Players were off on Tuesday — a day before the Dolphins conduct their final two open training camp practices of the 2013 season on Wednesday and Thursday.
The team has been together for over three weeks now and two preseason games are already in the books. Consequently, the starting lineup is beginning to come into focus.
But there are still several positions where the winner of an open competition has yet to be determined. Let’s go through the roster and look at those positions in order to project who would get the start if the opener in Cleveland was today.
Contenders: Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas
The Dolphins apparently want everyone to believe Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are in an open competition to become the offense’s feature back.
I don’t buy it.
Miami was willing to move on from Reggie Bush during the offseason because they believed Miller could be an upgrade. They couldn’t have reasonably believed Daniel Thomas would be that upgrade given he was outplayed by Bush over the past two seasons.
Besides, if this was an actual battle the Dolphins would be giving both Miller and Thomas more of workload during the exhibition games to see who comes out on top.
Miller could certainly be replaced with poor performances early on in the season, but for now, it’s his job to lose.
Contenders: Jorvorskie Lane and Evan Rodriguez
The Dolphins have demoted Jorvorskie Lane to the second team and replaced him with former Chicago Bear Evan Rodriguez. Rodriguez has appeared to be a better receiving option out of the backfield and has experience playing more an H-back role similar to that of Charles Clay’s part in Miami’s offense.
It’s Clay who could have the biggest say in whether or not Rodriguez makes the team as the new number one fullback. Because there’s nothing stopping the Dolphins from phasing out a pure fullback altogether, as Clay has spent time there with the first team during the team’s first two preseason games.
Starter: Both are cut
Contenders: John Jerry, Lance Louis, Nate Garner and Josh Samuda
The Dolphins have tried out as many as seven different players at right guard during training camp. The carousel began when incumbent starter John Jerry was sidelined after having his left knee scoped.
There’s hope Jerry will be available for the start of the regular season, but the Dolphins are taking measures to find an adequate starter in case he’s not.
Of the contenders mentioned above, it’s probably safe to say Josh Samuda isn’t being considered anymore. Samuda was exposed in Jacksonville as a huge liability in pass pro and can’t be trusted with a starting job.
Lance Louis, meanwhile, was signed in March to compete for a starting spot, but so far he hasn’t worked off enough rust from last season’s ACL tear to be given a shot with the first team. At this point, it’s unclear if he’ll ever get that opportunity.
Nate Garner is the player currently working as the starting right guard and should get a good long look there against the Texans on Saturday night. If he impresses, there’s no stopping him from making this temporary role a permanent one — even when Jerry returns.
RIGHT DEFENSIVE END
Contenders: Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan
In a competition that features two young, promising pass rushers, Oliver Vernon has held the upper hand all training camp as first-round pick Dion Jordan has struggled to stay healthy.
It’s unlikely that anyone other than Vernon will be in the starting lineup come Week 1 in Cleveland. But that position will be far from secure with a potential phenom nipping at his heels.
If Jordan finally puts his shoulder issues in the rear-view mirror and can prove that he’s capable of setting the edge on early downs, the Dolphins will be tempted to start him at right defensive end at some point this season. Especially, if he can live up to his potential as a high-impact pass rusher.
Contenders: Jared Odrick and Randy Starks
What figured to be one of the most intriguing position battles of the preseason, which features a former Pro Bowler who is being paid $8.5 million to play under the franchise tag this season squaring off against a former first-round pick, has been put on the back burner.
Randy Starks has been sidelined with an undisclosed leg injury and Jared Odrick has assumed all first-team work. It’s unclear how long Starks will be held out of practice and games, but when he returns, he’ll likely return as a backup — a very expensive backup at that.
But there won’t be any true backups when it comes to Miami’s three-man rotation at defensive tackle. Odrick, Starks and Paul Soliai will all see their fair share of snaps, regardless of which two actually get the start.
Contenders: Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson
Once considered to be two potential cuts, Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson are now neck and neck in the competition for the starting cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes.
Patterson has been the better of the two in practice, breaking up several passes and getting beat less frequently in coverage, but Marshall got the start in the team’s first two exhibition games.
Marshall was originally signed by the Dolphins in the offseason of 2012 to play the nickel spot, so Patterson’s emergence on the boundary could kill two birds with one stone for Kevin Coyle’s defense. But if the season started today, Marshall would still likely get the nod.
Patterson is off to a good start, but he still has some work to do in order to earn the coaching staff’s trust. If Marshall remains the starter, he could move inside to the nickel on obvious passing downs, which would open up a boundary spot for Patterson to play in a limited role.
Contenders: Dan Carpenter and Caleb Sturgis
After going two-for-two on field goal attempts in Jacksonville — including a made 58-yard try — and booming his kickoffs deep into the end zone, it appears rookie Caleb Sturgis has this competition all wrapped up.
The Dolphins haven’t let go of Dan Carpenter yet, though, as they perhaps hold out hope that a team who is desperate for an experienced kicker will offer a late-round draft pick for his services.
As unlikely of a scenario as that may be, there’s probably a better chance of Carpenter being traded then named the starting kicker in Miami at this point.