You can argue that once camp kicks off in a little under two weeks, the most intriguing storyline will be the competition at both guard spots. It may surprise you that an offensive line who produced the league's fourth best rushing attack could have two new guards crack the starting lineup, but the fact of the matter is, Miami has had a hard time running the ball between the tackles the past couple years.
Center Jake Grove helped that cause immensely last year, coming over from Oakland in the offseason, but the former line coach in Sparano could easily spot where upgrades needed to be made. Justin Smiley, when healthy, wasn't exactly a player who needed to be replaced from a production standpoint, but the injuries he has sustained over his career and the fact that there were legitimate concerns about his shoulder never being the same again, gave the Dolphins enough incentive to search for his replacement.
The front office addressed both positions this offseason, when they signed the talented, but troubled Richie Incognito, brought over Cory Procter from Dallas, and drafted Ole Miss' John Jerry in the third round. Will this interior line makeover produce a much more stable rushing attack? Or will Miami quickly miss the services of Justin Smiley?
Richie Incognito: A player like Brandon Marshall comes to Miami with some off-field baggage. Richie Incognito, however, comes to town with on-field baggage, derived from a hot-temper that has motivated him to frequently commit dumb personal foul penalties, including the notorious head butt.
Putting Richie in the starting lineup would definitely have it's risks, considering penalties of the 15-yard variety quickly kill drives. But if he can somehow harness some of that emotion, and use that anger to feed his already nasty streak in a strictly legal fashion, there's plenty of upside to this move.
Because the guy is an exceptional run blocker, and has the ability to bolster an already top five running game. Many consider him the favorite to win the job at right guard too. He's been battling Donald Thomas throughout OTA's, but you really can't have a competition on the offensive line when hitting is prohibited. My guess is, Richie runs away with this thing, if he can keep his head....to himself.
John Jerry: Jerry wasted no time making a good impression on this coaching staff. The 6'5, 328 pound rookie saw first team reps almost the second he stepped in with the veterans, and rotated off and on all spring. If all he had to do was run block, he would probably be a lock to start, because the size and strength he brings to the table should translate into down-hill running for Ronnie and Ricky.
There are some concerns about his quickness though, with some experts suggesting he has "heavy feet." If he struggles in pass protection and pulling when need be, Cory Procter could become the favorite to snag the starting job at left guard.
Donald Thomas: After Thomas won the starting job in his rookie training camp, after being taken in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, many fans were proclaiming he was this regime's first late-round gem. He missed all of the 2008 season though, with a broken foot, but earned the starting job again in last year's camp.
Thomas started twelve games in 09', but struggled in pass protection and wasn't the plowing run blocker his strength suggested he would be. He hasn't been completely kicked off the starting lineup, but it would probably take a meltdown by Incognito to win the job at right guard.
Cory Procter: Procter comes to Miami as the icing on the cake in an outstanding offseason from a personnel standpoint. He has the versatility to play either guard or center, and has eleven games of starting experience under his belt with the Cowboys in 08'.
Even though he was getting starting reps every other workout in the spring, he only projects as a solid backup who significantly upgrades the Dolphins depth at the position. But he's a nice insurance policy if the rookie has his bumps in the road early on.