CAMP COUNTDOWN: OFFENSIVE LINE

As the Dolphins prepare for the start of training camp, we take a close position-by-position look at the roster, including a prediction of who will start and make the 53-man squad. Today we look at the offensive line.

Before Ricky Williams' stunning retirement, it was on the offensive line where the Dolphins appeared to have the biggest question mark.

Running back might hold that distinction for now, but that doesn't change the fact the offensive line is an area of concern.

As the Dolphins head into training camp, the right side of the offensive line is unsettled, to say the least.

As it stands right now, Greg Jerman would be starting at right guard and John St. Clair would start at right tackle.

That's not overly comforting.

Jerman was a nondescript tackle the last two years who is making the switch inside. The Dolphins think his strength make him ideal to play guard, while that position hides his biggest weakness, which is foot speed.

If it's not Jerman, then the other options on the roster are 2003 third-round pick Taylor Whitley, who never saw the field as a rookie, or Billy Yates, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year.

Of course, the Dolphins always could slide first-round pick Vernon Carey inside, but he will begin training camp at right tackle.

Ideally, you'd like to see your first-round pick start right away, but Carey still has a ways to go before he's given that type of responsibility.

St. Clair did start for the Rams in 2001, but after moving from center he struggled and the Rams went out and got Kyle Turley the following offseason.

What appears settled on the line is that Wade Smith will start at left tackle, Jeno James will be at left guard and Seth McKinney will be at center.

Even there, the only proven commodity is James, although Smith did play fairly well as a rookie. McKinney is finally getting his shot after two years of sitting behind Tim Ruddy, and we'll finally find out if he's as good as as the Dolphins have made him out to be.

The other offensive linemen on the roster are tackles Dan Goodspeed and Damion McIntosh, who won't be ready for the start of the season; guards Andy Wagstrom, Eric Wilson, Brad Bedell and Tony Pape; and centers Shawn Lynch and Rex Hadnot.

It's not exactly a who's who of NFL offensive linemen, but remember that last year's group didn't exactly set a standard that's going to hard to top.

It's probably a stretch to expect this crew to be great, but it's not too much to ask for some kind of improvement over last season.

As we see it, the season will open with Smith, James, McKinney, Jerman and St. Clair as your starters, with the backups being Carey, Goodspeed, Whitley and Hadnot.

McIntosh will figure into the equation once he's removed from the physically unable to perform list.

Next time we'll look at the tight ends and specialists.


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