By: Tom Shannon
Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reviewed what he thinks are 10 looming Dolphins position battles. I have to say that I thought that a couple of the "battles" he highlighted were unusual choices.
For instance, at running back it seems evident that both Jordan Howard and Matt Breida have a defined role with Howard generally being an early down, power back and Breida being a more versatile third down back. Yes, depending on the situation, some of those plays could go to either. But they're complementary backs. It’s really not a competition.
But what really caught my attention was an actual competition, a big one along the offensive line:
"Starting left tackle: Julien Davenport vs. Austin Jackson
"Davenport has struggled as an offensive tackle in the majority of his 27 NFL starts, but this former 2017 fourth-round pick has the size (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) and athleticism needed to be successful if he can put it all together. Last season, when Davenport was finally healthy and familiar with Miami’s offense, he improved in the final month. But being adequate can get someone hurt in the NFL, which is why Jackson, the team’s second of three first-round picks, will get every opportunity to unseat him. Problem is, this former USC standout will likely need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game."
"Starting right guard: Michael Deiter, Danny Isidora, Shaq Calhoun, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley
Ereck Flowers, a former Hurricanes standout Miami signed to a three-year, $30 million deal this off-season, is expected to serve as the starting left guard considering that’s where he resurrected his NFL career the past two seasons. He is Miami’s most experienced and accomplished offensive lineman. That leaves three veterans — Deiter, Isidora and Calhoun — and two draft picks — Hunt and Kindley — competing to determine who plays next to right tackle Jesse Davis. Deiter, Isidora and Calhoun struggled plenty last season, and Hunt and Kindley are unproven as pros. Expect the Dolphins to identify the team’s best five offensive linemen and then figure out what spot they’ll play at during training camp. But when camp opens up, Miami needs to see these offensive linemen move defensive tackles."
I'm finding the assumption among members of the media that Jackson and Davenport will be competing at left tackle and that Jessie Davis will be filling the right tackle position to be interesting. If I'm the Dolphins, that's not the way I’m thinking.
When it comes to the offensive line, as Kelly rightfully points out, ultimately the goal is to get your best five guys on the field. So this isn’t really two competitions so much as it is one huge one. And to my mind, Jackson, Davenport and Davis are all members of that top five. Furthermore, I look at Davenport and I see a huge man who is built physically to play right tackle. And Davis is arguably a better guard than he is tackle.
Left tackle: Jackson
Left guard: Flowers
Center: Ted Karras
Right guard: Davis
Right tackle: Davenport
That leaves none of the guys “competing” at right guard above starting. Of course, we have to wait and see how these guys perform to truly get a handle on this. And Hunt was a second round pick. The Dolphins might not be willing to bench him unless he’s really bad in camp. Nor are they going to want to give up on last year’s third round pick, Dieter.
In any case, this seven man battle royal is all going to be fascinating to watch.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @bearingthenews