CAMP COUNTDOWN: TIGHT ENDS/SPECIALISTS

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 tight ends and specialists.

This was not a great offseason for Randy McMichael, who took some criticism for not being in great shape before being arrested in late June following an altercation with his pregnant wife.

That's not good news for the Dolphins, who will need a great season from McMichael to help make up for the loss of Ricky Williams.

Make no mistake, McMichael has the ability to put up big numbers for the Dolphins but he needs to cut down on some mental mistakes, such as his failure to pick up a blitzing linebacker in the game at New England last December.

McMichael's backup is Donald Lee, a fifth-round pick last year who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season after getting off to a slow start.

But Lee doesn't look like a big-play guy, so the Dolphins really need McMichael to come through.

John Jones was signed from Baltimore this offseason, but he's more of a special teams player than anything else.

The other tight end on the roster is Hart Turner, who has no shot at making the roster.

We're guessing the Dolphins will keep the other three.

You may have noticed we didn't include Ed Perry among the tight ends, and that's because he never gets on the field other than for his role as the long-snapper.

But he does it very well, which is why his roster spot is pretty much guaranteed.

The rest of the special teams units aren't so solid, though.

Start with kicker Olindo Mare, who is coming off two disappointing seasons. He carries a big price tag, so he needs to bounce back or the Dolphins might start thinking about going elsewhere.

Punter Matt Turk is back, but let's remember that both his gross and net averages last year were lower than those of Mark Royals, who was heavily criticized after being released.

Turk could get some competition in camp from rookie free agent Donnie Jones, but it's still likely Turk will hang on to the job.

The biggest question on the special teams, however, is finding that elusive kick returner.

Travis Minor was expected to go into camp as the No. 1 kickoff returner, but that notion might change if he plays an increased role on offense.

That would put the onus on newcomer Terrence Wilkins, whose career got off to a career start before he struggled the last couple of years.

Wilkins also will get a shot to become the punt returner, and he will battle Sam Simmons for that job.

Our prediction?

Wilkins will start the season as the punt and kickoff returner, and we should all hope that doesn't turn out the same way it did last year with Charlie Rogers.

Next time we'll look at the defensive backs.


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