IMPORTANT DAYS FOR O-LINE

The Dolphins will find out a lot about themselves in the next week, starting with the practices against the Tampa Buccaneers. But perhaps nowhere will the revelations be as important as on the offensive line.

That's because Coach Dave Wannstedt would like to establish his starting offensive line sooner rathern than later, and in the early days of camp it was difficult to separate the top eight guys.

Wannstedt originally had said he would pick the five best after the Tennessee practices and work with those five guys as the starting offensive line. But he then changed his mind and decided to wait a little while longer because a couple of players have been making the decision difficult.

The first one who comes to mind is guard Jamie Nails, who is making a strong push to land a starting job.

If the Dolphins decide that Nails, who started 16 games with Buffalo in 2000, has to be a starter, they'll be faced with a couple of options. Nails can start at left guard and supplant Mark Dixon. Nails can start at right guard and supplant both Todd Perry and Leon Searcy. Or Nails can start at left guard and Dixon can slide over to left tackle and start instead of either Brent Smith or Marcus Spriggs.

That's not an ideal scenario because Dixon hasn't played tackle since he left the Canadian Football League almost five years ago, but the Dolphins haven't ruled it out.

Another key battle is at right guard, where the veteran Searcy is pushing incumbent starter Todd Perry. But Perry has responded, looking better early in camp than he did last season.

Rookie center Seth McKinney also has been impressive, although it still would be considered a surprise if he winds up starting this season.

However this shakes out, the Dolphins will be better up front because they are much deeper than they were last season.

"When you work that hard and you get an opportunity, that's when you have success," said Dixon. "When you've paid the price to be good ... and these guys have done it. You saw it (on the first day of camp). We're better than we were last year already.

"There's seven, eight guys that can play, and play at a high level."


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