Miami Dolphins: Post-Draft Position Battles to Watch
The NFL Draft is in the books and the Miami Dolphins will now turn their focus the roster, upcoming camps and voluntary workouts. A number of players’ roles and spots are already etched in stone while others are just trying to make the team.
With that said, we now take a look at some position battles to keep an eye on as training camp and the preseason start to near:
No. 4 Wide Receiver: Leonte Carroo vs. Isaiah Ford
The Miami Dolphins’ top three receivers are all good ones in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Beyond those three however, there is little depth. The battle to be the fourth receiver could be between a player drafted by the team last year and a player drafted this year. In his rookie season of 2016, Leonte Carroo had just three catches and a touchdown and hopes to progress into a bigger role this season. His biggest competition looks to be Virginia Tech rookie Isaiah Ford, who Miami may have stolen in the seventh round. Ford is more of a possession receiver, but was extremely productive for the Hokies a year ago. The Dolphins did bring in a number of undrafted players looking to fill a spot at the position, including Drew Morgan, Damore’ea Stringfellow and Malcolm Lewis.
Three of the five members of the Dolphins’ offensive line look to be set in stone. Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James are likely to man the tackle spots while a healthy Mike Pouncey returns at center. The starting guards however, look to be up in the air. The four candidates appear to be Jermon Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Ted Larsen and rookie Isaac Asiata. An excellent run blocker, Bushrod is probably the favorite at right guard after starting all 16 games a year ago. Urbik is probably the early favorite at the other guard spot, but don’t be surprised if all four players see meaningful time at some point in 2017.
Starting Defensive End: Charles Harris vs. William Hayes vs. Andre Branch
Veteran Cameron Wake will without a doubt man one of the defensive end positions for Miami, but the other is up in the air. William Hayes and Andre Branch are two dependable veterans who put up similar numbers a year ago. Also, don’t be surprised if first round pick Charles Harris is in the mix, although Harris is more of just a pure pass-rusher at this point.
Third Starting Linebacker: Koa Misi vs. Raekwon McMillan
Two of the three starting linebackers for the Miami Dolphins look to be etched in stone with those being Kiko Alonso and free agent signee Lawrence Timmons. The third linebacker spot looks to be between veteran Koa Misi and rookie Raekwon McMillan. Misi has been a dependable player for most of his Miami career, but appeared in just three games last season. McMillan, a rookie, has a ton of upside and an NFL body. Both will contribute this season, but which one emerges as a starter remains to be seen. Alonso will likely move to the outside to make way for Timmons, but if McMillan wins the job, it’s unclear who will play the middle and who will move outside.
Starting Cornerback: Tony Lippett vs. Xavien Howard vs. Bobby McCain
Byron Maxwell, if healthy, will likely man one of the cornerback spots, but who grabs the other is wide open. Tony Lippett led the team in interceptions a season ago with four, but might be best suited to serve as the team’s nickelback. Bobby McCain and Xavien Howard are two young players who have shown flashes, but in limited action. Injuries limited Howard to just seven games as a rookie.
Starting Strong Safety: Nate Allen vs. T.J. McDonald
Assuming Reshad Jones fully recovers from a knee injury, he’ll be the Dolphins’ starting free safety, but the strong safety position is to be determined. The battle looks to be between two offseason additions in Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald. Both are experienced with Allen holding the edge in that category, but his production did decline in transitioning from Philadelphia to Oakland. After recording more than 100 tackles in 2014, McDonald has also seen a dip in production over the last two seasons. Another unlikely name that could be in the mix is veteran Michael Thomas, although he serves the team best as a reserve in nickel and dime packages.
Mike Ferguson is a sports writer and reporter for several publications and the Pro Football Spot lead writer for the Miami Dolphins. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson