Rush To Judgment?

Shawn Murphy is ahead of Donald Thomas at right guard. Jason Taylor is going to be starting at strongside linebacker. Rookie Sean Smith has overtaken Eric Green at right cornerback. It seems not a day goes by that some sort of declaration isn't made concerning the Dolphins' starting lineup. It makes for good copy and good conversation, but is it accurate? Is it fair?

The answers, very simply, are no and no.

First and foremost, the regular season is still more than a month and the Dolphins haven't even played a preseason game yet.

So between now and Sept. 13, it's entirely possible that three or different guys could be lining up at right guard with the first-team offense.

Murphy has gotten most of the reps with the first team, and Coach Tony Sparano has said it was his job to lose. He also said he wanted to see how certain players performed against better competition.

Really, does anyone expect Murphy to start ahead of Thomas at Atlanta in Week 1 if Thomas makes a full recovery from his offseason chest injury?

At cornerback and right defensive end, there are more than two players competing for the starting job, and it would surprise no one if different players started the first two or three preseason games.

At cornerback, it's a battle between Eric Green, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis. Green lined up with the first-team defense the first week of camp, which made total sense because the other two are rookies. That didn't mean he necessarily was ahead in the competition or it was his job to lose.

At right defensive end, the Dolphins already have looked at Phillip Merling and Tony McDaniel, and Randy Starks lined up with the first-team defense on Monday. And maybe Lionel Dotson will get a shot at some point.

Then there's the strongside linebacker spot, where all of a sudden everyone is giving the job to Jason Taylor based on his great performance in the intrasquad scrimmage.

Never mind that Matt Roth hasn't practiced yet because of a groin injury. The guy, after all, was the starter last year. He also brings a different dimension than Taylor because he should be more stout against the run.

Taylor, who would line up opposite Joey Porter, obviously is the juicier story, but that doesn't mean he's a lock to start.

At this point, those who appear locks to start, barring injuries, are Chad Pennington at quarterback, Ronnie Brown at halfback, Lousaka Polite at fullback, Anthony Fasano at tight end, Jake Long at left tackle, Justin Smiley at left guard, Jake Grove at center, Vernon Carey at right tackle, Jason Ferguson at nose tackle, Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder at inside linebacker, Porter at weakside linebacker, Will Allen at left cornerback, Yeremiah Bell at strong safety and Gibril Wilson at free safety.

The other spots are up for grabs, and might be up for grabs until the last or next-to-last preseason game.

In the meantime, you'll keep hearing about guys making a move for a starting job, getting close to locking up a starting job and many other variations.

Just be careful not to buy the hype too much.


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