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Omar Kelly

Omar Kelly: Miami Dolphins’ best training camp battles for 2022 season

The Miami Dolphins have an established roster filled with veterans, many of whom are returning starters, free-agent additions expected to fill prominent roles, and youngsters expected to elevate their games.

Despite the presence of a new head coach, and his coaching staff, it doesn’t seem as if the roster features many position battles. With the first week of training camp set to begin we preview 10 position battles to watch closely as camp and the preseason progresses:

Brandon Jones vs. Eric Rowe for starting strong safety role

Jones, a 2020 third-round pick, has excelled in his role as a situational safety the past two seasons. He’s started 17 of the 31 games he’s played in, contributing 141 tackles, six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one, and pulled down one interception. But his lack of discipline has led to breakdowns in the secondary that put other players in compromising positions, and that must be addressed. Rowe thrived as a tight end coverage specialist in 2021, but his performance regressed last season. The Dolphins must identify which Rowe shows up in 2022, and how he can best be utilized. Is it as a situational player, or as the strong safety paired with Jevon Holland?

Chase Edmonds vs. the field for starting tailback job

The Dolphins signed Edmonds to a two-year, $12.1 million deal this offseason because he was one of the NFL’s leaders in yards after contact during his 2021 season with the Cardinals, where he accounted for 903 total yards on 159 touches. Edmonds will need to outshine Raheem Mostert, who said he’s been cleared to practice, Sony Michel, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and rookie ZaQuandre White to earn the lead back role in what’s expected to be a tailback-by-committee approach for this wide-zone running scheme. Productivity and possibly injuries in the preseason will determine which of these backs make the 53-man regular-season roster.

Connor Williams vs. Michael Deiter as starting center

The Dolphins made the decision to try Williams, a 51-game starter at left guard, at center this spring with the belief that switching his position would benefit the team long term. While Williams has bought into the move, he’ll need to prove his snaps, defensive recognition and decision-making are reliable. Deiter has had two so-so seasons as an NFL starter, and last year’s stint as the starting center for eight games was underwhelming. But we don’t know if the experience he’s gained, the change in scheme, and overall desperation that comes with beginning the final year of a rookie deal will light a fire under the former Wisconsin standout Miami selected in the third round of the 2018 draft.

Liam Eichenberg vs. the field to be among starting five on O-line

Eichenberg, a 2021 second-round pick, struggled mightily as the Dolphins’ left tackle during his rookie season. When Miami signed Terron Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, the Dolphins had the freedom to move the former Notre Dame standout to a more fitting position. Whether that spot is left guard or right tackle depends on many factors, like how Austin Jackson performs at right tackle, and if Williams settles in as the Dolphins’ new center. It is also possible that offensive linemen like Robert Jones, Solomon Kindley or Greg Little could outperform Eichenberg in this scheme and become the fifth member of the starting offensive line. We’ll know more when pads come on, and the physical trench work begins.

Preston Williams vs. Lynn Bowden Jr. for fifth receiver

Williams and Bowden have talent. Williams’ blend of size, speed and athleticism made the undrafted rookie an immediate starter in 2019. And Bowden’s ability to make the first defender miss consistently is something that can’t be taught. But what these two young receivers lack is the ability to execute an offensive playbook, and those struggles could lead to one, or both, of their exits come late August. With Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson and Erik Ezukanma, the Dolphins’ 2022 fourth-round pick, locking up the top four spots at that position if healthy, Williams and Bowden have an uphill battle to prove they belong on the 53-man roster. To earn a spot they must produce big plays in training camp and during preseason games.

Adam Shaheen vs. Hunter Long for third tight end role

Mike Gesicki’s role as a pass-catching tight end, slot playmaker is set in stone. And Durham Smythe is Miami’s most reliable in-line tight end. That leaves Shaheen, a six-year veteran who has started 25 games, and Long, the Dolphins’ 2021 third-round pick, battling for the role as the cleanup man, as Gesicki and Smythe backups. They each have the ability to serve both roles — pass catching and blocking — necessary to play that position, but must gain comfort in this new offensive scheme. Whoever backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater develops chemistry with during camp will likely earn the most playing time.

Melvin Ingram vs. Andrew Van Ginkel for starting outside linebacker role

There was a time when Ingram was one of the best pass rushing outside linebackers in the NFL, but that was a couple seasons, and a few knee injuries ago. At this point the Dolphins need to discover how much the 32-year-old still has left in the tank. Van Ginkel, who contributed 71 tackles, 20 quarterback hits and four sacks last season, has blossomed in his three years in Miami. But the 2019 fifth-round pick has not been an edge-rushing demon like Ingram, who has logged 51 career sacks, and might never become that player.

Duke Riley vs. Channing Tindall for inside linebacker role

Riley came on strong in the second half of 2021, stepping up as a situational inside linebacker when Jerome Baker was moved outside. He started three games and finished the season with 26 tackles. This offseason he proved that he’s ready for more to be placed on his plate by excelling during the offseason program. Tindall, the Dolphins’ 2022 third-round pick, has the pursuit speed and the raw athleticism needed to thrive in today’s wide-open NFL. But he needs to speed up his ability to recognize plays to become more than a special teams contributor in Year 1.

Noah Igbinoghene vs. Trill Williams for backup boundary cornerback role

Igbinoghene, the 30th pick in the 2020 draft, has been a disappointment his first two seasons. The speed and athleticism is there, but his technique and anticipatory skills need a lot of work. The hope is that former Dolphins legends Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain, his two new position coaches, can help him address his issues, allowing him to avoid becoming a first-round bust. Williams spent all last season on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster because his size (6-1, 205) and athleticism. This year the former Syracuse standout has a chance to cement himself as the team’s fourth cornerback, and a core special teamer.

Greg Little vs. Larnel Coleman for backup offensive tackle role

The Dolphins traded for Little, who was the 37th pick in the 2019 draft, last training camp hoping that he’d help stabilize the team’s offensive line after watching Coleman and others struggle massively. But Little wasn’t active for a single game before ending the season on injured reserve because of a knee injury. He’ll compete with Coleman, a 2021 seventh-round pick, to establish himself in the backup tackle role, and to become one of the eight or nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster.

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