TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RB

As the Dolphins head to training camp, we break down every position, with its strengths and weaknesses, as well as which players figure to be on the 53-man roster. What follows is a look at the halfback and fullback positions.

The arrival of Ricky Williams is the biggest reason why there is so much optimism as the Dolphins get ready for the 2002 season. He is, quite simply, the best running back the Dolphins have had on their roster since Delvin Williams in 1978.

Williams is coming off a 1,200-yard season and there's no reason to think he won't reach those types of numbers again this year. The Dolphins will use him a lot throughout the season.

The one thing that some people forget about Williams is that he's got very good hands out of the backfield. He should be a factor in the passing game as well.

Williams' production did slow down late last season, but there were a couple of factors unrelated to his ability that played a part: injuries on the offensive line and the fact the Saints always played from behind in the last month of the season.

The Dolphins enter training camp with six halfbacks on the roster, but two of them — Marlon Barnes and Jerry Westbrooks — have practically no chance to make the final roster.

Travis Minor was very impressive as a third-down back last season and he also had his moments when he subbed in for Lamar Smith in the base offense.

Because of his lack of ideal size, Minor might never be able to handle a heavy load in the running game, but he's too good not to have a significant role on the team.

The interesting battle at running back will be between Robert Edwards and rookie Leonard Henry.

Edwards, who hasn't played in an NFL game since January of 1999, is attempting to come back from a simply horrible knee injury. He looked good in the offseason camp, but the injury means that there will always be concerns about his ability to withstand the rigors of an NFL season.

If can he stay healthy, he is awfully talented and could wind up as the No. 2 halfback behind Williams.

As for Henry, he also was impressive in the minicamps and might make a strong case for a roster spot if he can impress on special teams.

There is a slight possibility the Dolphins could keep four halfbacks, as they did a few years ago, but that's not likely. As training camp approached, Henry appeared to be the odd man out, but Edwards comes with an asterisk.

At fullback, the Dolphins have more depth than probably any team in the league.

Rob Konrad entered the NFL with a reputation as being very good with the ball in his hands, but he's never had the chance to show his talents in Miami. This should be the year that changes.

New offensive coordinator Norv Turner always has thrown the ball to the fullback often, and in Konrad he has a receiver who should be as good as Daryl Johnston or Larry Centers.

Deon Dyer always has been a blocking specialist, and he's very good at what he does. When the Dolphins need to pick up a yard or two on third down or near the goal line, he should be in the lineup in front of Ricky Williams.

Dyer, however, has never been known as much of a threat with the ball in his hands, and doesn't make him a great fit for Turner's offense.

Because of his blocking ability, though, Dyer is the type of guy who will have a job in the NFL for a while.

This week, the Dolphins added four-year veteran Obafemi Ayanbadejo, who started eight games at fullback for Baltimore the last two seasons.

It's not inconceivable — but probably improbable — that the Dolphins would keep three fullbacks.

Konrad would appear to be a lock to make the roster, but Dyer could have a fight on his hands because Ayanbadejo is an established receiver out of the backfield.

Regardless of what happens here, the Dolphins are in great shape at the fullback spot.


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