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Training Camp Battles
Updated 07/03/02

Three weeks after the 4th comes to a conclusion and mini-camps are complete, the pads will finally come on.  Thatís right.  Training camp.  Hitting.  Finally.  And before we can even catch our breath, pre-season games will kick off shortly thereafter.  What are you looking for in late July and throughout August?  Iíll be keeping a close eye on the following developments:

1)     Offensive Line Shakeup.  The competition on this unit may be more than just Leon Searcy and Todd Perry battling for the RG position.  Rumors are swirling that if Perry and Smith falter in training camp, mammoth Jamie Nails could start at LG with Dixon assigned the role of Fiedlerís blindside protecter.  Keep an eye on Seth McKinney, a player whom Wannstedt and Spielman believe is one of the most technically sound and ready-to-play lineman to come out of the draft.  This selection came after the Dolphins tried to lure Olin Kreutz away from the Bears to replace Ruddy.  Projected OL: Smith, Dixon, Ruddy, Searcy, Wade

2)      James McKnight vs. Oronde Gadsden.  This competition is much more important than a lot of people believe because Norv Turner does not impliment a lot of multiple WR sets.  If McKnight holds onto the ball tighter than he did at any point last season, he should win this competition fairly easily.  Projected Winner: McKnight    

3)      Tight End.  Jed Weaver, Randy McMichael, and Ed Perry (LS) appear to be locks, but all three players have obvious weaknesses.  Alonzo Mayes, an intriguing possibility as a two-way TE, could either start opening weekend or end up on the waiver wire.  He has the most potential of any TE on the roster, but hasnít endeared himself with the coaching staff because of repeated injuries and weight problems.  If Mayes falters, look for the Shawn Draper experiment to continue.  Projected Winner: Weaver (McMichael, Draper, Perry)

4)      Nickel Back.  Wannstedt, like his predecessor Jimmy Johnson, believes in having 4 or 5 quality CBs on the roster, which always makes for an interesting pre-season competition.  Jamar Fletcher is expected to be much better with a season under his belt.  He has worked hard this offseason, but a disappointing performance in a recent mini-camp may bring Terrell Buckley into the picture.  Buckley, at the very least, will add great depth to the position.  Itís safe to call Fletcher a bust if Buckley wins this competition.  Ray Green has been the talk of mini-camp with his size (6-3, 195) and athleticism.  5th rounder Omare Lowe may be destined for the practice squad if he canít crack the top 5.    Projected Winner: Fletcher

5)      Returners.  It seems like every year the Dolphins are trying to replace Brock Marion on kickoffs and Jeff Ogden on punts.  This year, it may finally happen.  Sam Simmons, a 5th round draftee, will be given every opportunity to be the top KR and PR.  Also figuring into the equation is Ogden, Marion, Robert Baker, Dedric Ward, Travis Minor, and possibly Jamar Fletcher.  Projected Winners: Minor and Marion (KR), Ward (PR)

6)      Backup OL.  Assuming Smith, Dixon, Ruddy, Searcy, and Wade head into the season as starters, the competition for the backup jobs will be fierce.  McKinney is a lock because of his 3rd round status and Nails should make it unless he takes too many trips to the local Mickey Dís.  It is extremely possible, if not probable, that both Spriggs and Perry will get the axe in favor of younger players.  Spriggs has reportedly struggles coming off a torn ACL and Jamie Nails could oust Perry.  If this happens, look for RT Anthony Cesario and C/G Troy Andrew to secure the final roster spots.  Projected Winners: McKinney, Nails, Cesario, Andrew

7)      Backup DL.  Taylor, Bowens, Chester, and Gardener are entrenched as starters with Burnett, Haley, and D. Bowens solidified in the rotation.  The team undoubtedly will carry more than 7, so who makes it?  Earnest Grant and Adewale Ogunleye have the edge, but keep an eye on Henry Taylor, a late season pickup.  Donít be surprised if Grant is let go; he has been unable to use his massive frame to his advantage thus far.  Projected Winners: Burnett, Bowens, Haley, Ogunleye, Taylor

