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Training Camp Positional Preview: Wide Receiver

Let's continue on with our positional previews by turning our attention to the wide receivers.

Chris Chambers: 5'11, 210, 7th year
What a 7 years it has been for Chris Chambers. He's had many ups and downs. Dolphin fans constantly argue about whether or not he is a true #1 receiver or if he's just going to end up being a career underachiever. But let's look at what we do know. First and foremost, he's got good speed and acceleration, and an unreal jumping ability. He also has a knack for making simply unbelievable catches. However, we all know how he tends to drop the easy passes. His route running is also questioned at times, as he seems to just disappear for long stretches of time during a game.

This year is going to be his make-or-break season. For the first time in his career, he'll have a very accurate quarterback throwing to him. He also should benefit from Cam Cameron and his offensive system. Chambers is likely to line up all over the field, from outside to in the slot. Cameron also lieks using formation shifts at the line of scrimmage, which will mean Chambers could be on the favorable side of some mismatches this season. All in all, he's the undeniable #1 receiver of this team. Whether he deserves to be or not is something we'll likely learn in the 1007 season.

Marty Booker: 6'0, 210, 9th year
It wasn't known if Booker was going to make it to camp with Miami this year, as he was involved in some trade talks at various times during the offseason. But he's still here, and I am very happy he is. If nothing else, Booker has been a model of consistency while in Miami. The good sign is that, each year, his numbers have improved just a little bit. Last year, he led the Dolphins with 6 receiving TDs. He also had a yards per reception average of 13.6 and had 3 100 yard games, leading the team in both of those categories.

However, in Cam's system, Booker isn't exactly going to flourish. His system requires speed, something Booker lacks. One could hope, however, that the speed of Chambers and Ted Ginn could open up the middle of the field for some underneath routes for Booker. And despite his lack of speed, Booker has very reliable hands and tends to get open on 3rd downs more times than not, which means he's still a valuable part of the passing game.

Derek Hagan: 6'2, 203, 2nd year
Hagan is primed for a breakout season this year. Last year, he suffered through some dropped balls and only had 21 catches for 221 yards. Hagan also lacks that "extra gear." However, he does have some speed and he runs good routes and can create seperation. If only he can consistently catch the ball.

Luckily, all reports out of the mini-camps were that Hagan was catching everything being thrown to him, which is a very good sign. He has the makings of a very good #2 receiver and this year will go a long way towards developing into that role. In training camp, it will be interesting to see where Hagan lines up. It's likely that he'll line up on the outside, with Chambers moving to the slot in 3-receiver sets. But a lot also depends on the development of the team's first round pick.

Ted Ginn Jr.: 5'11, 178, rookie
Speaking of our first round pick, let's talk a little bit about him. We all know that he's likely to be the team's return man and will provide some explosiveness in the return game that Dolphin fans have never seen before. However, he will also make an impact at WR. This I guarantee.

First of all, let's forget about the ankle injury, as it seems as though he's going to be ready to go once he gets signed and into camp. And no, he isn't the most polished receiver you'll ever see coming out of college. But he's got solid, but not great, hands and truely elite, world-class speed. Oh, and let's not forget about his quickness and the fact that he could possibly be the most elusive runner to bring down in the open field. Put all that together, and you have a serious weapon once he develops. Until then, he'll still have a great impact on the passing game because defenses are still going to have to account for his speed. This will mean less double coverages on Chambers and more room underneath for the other guys to work with. In camp, the key thing to watch with Ginn will be how he is developing as a route runner and where he is being lined up on the field.

P.K. Sam: 6'3, 210, 2nd year
P.K. Sam is an intriguing prospect. He was drafted in the 5th round by New England out of Florida State in 2004. That season, Sam saw action in 2 games but didn't make any receptions. He then suffered a groin injury and was placed on Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season. Then in 2005, Sam battled through "undisclosed" injuries in training camp and was released by the Patriots. He tried out for the Texans but didn't sign and was added to the Patriots' practice squad, which is where he spent all of 2005. In 2006, Sam signed a deal with the Bengals. In the final preseason game, Sam caught 2 passes for 23 yards. He was waived a few days later. Then in October of the same year, following a work out with St. Louis, it was Miami who signed him and placed him on the team's practice squad.

In 2007, the Dolphins re-signed him and allocated him to NFL Europa, where he could get some experience and work on his game. And boy, has he gotten experience. Sam ended the year 5th in NFLE in receptions with 32, 4th in yards with 529, and 4th in receiving TDs with 3. And he's done that despite having Cody Pickett as his QB. Now, I'm aware that these numbers are against sub-par defensive players, but I think it shows that if Sam can just stay healthy, he could very well blossom into a legit 4th or 5th WR in the NFL. At 6'3, he's the kind of WR the Dolphins need to improve their red zone offense, specifically.

David Sutton: 6'6, 222, rookie
Speaking of good size and the kind of player Miami needs in their passing game, allow me to introduce David Sutton. He's 6'6 and has good speed. He comes out of UTEP, where in 2 years, he had just 6 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Not very big numbers. But he's a guy they are bringing into camp as a project. He spent his first year of college at Lincoln University and then his second at Compton Community College before heading to UTEP. He never played football until he arrived at Lincoln. So he's only played this sport for just 4 years.

So saying he's a "raw" prospect is probably an understatement. However, he was fairly impressive at the mini-camps. He's got good hands and now needs to work on his route running. All in all, he's a good prospect that, if he doesn't make the squad, is certainly a candidate for the practice squad.

Az-Zahir Hakim: 5'10, 190, 10th year
Az Hakim is a 10 year veteran who got his start as part of the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams teams that got to 2 Super Bowls, winning one. Though he didn't miss all of last season, he only saw action in Detroit's first 6 games of the season. He was then cut on October 30, 2006. Head coach Rod Marinelli said at the time that it was "a football move." He had just 17 catches for 147 yards and no touchdowns prior to being cut.

For his career, though, Hakim has remained relatively healthy. He possesses game-changing speed and quickness. He is also the most experienced out of all the WRs going for that final roster spot. He has played in 110 games, accumulating 316 catches for 4,191 yards and 28 touchdowns. However, he only has 12 career receptions of 40 or more yards and has an average yards per reception of just 13.3, which doesn't exactly scream play-maker. His experience, of course, could be valuable, especially with the Dolphins having a rookie WR and a second year WR as their potential 3rd and 4th receivers.

Kerry Reed: 6'1, 201, rookie
Reed is a local boy, attending high school in Homestead, Florida. He's 6'1, 201 and doesn't possess great speed. He spent his last 2 years at Michigan State after transferring from a community college. In those 2 years at MSU, he had 95 catches for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's got good hands, but is basically unremarkable.

Michael Malone: 6'3, 210, rookie
Malone is the son of former NBA star center Moses Malone. Michael Malone played his college ball at Sam Houston State, where in two seasons with them, he totaled 38 catches for 446 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has good speed for his size but also had some drop issues at school.

My Take
I think this is going to be one of the more fun competitions to keep an eye on. I think the top 4 receivers are set, but the fifth one is anybody's guess. Like I said, Sutton is raw but has a ton of upside. Hakim is the speedy receiver with a lot of experience. Sam is the "hot" name following a solid campaign in NFL Europa. I think it comes down to those 3, with it being really too close to call. If you ask me, this is the second best position battle to watch during camp. May the best man win.

Predicted Depth Chart

1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
WR Chris Chambers Ted Ginn Az-Zahir Hakim
WR Marty Booker Derek Hagan