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Dolphins Practice: Key Position Battles - August 9th

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Training camp kicks off again today at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie, Florida. Lets take a sneak preview of the key position battles heading into next week.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With some positions locked up, there's still plenty of starting spots for the taking. Heading into the last 9 days of training camp, players will want to impress. Lets check out some of the key position battles going into next week.

Running Back

Lamar Miller returns this season as the de facto starting running back.  He's in a contract year, and will be hoping for a big season. However, it's the third down running back situation, which is not so cut and dry at this stage.  When Jay Ajayi was drafted in the fifth round, many believed he would be the guy to share carries with Miller.

Yet, it's the former second round pick, LaMichael James, that is starting to make some noise in camp. He finished with 41 yards off 9 carries on Friday night, and has been returning kicks.  If Ajayi can prove he can pass protect, he may get the nod.  If he can't, James will be snapping at his heels.

Offensive Guard

Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas are the favorites for the two starting guard spots, but have had struggles standing up to the defensive line.  Backup players Jeff Linkenbach and Dallas Thomas have fared no better.  There's no doubt that Jamil Douglas in particular, may have the most potential.  But can the Dolphins afford to rely on a rookie fourth round guard?

The coaches have preached that this offseason is very much an open competition at guard, and the two best players will start.  However, will the prospect of luring free agent Evan Mathis become too enticing should these players fail to make progress?

Linebacker

Koa Misi was serviceable, but didn't look comfortable at times playing inside linebacker last season. This brings one of the most intriguing story lines to watch out for today and through to next week. How well will Kelvin Sheppard play?  On Friday, he virtually played every snap at the starting inside linebacker position. If he wins the job, it's probable Misi slides back to the strong outside linebacker position, where he will likely compete against Chris McCain. Don't discount Zach Vigil either, pushing for a place on the team. While he may need at least a year of seasoning, he's quietly having a good preseason.  He's a guy you just want to root for, and with some questioning why he wasn't drafted. Jelani Jenkins is certain to start at "Will" linebacker spot.

Cornerback

Who will play at the nickel and the starting cornerback position opposite Brent Grimes?  That's the million dollar question, and the Dolphins need to find two players to do it.

Brice McCain was signed this offseason, with many commentators suggesting he would start at the nickel position. However, so far he seems to be outperforming Jamar Taylor.  Furthermore, with the coaches suggesting they wouldn't have a problem fielding two ‘shorter' corners in McCain and Grimes, he could very well win the starting job.  Zack Bowman, Will Davis, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain round out the competition.  Lippett has been impressing, and could be one for the future, while Bobby McCain is pushing hard to start at nickel.

Kicker

Incumbent starting kicker Caleb Sturgis has had some competition this past week against Andrew Franks, an undrafted rookie from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. Sturgis, in the past two seasons, has had a 76.5% and 78.4% field goal completion percentage - that's 29th and 28th best in the NFL. Clearly the Dolphins need to get better here. Sturgis is the clear favourite, but special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has been insisting it's an open competition.

Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AlexParish89.