Training Camp 2012: Offense Breakdown

With the Dolphins set to hold their first training camp practice in two weeks — July 27, to be precise — now is the time to take a comprehensive look at the various aspects of the team and what to expect this summer. This installment presents a position-by-position breakdown of the offense.

QUARTERBACKS

Starter - David Garrard. Backups - Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill, Pat Devlin.

Garrard's experience level gives him the edge over Moore, whose inconsistent practices have been a problem throughout his six-year NFL career. Garrard makes quicker decisions, and his short-to-intermediate accuracy is superior to Moore, who has a knack for producing big plays. This isn't Garrard's first time in a West Coast offense, which might explain why he has performed better to this point. But there are concerns about his durability and limited upside. Moore could possibly close ground on him during training camp by proving he's a gamer. Tannehill, the team's first-round pick, represents the future at the position. But it is likely he'll sit, watch, learn and develop the same way Jake Locker did in Tennessee last season. However, if he shines during the exhibition season, closing the obvious gap on Garrard and Moore, don't be surprised if his status is elevated. Devlin's limited experience, and subpar arm strength makes him a practice-squad option.

RUNNING BACKS

Starter - Reggie Bush. Backups - Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Steve Slaton, Marcus Thigpen, Jerome Messam, Jonas Gray.

Bush, who rushed for 1,086 yards and scored seven touchdowns in the 15 games he played last season, is a better fit in this West Coast offense. His ability to catch passes out the backfield should make him one of the Dolphins' top targets. But he's 27 and entering the final year of his contract, so don't expect the Dolphins to use him as the offense's workhorse. There are plenty of young, talented tailbacks on the roster. The Dolphins envision Thomas as the team's third-down back because of his hands, and ability as a blocker. Last year Thomas started out strong, but fizzled at the end, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Miller's addition gives the Dolphins another tailback with sub-4.4 speed. He'll be sprinkled in, handling some of those scatback plays designed for Bush. The rookie's addition also puts Slaton's status on the team in question. Slaton will need to produce during the exhibition season to stay ahead of Thigpen, Messam and Gray, who are all practice-squad options.

TIGHT ENDS

Starter - Anthony Fasano. Backups - Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman, Jeron Mastrud, Les Brown.

Fasano has made the most of his limited opportunities in his four seasons with the Dolphins, where he's contributed 136 catches for 1,772 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. However, he's never caught more than 40 passes in a season during his seven-year career. It is likely he'll remain Miami's in-line blocking tight end, while Clay is used as the H-back, flex option. Clay, who contributed 16 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns last season, has the ability to create separation from linebackers. But this former Tulsa fullback is rough around the edges when it comes to blocking and reading defensive coverages. If coached up properly, the Dolphins expect Clay's productivity to double in the West Coast offense. Egnew, a third-round pick, could also get into the mix, but he's got a lot to learn about the traditional tight end role considering he was primarily a route runner at Missouri. Mastrud and Yeatman must earn their keep on special teams, and Brown, a former college basketball player, is viewed as a long-term option who might warrant an investment on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Starters - Brian Hartline, Chad Ochocinco, Davone Bess. Backups - Legedu Naanee, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, Clyde Gates, Julius Pruitt, Jeff Fuller, B.J. Cunningham, Rishard Matthews, Chris Hogan.

The Dolphins did not make a big splash in free agency, or during the draft to replace Brandon Marshall, who was traded to Chicago for two third-round picks. What Miami did was sign Ochocinco after New England released him late this summer, add Legedu Naanee to a one-year contract for the minimum, draft two receivers in the later rounds, and sign an undrafted free agent. It is anyone's guess which five or six receivers will make the roster, or if the Dolphins have enough talent at receiver to make the West Coast offense work. The Dolphins do plan to utilize a receiver by committee approach, leaning on every wideout's strengths. Bess, who caught a career-low 51 passes for 537 yards and three touchdowns last season, will continue his role as Miami's slot receiver. The Dolphins believe Hartline, who averaged 15.7 yards per catch, can shoulder a heavier load than what he carried as the Dolphins' No. 3 receiver the past two seasons. Ochocinco's play during the offseason program proved he's still got some quickness left, but can he learn the offense, and re-establish himself as one of the NFL's premier receivers? Naanee's size and physicality should allow him to push for a starting spot. His route-running specifically impressed Miami's coaches. Everyone else is fighting for a roster spot or practice-squad spot, with Wallace, Moore and Gates the front-runners to remain on the team.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Starters - LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks, RT Jonathan Martin. Backups - T Lydon Murtha, G Nate Garner, G John Jerry, C Ryan Cook, G Ray Feinga, T Will Barker, T Andrew McDonald, T Dustin Waldron, G Derek Dennis, C Josh Samuda.

This is the sixth straight season the Dolphins' offensive line is a work in progress. The entire right side is being rebuilt, and Miami is searching for capable guards and tackles who can fortify a unit that features Long, a Pro Bowler, and Pouncey, a center taken in the first round of the 2011 draft. The Dolphins are searching for offensive linemen who excel in the team's new zone-blocking scheme, which doesn't necessarily fit Incognito's skill set. Hicks, a 10-year veteran who has started 71 games, unseated Jerry as the front-runner to man the right guard spot. Martin, the team's second-round pick, has more status than Murtha. But considering he played left tackle his entire college career at Stanford, the transition to the right side has been rough on the rookie. He'll likely be given the entire exhibition season to gain footing at the right tackle spot.


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