By BARRY JACKSONbjackson@MiamiHerald.com
With Dolphins practices resuming, multiple starting jobs are open -- including two at outside linebacker, likely one at defensive end, free safety and potentially cornerback if you believe Will Allen's vow to reclaim a starting job.
On offense, battles loom at guard and the receiver spot opposite Brandon Marshall; Greg Camarillo started every 2009 game but nobody would be shocked if Brian Hartline supplants him. (Davone Bess figures to have the same role as '09.) Ronnie Brown is the clear front-runner at running back over Ricky Williams, but nothing is assured.
Hartline is very clear: ``I want a starting spot and I want to go after it. That's the only goal until it's taken care of.'' Camarillo said starting is ``important because the best players start and you want to be the best player.''
One Dolphins person said the team views Hartline as a bigger, faster Camarillo. But Hartline must earn it. ``It will be a heck of a competition,'' ex-Dolphins receiver O.J. McDuffie said. ``I like Hartline's speed and toughness. But I think it might be Greg starting. People underestimate him.''
Some points to consider:
According to Profootballfocus.com the two were close in 2009 performance -- Hartline 38th among all receivers, Camarillo 41st. Hartline is the superior deep threat and is better at producing yards after the catch.
Consider Hartline's 5.7 yard-after-catch average was 19th in the NFL and ahead of Andre Johnson, Marshall, Marques Colston and Devin Hester. Camarillo was 94th at 2.5. Also, Hartline was 12th in yards per catch (16.3); Camarillo 85th (11.0).
But nobody is more sure-handed than Camarillo, the NFL's only receiver to catch 50 or more passes without a drop in '09. Hartline dropped three. Camarillo caught 72.5 percent of the passes intended for him (50 of 69) -- 13th in the league. Hartline caught 57.4 percent (31 of 54), ranking 69th. . . . Camarillo was 28th in blocking for receivers, Hartline 64th.
At guard, Richie Incognito is the favorite for one spot; he's most comfortable at right guard, where Donald Thomas started 12 games in '09 and provides competition.
That leaves Nate Garner, John Jerry and Thomas as options for the other guard spot, with Justin Smiley's status still unresolved. The Dolphins told Smiley they're considering all options (including his return), but his departure -- via trade or release -- is considered more likely.
An NFC scout said Jerry is a mauler as a run-blocker but makes too many mental mistakes in pass protection. That can't happen if he wants to play a lot as a rookie. ``He had a very low Wonderlic score,'' said the scout, who wonders how quickly Jerry will learn. ``But he's a good kid, hard worker.''
Jerry never played on the left side before rookie minicamp, and moving there is a ``big deal,'' Tony Sparano said.
Miami would be comfortable starting Garner -- who supplanted Thomas as the starting right guard late in 2009 -- but also likes him as a multiposition reserve. Profootballfocus.com ranked Thomas 55th among 84 guards in 2009, Garner 41st, Incognito 39th and Smiley 21st. Garner graded out much better in pass protection than run blocking, Thomas the reverse.