Tracking the Position Battles

RB Lamar Miller

The Dolphins' starting lineup appears set in most places as they head into their first preseason game, but there still are some positions up for grabs. While there is still plenty of time before the Sept. 8 season opener at Cleveland, it's still not too early to have formed opinions on how those battles shape up, particularly after the intrasquad scrimmage on Monday night.

Let's revisit the position battles as we presented them in the training camp preview issue of the Dolphin Digest magazine (to subscribe, call 1-800-932-4557) and examine what has transpired so far this summer.

HALFBACK

The contenders: Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas

Long shot: Mike Gillislee

2012 opening-day starter: Reggie Bush

Battle update: Miller and Thomas both have had their moments so far in training camp, and so have Gillislee and Jonas Gray, looking to bounce back after spending all of rookie season on the sideline while he continued his recovery from a torn ACL. The telling sign here is that Miller has pretty much lined up with the first-team offense the entire camp. At this point, it appears it's his job to lose.

RIGHT GUARD

The contenders: John Jerry, Lance Louis

Long shot: Nate Garner

2012 opening-day starter: John Jerry

Battle update: This has been the most volatile position in training camp, and that's because of injuries. Jerry has been sidelined since last Wednesday because of an injury and Louis still is working his way back into form after sustaining a torn ACL last November. Louis has done virtually nothing in team drills, so he hasn't had the chance to take control of the position. Instead, the Dolphins have used Josh Samuda, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey in that spot at different times. Ideally, the Dolphins would like to keep Pouncey and Incognito where they lined up last year, but they also want the best starting five on the field. Garner should have a spot on the team because of his incredible versatility, but he doesn't seem to be a factor in the battle for the starting job. While there's been a lot of media speculation about the Dolphins making a drastic move here, the expectation remains that either Jerry or Louis will start at this spot. They just have to get themselves back at 100 percent.

DEFENSIVE END

The contenders: Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan, Jared Odrick

Long shot: Derrick Shelby

2012 opening-day starter: Jared Odrick

Battle update: Just like halfback, it appears another former University of Miami player has a good grip on this spot. In this case, it's Vernon, who has done nothing but drawn rave reviews and made plays. He shined in the scrimmage. Jordan has shown flashes of his pass-rushing ability already, but he still figures to be a situational player as a rookie — just like GM Jeff Ireland suggested right after the Dolphins drafted Jordan. As for Odrick, it sure appears his move from defensive end to defensive tackle wasn't just a spring experiment. As I've indicated many times before, the move makes sense because Odrick is better suited for the inside, even though he did have a solid season as a 4-3 defensive end in 2012.

CORNERBACK

The contenders: Richard Marshall, Dimitri Patterson, Nolan Carroll

Long shot: Will Davis, Jamar Taylor

2012 opening-day starter: Richard Marshall

Battle update: This is a really good battle. Richard Marshall opened camp getting reps with the first team in the base defense, but he has been supplanted in that role by Patterson, who simply has looked more impressive early in camp. Remember that Patterson came to the Dolphins late last season with plenty of NFL starting experience, so this shouldn't be a shock. While Joe Philbin continues to be complimentary of Nolan Carroll, it doesn't appear he has much of a shot to start. The same goes for the two draft picks, especially since Taylor has been sidelined for a week. At this point, it looks like Patterson will join Brent Grimes as a starting corner, but Marshall will get plenty of action as the nickel back regardless.

KICKER

The contenders: Dan Carpenter, Caleb Sturgis

Long shot: None

2012 opening-day starter: Dan Carpenter

Battle update: It's been a roller coaster at this position since players reported for camp. The assumption was that Sturgis came in with a leg up — pardon the pun — because of his lower salary and his draft status, but he was shaky in the early days of camp and then got sidelined by a leg injury. Carpenter had a bad first day, but bounced back and seemingly put himself in control of the battle with several good days of practice. Then came the scrimmage Monday night when Carpenter missed two of his three field goal attempts from 49 or 50 yards, so now we're almost back to square one. The bottom line here is the Dolphins would like to see either one, anyone, start making field goals on a consistent basis before September. From this vantage point, Sturgis remains the prediction barring his injury lingering.

And here's a new battle that appears to have developed:

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

The contenders: Randy Starks, Jared Odrick

Long shot: None

2012 opening-day starter: Randy Starks

Battle update: When Odrick first started taking snaps at defensive tackle in the spring, he lined up with the first-team defense because Starks was absent from the voluntary OTAs as a show of displeasure over his contract situation. Since Starks has returned, first in the mandatory June minicamp and now in training camp, the Dolphins have rotated Starks, Odrick and Paul Soliai with the first-team defense. When the Dolphins had to release a depth chart in advance of Sunday's preseason opener against Dallas, Soliai was listed as a starter at one starting defensive tackle, while Starks and Odrick were listed together at the other spot. This one is difficult to predict, but the bottom line is that all three defensive tackles will be splitting snaps during the regular season.

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