. But that decision has not been made yet.

So that job, like the others, is still open.