8)      Backup RB.  Williams is the undisputed starter with Minor filling in on 3rd-and-long.  Robert Edwards, who is trying to make a Garrison Hearst-esque comeback, will battle rookie Leonard Henry for the final RB spot.  Look for Henry to break our hearts and permanently end Edwardsí comeback attempt.  Projected Winner: Henry

9)      #3 QB.  The decision to end the Cade McNown experiment shows a great deal of faith in undrafted rookies Tim Levcik and Zak Kustok.  Give the edge to Levick, who has great upside at 6-6, 240 pounds.  Projected Winner: Levcik

10)  Is there a Rudy?  Every year it seems like one ďwhoís that?Ē player overcomes all the adversity to secure a roster spot.  It was Troy Andrew last season and Trent Gamble the year before.  If you are looking for one this year, keep an eye on LB Justin Seaverns, a small but tough LB from Appalachain St.  

Locks (38)
QB: Fiedler, Lucas

RB: Williams, Minor, Konrad, Dyer

WR: Chambers, McKnight, Gadsden, Ward

TE:  Weaver, Perry

OL: Smith, Dixon, Ruddy, Searcy, Wade, McKinney

DL: Taylor, Chester, Bowens, Gardener, Burnett, Bowens, Haley

LB: Thomas, Rodgers, Greenwood, Hendricks, Russell, Galyon

CB: Madison, Surtain, Marion, Freeman, Fletcher

K/P: Mare, Royals

Probable (12)
QB: Levcik

RB: ---------

WR: ---------

TE: McMichael, Mayes

OL: Spriggs, Nails

DL: Grant, Ogunleye

LB: ---------

DB: Buckley, Green, Wooden, Gamble

Questionable (9)
QB: ----------

RB: Edwards, Henry

WR: Ogden, Simmons

TE: -----------

OL: Perry, Cesario, Andrew

DL: ----------

LB: ----------

DB: Lowe, McGarrahan

Doubtful (5)
QB: Kustok

RB: ----------

WR: Baker

TE: Draper

OL: Bundren

DL: Taylor

LB: -----------

DB: -----------

Little/No Chance (26)
QB: Kustok

RB: Westbrooks, Barnes

WR: Johnson, Sanford, Daniels, Hooks, Terry, Getherall

TE: ------------

OL: Green, Jerman, Mitchell

DL: Wallace, Romero, Atkins, Kelly

LB: Seaverns, Symonette, Rollins, Wadley

DB: Letheridge, Shields, Brown, Donaldson

K/P: Pisetsky, Roussel  

Projected 53-man roster
QB: Fiedler, Lucas, Levcik

RB: Williams, Minor, Henry

FB: Konrad, Dyer

WR: Chambers, McKnight, Gadsden, Ward, Simmons, Ogden

TE: Weaver, Draper, McMichael

OL: Smith, Dixon, Ruddy, Searcy, Wade, Nails, McKinney, Andrew, Cesario

DL: Taylor, Bowens, Chester, Gardener, Haley, Burnett, D. Bowens, Ogunleye

LB: Thomas, Rodgers, Greenwood, Hendricks, Russell, Galyon

CB: Madison, Surtain, Fletcher, Buckley, Green, Lowe

S: Marion, Freeman, Wooden, Gamble

K/P: Mare, Royals

 LS: Perry

Cuts: QB Zak Kustok, RB Robert Edwards, WR Jeff Ogden, TE Alonzo Mayes, G Todd Perry, OT Marcus Spriggs, DT Earnest Grant, S Scott McGarrahan, S Scott Shields.  

All eyes will be on the competitions at WR, TE, and OL in the weeks prior to Labor Day.  However, the competition I always get a kick out of watching is for the other 10 obtainable roster spots.  I promise myself every year that I will not watch the 4th quarter of pre-season games; itís like watching a drunken father yell at his child for failing to get straight Aís.  How about the Damon Savageís and Quinton Spotwoodís of years past who are one dropped pass away from bagging groceries?  As the final 53-man roster is made, itíd really bring a smile to face to see all 5 of our draft picks make the team.  If a late rounder simply makes your team or practice squad with the potential to get better, it was a worthwhile selection.