The Miami Dolphins released their first depth chart of the season yesterday, and there were a few surpsises on the chart such as Vonate Davis, the 2009 first round pick and top cornerback on the team the last few years, finding himself behind Richard Marshall for the starting position opposite Sean Smith.
And, while not a surprise at this point, David Garrard was listed as the starting quarterback ahead of Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill.
"I guess it's frustrating a bit," Moore said of his position on the depth chart following this morning's practice, "but I'm not overly concerned that it's going to wreck my performance or wreck my play from here on out."
But, the position of Davis made the most people turn their heads. Yesterday, we looked at Omar Kelly's defense of Davis, and how Kelly feels that the apparent demotion is anything but an actual demotion. Today, the coaches seem to be saying the demotion of Davis is exactly that.
"We're looking for guys that love the game and want to be good," head coach Joe Philbin stated after practice. "And if you have to play tricks with this depth chart today, this guy tomorrow, I think at the end of the day that's probably not the type of player that's going to fit here long term."
With Philbin stating that the coaches do not, and have not, played games with the depth chart just to motivate players, Davis will have to step up his play if he wants to return to the starting lineup. Otherwise, the position is Marshall's to lose. And, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's assessment of Marshall, it may not be a position he is going to give up.
"At this point he's been more consistent in practice, he's made more plays. But there's a long way to go in terms of how this thing is going to work out.
"Richard is one of the most competitive guys I've been around," Coyle continued. "He's got a tremendous focus. He battles each and every play, and takes tremendous pride in his 1-on-1 ability to win the down each and every down. There's not a snap that he's out here where he's not giving everything he's got and fighting and scratching to win. He's got exceptional quickness, short-area quickness to be able to cover start and stop, change directions. Those things have really shown up in camp."
Davis, clearly, still has time to work on his roster spot, just like Brian Hartline and Roberto Wallace, two wide receivers lower on the depth chart than would have been expected, but it's not going to be an easy climb. Currently, the Dolphins seem comfortable to use Davis as the outside corner in the nickel package, with Marshall moving inside. If nothing changes, that still would mean Davis will see plenty of playing time in 2012.
But, it won't be as a starter.