Winning the Mind Game

We now know the Dolphins' starting lineup for Sunday's opener against Washington, and it's exactly what we thought it would be all along, except for rookie Reagan Mauia getting the nod at fullback instead of veteran Cory Schlesinger. And now it's really a fair question to wonder whether Coach Cam Cameron worked in the offseason to light a fire under both Ronnie Brown and L.J. Shelton.

In case you don't know or have forgotten, Cameron created quite a stir after the second preseason game when he suggested Brown was no slam dunk to start at halfback and that he was in a battle with Jesse Chatman.

It was curious because everyone had assumed all along that Brown would continue to start as he has since joining the Dolphins as the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. Then there was the matter of the comments coming after Brown had a very good game, despite the absurdly overblown play where he was tackled from behind.

Then again, we were reminded of comments made earlier by running backs coach Bobby Jackson, who said he was disappointed at Brown's physical condition when he showed up for the start of training camp.

Brown also is a very low-key guy and maybe, just maybe, Cameron wanted to bring out the fighter in Brown by publicly threatening his hold on the starting job.

Brown tried his best to downplay that possibility on Wednesday, but also said at one point with a smile, "Maybe there was a little motivation factor."

We'll go ahead and say yes on that one.

The same goes for Shelton, whose weight apparently was an issue with the coaching staff.

In his case, the Dolphins actually removed him from the first-team offense for the better part of training camp and had him play behind Anthony Alabi, who has nice potential but zero experience.

Cameron expressed satisfaction on Wednesday about the way both Brown and Shelton had been performing lately, so maybe whatever he did worked.

The move with Shelton, however, may have slowed the jelling of the offensive line, so there was a price to pay for getting Shelton to where they wanted -- if indeed that's what happened.

It did give Alabi a chance to work alongside the other members of the first-team offensive line.

Look, it's not like we didn't see this earlier with Cameron. Remember in the offseason when he raved about Rex Hadnot's potential as a guard and declared, "He's our right guard."

Well, Hadnot was not the right guard at the start of camp; rather, it was rookie sixth-round pick Drew Mormino, who showed promise but also looked overmatched at times and now will spend the season on injured reserve.

It didn't take nearly as long for Hadnot to get back to the first team, so maybe he just got the message earlier or started fighting hard right away.

Regardless, if Brown and Shelton both go on to have productive seasons, what Cameron did will go down as brilliant moves. And, truly, the bottom line is how well those guys play. So if Cameron felt the way to get the most out of them was to play mind games with them, then by all means go ahead and play.

Dolphins Report Top Stories

Alain Poupart is the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest and To read him every day, visit and become a Miami Dolphins insider.