This organization's disdain for injuries is obvious by now. Parcells has never tolerated injuries, and personnel moves like the trading of Justin Smiley are evidence for that mindset. The competition at center that is scheduled to go down this training camp, is no exception.
In 2008, despite having one of the more talented running back duos in football, the Dolphins struggled to run the ball between the tackles. These struggles were a motivating factor in the rebirth of the single-wing formation, better known as the wildcat. It took the misdirection, and the mystery the wildcat brings to the table, to get the running game going.
Last season, the front office addressed this issue by signing former Raider center Jake Grove. Grove instantly provided some running room up the middle, and played a large role in helping Miami improve from the 11th ranked rushing attack in 08' to 4th overall last season.
Things were gong along smoothly until Grove hurt his ankle against Carolina and was sidelined for the last four games of the year. Joe Berger stepped in for Grove, and prevented much of a drop off. The Dolphins run game dwindled some down the stretch, but Ricky Williams being forced into a workhorse role, and wearing down in the process, was likely the primary reason, not Berger's play.
Berger performed well enough for the coaching staff to declare the center position an open competition, but if Grove can stay healthy, he should keep his job, in my opinion.
Joe Berger: Berger's performance in relief duty the final four games of the season, was solid enough to secure at least a backup role in 2010. If he can close the drop off gap between him and Grove even more this training camp, he could not only win the job because of his competition's injury prone past, but because he is a less expensive alternative. If Berger were to win the job, the Dolphins could chose to free up some cash by disposing of Grove, who was brought to Miami on a 5-year $29.5 million deal.
Jake Grove: Grove may be injury prone, and more expensive than Berger, but when he's healthy, you could arguably say he's worth every penny. The Dolphins could try and save some money by replacing Grove with Berger, but that's risky business considering they are only a year removed from having to draw up plays from the 1940's to get a running game going.
Not to hate on the wildcat, of course; it's been a huge part of what the Dolphins do for two years now. But when you have to get that creative to run the ball, you probably need to shake things up on the interior of the line. And to put how solid Grove was into perspective, Pro Football Focus gave him the 4th best rating of any center in all of football. Taking it a step further, the guy Grove replaced, Samson Satele, was slotted all the way back at 37th out of 38 listed centers, for the job he did in 2008. Enough said.
1. Jake Grove
2. Joe Berger
Countdown to Camp: 10 days