Sunday, July 20, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 7: Backup CB

The Dolphins' secondary is probably one of its weakest areas, and it's one they hope to prevent having exposed often by the presence of a quality strong front seven. The recurring problem at the position is that everybody there is playing higher than they should. No. 1 corner Will Allen is more of a No. 2. Michael Lehan, the No. 2 corner coming off a strong 2007 campaign, is really more of a No. 3 at best. Free agent acquisition Nathan Jones might be given more responsibility than he ever has in his career as a dime corner.

While Allen and Lehan are probably locks to make the team, the rest of the depth chart is uncertain. Goodman is one of the better players at this position so he's probably safe, but his injury history is a concern. Jones has a good chance to make the team as well given his history with the staff and management.

Meanwhile, Travis Daniels is one guy that I feel could be on the way out. After a solid rookie campaign as a fourth-rounder out of LSU in 2005, Daniels has shown little progression and perhaps even regression. He's not a viable candidate to start and doesn't seem to be getting much better, which could make him expendable.

If you got out on the limb (more like twig) I am and cut Daniels, you probably have one open spot at corner - the fifth and final spot. Left over are Joey Thomas, Will Billingsley and Scorpio Babers. Thomas is the only one with NFL experience as a former third-round pick by the Packers in 2004. He also has the Cowboys connection, as he the played with the team in the preseason last year.

Additionally, Thomas is quite frankly the only one that's currently NFL-ready. Billingsley has blazing speed but is very raw, and Babers just isn't much of a pro prospect. Thomas has the talent, experience and connections to earn the job, while the others are really just auditioning for a practice squad gig.

The position(s):Backup CB spots
Number of spots: 1-2
The contenders:Travis Daniels, Nathan Jones, Joey Thomas, Will Billingsley, Scorpio Babers
Predicted winner(s): Jones and Thomas
Reason: The Dolphins' secondary is very much a work-in-progress and will continue to be until 2009 at the earliest, so I think the Dolphins go with the experience and familiarity provided by Jones and Thomas. Billingsley and Babers just aren't NFL-ready right now, though I wouldn't be surprised to see the speedster Billingsley land on the practice squad for development.