TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: OL

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 offensive line.

By the end the 2001 season ended, the Dolphins offensive line, quite frankly, was a mess.

Between a rash of injuries and the sub-par performances of a couple of players, the O-line became perhaps the biggest Achilles' heel on the team. The Dolphins couldn't run the ball, and Jay Fiedler found himself running for his life way too frequently.

That's why the offensive line will garner so much attention this summer and why it has been such a big question mark all offseason.

While the Dolphins aren't likely to make anyone forget the Hogs or the great Dallas lines of the early 1990s, there is enough talent on hand to think the Dolphins' problems of last season will not be repeated.

As training camp opened, three starting jobs didn't appear to be in question — Todd Wade at right tackle, Tim Ruddy at center and Mark Dixon at left guard.

Brent Smith entered camp as the projected starter at left tackle, but he could get a challenge from Marcus Spriggs.

At right guard, incumbent starter Todd Perry will begin the preseason as the likely No. 1 man on the depth chart, but he is expected to get a strong challenge for the job from veteran Leon Searcy.

Searcy hasn't played in two years because of quadriceps and triceps injuries, but he took part in the minicamps and is back at 100 percent. Searcy also has to make the transition from tackle, where he has spent his entire career, to guard.

The move shouldn't be too problematic, and if Searcy stays healthy, there's every reason to believe he'll be able to supplant Perry.

Perry is coming off a sub-par season, due perhaps in part to having to switch from the left side to the right side. It's fair to expect his play to pick up this season.

Whoever winds up starting, the Dolphins figure to get better production from the position.

The same could be said for the left tackle spot, where journeyman Spencer Folau started most of last year after both Smith and Spriggs went down with knee injuries. Folau is a class act and gave the Dolphins everything he had, but he isn't as talented as either Smith or Spriggs.

Even Wade on the right side can improve on last year's performance. After a brilliant rookie season, he regressed a little bit last year, but there's reason to be confident he can bounce back.

Another key on the offensive line will be the return of Dixon. He has been acknowledged for a while now as the best offensive lineman on the team, and having him back will make a big difference.

Dixon is practically 100 percent after last season's leg injury.

Other offensive linemen who figure to make the 53-man roster include rookie center Seth McKinney, guard Jamie Nails and center Troy Andrew.

The other O-linemen on the roster are guard Jim Bundren, guard Anthony Cesario, tackle Cornell Green, tackle Greg Jerman and tackle Corey Mitchell.

Of those, Bundren and Cesario have the best chance of landing a roster spot.

The Dolphins will carry nine or 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. And the bottom line is that whoever those nine or 10 are, the Dolphins will be in better shape at this position than they were last year.


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