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I hope you all had a great holiday weekend - and that you took a few minutes to honor those men and women who gave their lives in the name of freedom.
The Dolphins had a busy holiday weekend, holding a three day mini-camp that wrapped up on Sunday with one practice following back-to-back two-a-days. There is lots of good information all over the place from the camp - including the roundups I posted a couple times this weekend as well as the work put in by the three major South Florida newspapers. So rather than sit here and regurgitate what these reports from the beat writers tell us, I wanted to just highlight some of the things we may have learned from this past mini-camp.
Of course, keep in mind that it was only one mini-camp in May. So who really knows if anything we saw this past weekend actually matters.
With that said, here are five things we may have learned about the Dolphins, as we sit here on June 1:
1. Misi has a real chance to start; Wake has work to do
It was surprising on Friday to learn that Dolphins' second round pick Koa Misi was working with the starters. But we found out that wasn't a one-time thing. Misi worked as the starting strong side outside linebacker for most of the camp. Tony Sparano admits he's purposely throwing Misi into the deep end to see if he sinks or if he swims. Misi admits that working with the starters "is pushing me even more to learn my plays." And I wouldn't be shocked at all to see Misi starting when week one rolls around and the Dolphins travel up to Buffalo.
Meanwhile, Cameron Wake spent his camp assuming a similar role to what he had last season - a situational pass rusher in nickel and dime packages. While many, including myself, are pinning their weak side outside linebacker hopes to Wake's ability to win the starting job, it's looking like this coaching staff will give Charlie Anderson every opportunity to win the job. Now I'm not saying Tony Sparano and Mike Nolan should just hand Wake the job. What I am saying is that it's starting to become clear that Wake has a lot of work to do between now and September if he wants to take the starting job away from Anderson.
2. The interior offensive line will be a top training camp battle
Jake Long and Vernon Carey are set in stone as the starting tackles. But the rest of the offensive line is in flux and the situation will likely be very fluid as the coaches look to mix and match to find the best three guys to man the starting guard an center spots.
At center, Jake Grove and Joe Berger will battle it out as Grove looks to win back the starting job he lost when he suffered an ankle injury. If he's healthy, Grove is the better player. But he's also more expensive. Will he need to greatly out play Berger to win the job and keep his roster spot despite his large salary?
The guard spots remain an even bigger battle. One practice John Jerry and Richie Incognito are the starters. Next practice Cory Proctor and Donald Thomas are starters. Making it even more confusing, Thomas was working as a starting left guard at OTAs two weeks ago before the Dolphins signed Proctor and moved Thomas back to right guard to battle with Incognito.
Throw in Nate Garner, who is liked very much by this staff but out until training camp after undergoing a procedure on his foot, and the battle for not just the starting jobs but for roster spots will be hotly contested come August.
3. Clemons has the early lead
The free safety position has been highly scrutinized by fans and media alike. With O.J. Atogwe now in play, having become a free agent at midnight, the Dolphins could make a play for the soon to be highly paid safety from St. Louis. But as it stands now, it seems like second-year safety Chris Clemons has the upper hand as the in-house option as starting free safety.
Clemons worked as the starter all mini-camp long and even had moments where he looked like he could be the answer. He picked off Chad Henne on Friday by making a great read and break on the ball. He's reportedly been more vocal communicating in the defensive backfield. And he has the raw athleticism you want in a free safety.
But it's early. So we can't rule out rookie Reshad Jones or veteran Tyrone Culver, who is currently working as Yeremiah Bell's backup at strong safety. Neither, though, had too much written about them. So we don't really have any idea how they performed this past weekend.
4. Allen not ready to challenge for starting job
Despite recovering from a torn ACL, cornerback Will Allen told the media he would be a starter by the time the season came around. But this mini-camp showed just how far Allen still has to come before seriously competing with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith for a starting job.
Allen has historically been really good - borderline dominant, depending on who you ask - in past mini-camps and training camps with the Dolphins. But Allen reportedly didn't look like himself. Omar Kelly said Allen "looked ordinary" in his limited action this past weekend. And let's be honest - ordinary is not going to be enough to unseat either of the two second-year corners who possess loads of potential and will only get better with more playing time. I've been of the belief that Allen has to look like he's clearly better than either of the two if the Dolphins are going to reduce the playing time of either Davis or Smith. So far, it seems like Allen has some work to do in his recovery. Luckily for him, training camp is still about two months away.
5. Starks should make seamless transition to new role
With Jason Ferguson out for the first eight games of 2010 and Paul Soliai an inconsistent player (to say the least), the Dolphins needed to fill that massive void at nose tackle. It was big news when Jeff Ireland announced Randy Starks would be making the transition to nose tackle a year after having a near Pro Bowl season as a defensive end in Miami's 3-4 defense. But the very early returns are in and the results are encouraging.
Tony Sparano said that Starks had no problem agreeing to the position change. And after this past weekend's mini-camp, Starks might very well have no problem adjusting to the position change. His speed and strength are expected to translate well to playing the nose. Sparano said he's "been impressed with what he’s done with no pads on. I’ve already seen what he’s done with pads on, so I don’t really worry about that," adding that Starks has already gotten so much better in the brief time he's been working at the position.
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