As we discussed last night, the Miami Dolphins begin their first full organized team activity, aka OTA, today. These practices will serve as the chance for the coaching staff to begin installing the new offensive and defensive systems that, up until now, were primarily discussed in classroom type settings. But that's not all these OTAs will start.
The Dolphins will begin the process of working out some highly visible position battles. While these battles won't be settled any time soon, it's the speculation and the swinging of opinions based on every play from the OTAs that will fuel fans from now until the start of training camp and the preseason.
So, what are the top position battles for the Dolphins this offseason? I'm glad you asked, because that's what this article is about (in case the title didn't give it away).
1. Quarterback. Is there any other place to start for the Dolphins this offseason? Miami is coming off their third straight losing season, and had a rocky offseason with fan protests, mass media crucifying every move of the team, and unlimited questions surrounding the future of the position once held by Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Bob Griese. The team addressed those questions by letting former second round pick Chad Henne head north to the Jacksonville Jaguars, seemingly handing the starters role to Matt Moore. The team then signed former Jaguars Pro Bowl quarterback David Garrard to compete with Moore for the position. After an offseason that saw big names Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn change teams, the signing of Garrard once again sent an already irate fanbase into a frenzy. But, owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland, and new head coach Joe Philbin stayed the course, and wound up drafting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick. Now the team has to settle on a starter from the three men. This will be one of the most watched position battles in the NFL, not just in Miami. Can Tannehill convince the coaching staff to start him from Week 1? Is Moore the starter, for now? Can Garrard sneak in and grab the job?
2. Safety. Maybe this isn't so much a position battle as a "who wants the job?" The Dolphins released veteran starter, and team captain, Yeremiah Bell, adding a big hole to the strong safety position. Now, the team will now look to some young players to fill the role at the back of the secondary. Currently, the team has Reshad Jones, Tyrell Johnson, Anderson Russell, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, and Tyrone Culver to battle for the starters roles at both the free safety and strong safety positions. It will be interesting to see who emerges from the mess to claim the position as their own.
3. Running Back. Reggie Bush is the starter for the Dolphins, but who comes after that. The team has seven running backs on the roster right now, and all of them provide something to the offense. Will sophomore Daniel Thomas come back strong after an injury filled rookie season? Will rookie Lamar Miller show his first round potential despite being a fourth round pick? Will Steve Slaton claim his role as a third down power back/pass blocker? Can Jerome Messam impress enough, despite a second knee surgery since the end of the CFL season, to claim a roster spot? Can Marcus Thigpen or Jonas Gray surprise from the end of the depth chart and make a case to stick around in Miami for a while? The log jam has to work itself out in some way this offseason. The OTAs will start that process.
4. Wide Receivers. The Dolphins are weak at wide out. It's no surprise to anyone. After trading away alpha receiver, and 2012 Pro Bowl MVP, Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins are looking at a starting pair of Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Sitting behind those two are Legedu Naanee, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Rishard Matthews, Jeff Fuller, Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, B.J. Cunningham, Chris Hogan, and Derek Moye. With 12 players on the roster, and probably 6 positions on the final 53-man for receivers, it will be important for every one of these guys to impress every change they get.
5. Right Tackle. There was probably not a bigger hole on the 2011 Miami Dolphins roster than the Marc Colombo slot. Now, in 2012, Colombo has returned to Dallas and retired, and the Dolphins have drafted Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin to come in and provide an anchor opposite Jake Long on the line. But, it's not necessarily Martin's position. Coming of injured reserve, Lydon Murtha is looking to continue the impressive performance he had last preseason in replacing the injured Jake Long. The battle between Murtha and Martin will be a good one to watch this preseason - once Martin finishes classes on June 7 at Stanford and can report to the Dolphins for the OTAs.
What position battle did I miss? Which one are you going to watch the most intently? Is it all about the QB, or is something else out there we should watch?