Practices are vitally important, just ask any coach, but I think it's safe to say that games are a better test for those players fighting for roster spots, and those who are competing for starting roles. We will get to the update on the guys who are trying to crack the 53-man roster tomorrow.
Today, we shift our focus to the position battles. Last week we closed the book on a few of the battles the Dolphins went into camp with, but I was premature with my take on the free safety position. Let's reopen that discussion, as well as delve into the other remaining competitions on this roster.
Right Guard: John Jerry
If Jerry's knee turns out to be okay, this may be the last time we consider this position. Considering that I had Richie Incognito here last week, a pretty drastic change after only one preseason game. But I was really just going by the South Florida media's portrayal of how Jerry was progressing.
When I actually got to see Jerry go at it with my own two eyes, he far surpassed my expectations. He pulled well, provided decent push, and was solid in protection. Another game like that on Saturday, and I think we have our first interior starter.
Center: Joe Berger
Not much change here from last week. Jake Grove still doesn't appear to be 100%, and the bad snap that led to a turnover in the red-zone against Tampa, certainly didn't help his chances. The position as a whole, though, has been mildly disappointing. Sparano even used the word "average" to evaluate Berger's and Grove's play, which is a troubling drop-off from last season.
Left Guard: Richie Incognito
This is purely a guess at this point. I say Richie simply because he started on Saturday, but he definitely didn't do anything to lock this thing up. I have a feeling Donald Thomas still has a good shot at stealing the job, though, especially since his lack of playing time seems to be derived from the coaches already having an extensive feel for his game from the past two years of having him in camp and in the starting lineup in 09'.
Right Defensive End: Jared Odrick
The first-round pick had a productive night of his own on Saturday, recovering a fumble and taking on a few double-teams in that first half. Odrick's most capable competition, Marques Douglas, had a good night too, but would likely only unseat the rookie if Odrick begins to struggle. At this point, though, Odrick may be another player on the verge of clinching a job against the Jaguars.
Strong Outside Linebacker: Koa Misi
Misi's strong performance was encouraging given some of the reports from Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinal, who has been critical of the second-round pick since camp opened. He reports that Misi hasn't recorded a sack yet in practice, and won't say his name until he does. Not getting to the quarterback in around 20 practice sessions is a cause for concern, but judging by what I have seen, which is just Saturday night, Misi looked ready.
The kid has a great motor, and hurried Josh Freeman on one play in the first quarter. Ikaika Alama-Francis actually split first-team duty with Misi, though, meaning that competition is very much alive. Ike didn't do anything significant with his opportunities, however, so Misi still has the edge at the moment.
Free Safety: Chris Clemons
Clemons had an opportunity at clinching the job against the Buc's, but a couple of missed tackles later, and we still have a battle on our hands. Well, at least we did. Reshad Jones, as mentioned in the previous post, hurt his ankle tonight, but the severity of the injury is currently unknown. If Jones misses significant time consider this thing over, unless the Dolphins move Tyrone Culver back to free safety. If the Dolphins hope to field a starting quality safety back there, though, Clemons needs to do a much better job at wrapping up the ball-carrier, and any emergence of playmaking ability would do wonders for this secondary.
Kick Returner: Nolan Carroll
We saw two players return kicks last week: Tristan Davis and Nolan Carroll. Carroll looked much more confident and less hesitant than Davis on his only return, and will actually be on the team come September. It will be interesting to see if Patrick Cobbs is eventually thrown back into this competition, but if not, Carroll is Ted Ginn's replacement. Kind of ironic when you realize Carroll was drafted with the pick the Dolphins acquired from the 49ers for Ginn.
Punt Returner: Davone Bess
Ryan Grice-Mullen got a rep as punt returner tonight, but let's face it, he's not going to make this team unless he plays out of his mind for the final three exhibitions. Unless they consider letting Carroll do double duty, returning kicks and punts, it looks like Davone Bess is going to be the man once again. He probably will never take one back to the house, but as long as he cuts out the muffs this year, he will do just fine.