Winning competitions is the name of the game in the NFL, and the 2016 Miami Dolphins training camp will be no different. This is the second installment of the "Training Camp Battle" series, and it will look at players that will be vying for starting positions. I will provide links to the older installments as we move forward.
puff-puff-pass round table discussion involves, by my estimation, an extremely close battle for WR #3. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker seem like locks to have the most targets among WR's. If we stay in a 3-wide set as our base, or at least utilize this personnel for a majority of snaps, then the competition between Leonte Carroo and Kenny Stills becomes pivotal. I think for this particular battle, it's not as important who starts, but rather who plays the most snaps over the course of the 2016 NFL season.
Why Leonte Carroo Will Win:
The trade of a future 3rd and 4th round pick to select a player at a position of relative strength left some Dolphins fans scratching their butts. Errrr, heads. Multiple sources have suggested Carroo was the #2 rated WR on our board, making a trade-up easier to digest. If Carroo was indeed the #2 WR on our board, then it stands to reason this kid could get significant snaps and/or start early in the year.
This is not so much an argument for Carroo (we simply haven't seen him play NFL football yet, so it's hard to determine how successfully he has transitioned), as it is against Stills. Carroo's main competition, Kenny Stills, had 27 catches last year - not exactly lighting the world on fire. In Stills' defense, Rishard Matthews was having a great year and certainly ate into his targets. Yet, Stills left a lot to be desired, so Carroo is entering an interesting lay of the land in the WR group: Carroo has a veteran in front of him, but not one that has necessarily established himself with us. It's hard to determine if Stills and Ryan Tannehill have any sort of chemistry with one another. If so, they should probably go on a date and make out a little bit, but I have not seen any sparks to this point.
Carroo's saving grace might just be that he brings a different skill set than Stills. Carroo is bigger, and dropped 2 passes in his entire collegiate career. He will be able to use his big body to "box out" smaller defenders and be more of a red zone threat. In college, he averaged almost 20 yards per catch and 10 TD's per season, so there's reason to think he might have some big play potential as well.
Why Kenny Stills Will Win:
Ask any fantasy football enthusiast about what motivational factors increase a player's statistical success, and right at the top of the list is playing for a new contract. Kenny Stills finds himself in this exact situation, trying to showcase his talents to the Dolphins, and truly, every NFL team since the possibility of free agency remains. He's playing for his NFL livelihood and (potentially) millions of dollars - Kenny Stills might take this high-stakes momentum and turn it into an important niche in the Miami Dolphins offense.
Stills had a poor year last year, but he has still produced in this league. Going into his 4th year in the league, and his 2nd year with the Dolphins, it will be interesting to see if Stills shows more of a killer instinct. The argument for Carroo's skill set being different than Stills actually works for Stills, too: Stills is seemingly the only "speed deep threat" we have on the roster that can line up in the slot and on the perimeter. Being able to keep the safeties honest will open the shorter and intermediate routes for Landry and Parker; without the ability to get deep, teams will continue to creep up closer to the line of scrimmage, both taking away our running game and having the safeties in the intermediate range of the field (the throws that Tannehill executes better than other throws).
Having a deep threat like Stills provides more spacing, which will be huge for our offense. Stills has 1 year under his belt with Ryan Tannehill, and that might be just enough of a boost in trust compared to a rookie to solidify Stills' spot as WR #3.
Although both standing at 6'0", the similarities between Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo stop there. They play the game differently, and bring different strengths to an offensive unit. It'll be curious to see if the coaching staff leans one way or another, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Kenny Stills play in the beginning of the year, and Leonte Carroo take more snaps as he understands NFL nuance better. It's entirely possible that they have a very similar number of snaps by the end of the year. This is going to be a good, old-fashioned competition. May the best man win.
SUTTON's Probability: 50/50
What are your thoughts? Who gets more snaps by year's end: Kenny Stills or Leonte Carroo? Or do you have a dark horse candidate?
Happy Memorial Day and Phins Up from the SUTTON family!