Countdown To Camp: New Faces

The Dolphins officially open training camp on Friday, July 28 when rookies and veterans are scheduled to report, with practices scheduled to begin on July 29. In preparation, we examine the Dolphins from every angle, starting with the new faces on the team and continuing with other aspects such as the key questions facing the team and the position battles to watch this summer.

The Dolphins have a slew of new players on the roster, but it doesn't take a genius to point out that the most significant changes are at quarterback. In fact, the face of the whole team changes on that March day when the Dolphins consummated the Daunte Culpepper trade with Minnesota.

Yes, there are some questions surrounding Culpepper, like his knee and his bad 2005 season, but here's the bottom line: He's the best quarterback this team has had since the start of the new millennium. And he's the biggest reason some observers think the Dolphins have a shot to dethrone New England atop the AFC East.

The best fact involving Culpepper -- we've said it before and we'll say it again -- is that his 2005 passer rating, bad season and all, still was better than that of former Dolphins starter Gus Frerotte.

Culpepper is one of three newcomers who figure to start on offense this season, the other two being fullback Fred Beasley and offensive tackle L.J. Shelton.

Beasley is a former Pro Bowl selection with the 49ers, and he'll bring the best combination of blocking and catching the Dolphins have had at the position in a long time.

Shelton, meanwhile, will be under the spotlight as he handles the job of protecting Culpepper's blind side. This would be a good time for Shelton to start living up to his billing as a former first-round pick.

On defense, the most significant additions were made in the secondary, where Will Allen, Renaldo Hill, Andre Goodman and Deke Cooper were just some of the guys brought in to improve an area that really struggled last season.

Both Allen and Hill should start in the secondary, joining returning cornerback Travis Daniels and first-round pick Jason Allen.

Will Allen comes to Miami with the reputation as a solid cover corner who just doesn't make many big plays, while Hill rejoins Nick Saban after having played for him in college at Michigan State.

The Dolphins also have new faces at linebacker in unrestricted free agents Sedrick Hodge and Keith Newman, who will challenge Donnie Spragan for the starting outside linebacker job vacated by the offseason release of Junior Seau.

Also, don't discount the addition of former head coaches Dom Capers and Mike Mularkey to the coaching staff. Both were highly regarded as coordinators before getting jobs as head coaches, so they should be able to make valuable contributions to the Dolphins.

THE NEW PLAYERS (veterans only)

QB Daunte Culpepper (from Minnesota)

QB Joey Harrington (from Detroit)

FB Fred Beasley (from San Francisco)

TE Justin Peelle (from San Diego)

TE Keith Heinrich (from Cleveland)

T L.J. Shelton (from Cleveland)

T Mike Pearson (from Jacksonville)

LB Keith Newman (from Minnesota)

LB Sedrick Hodge (from New Orleans)

CB Will Allen (from N.Y. Giants)

CB/S Renaldo Hill (from Oakland)

S Deke Cooper (from Jacksonville)

CB Andre Goodman (from Detroit)


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