While there is a major battle going on for the fifth wide receiver spot, the first four slots are pretty well settled. The big question for Coach Dave Wannstedt is how to use and spread the playing time among Chris Chambers, Oronde Gadsden, Dedric Ward and James McKnight.

Chambers and Gadsden will go into the regular season as starters, but Wannstedt said Monday that was just a matter of semantics.

"In my mind we have four starting wide receivers," Wannstedt said. "They're all interchangeable. They're all veteran guys."

One thing that has been settled is that Ward will go into the season as the slot receiver when the Dolphins go to a three-wideout set.

That comment appeared to mean less playing time for McKnight, who started last season, but Wannstedt was quick to indicate that McKnight would play an important role in the offense.

"James will definitely be part of it," Wannstedt said. "He's going to be on the field with the first group. He could be on the field with Orondoe. He could be on the first with Chris. He could be on the field with both of those guys. There are a lot of combinations we can work with."

So far in the preseason, Ward has been excellent on third down. He looks fully recovered from the foot injury that slowed him down throughout the 2001 season.

McKnight, for his part, is the fastest wide receiver on the roster, so the Dolphins want to use to stretch the field.

Gadsden brings great size and also has the best hands of anybody on the team, if not the entire league.

That leaves Chambers, a rising star who possesses the best combination of skills among the Dolphins wide receivers.

Maybe McKnight had it right when he said last week there were plenty of balls to go around and the Dolphins could find themselves with a few receivers with about 50 catches.

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