Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 10: Backup OTs

He are a few facts about one of the Miami Dolphins' players:
  • He did not play in the NFL last season
  • He has not appeared in a regular season game since 2005
  • He has played in 18 total regular season games
  • He has never started a regular season NFL game
Who am I describing? That would be Miami offensive lineman Trey Darilek. The somewhat scary reality is that, despite all those facts I just presented, Darilek is Miami's most experienced backup offensive tackle. That could be a problem.

Let's forget the backups for a moment. Even the starting offensive tackles are causes for some concern. Jake Long appears destined to start at quite possibly the second-hardest position in the whole game, and first overall pick or no he's still a rookie. Meanwhile, Vernon Carey is coming off a very poor season at left tackle and moving back to the right side.

Then you have the backups, if they are even worthy of being called that. After Darilek, you have a second-year undrafted player in Julius Wilson (UAB) and two undrafted rookies in Dan Gore (Boise State) and Daren Heerspink (Portland State).

And that's it.

Miami is clearly lacking experience at the backup tackle position and it will be interesting to see which, if any, of these players emerge as worthy of a roster spot. Excluding Darilek, it's entirely possible that none are worthy of such a spot right now. That is why some outside help could be brought in.

Miami could and should bring in some veteran help at some point during camp or the preseason. To be honest, I was very surprised to see the Dolphins not go after former Cowboy and Jet Jason Fabini, who re-signed with the Redskins. A few of the players still on the market I would consider are: Anthony Clement, Nat Dorsey, Wayne Gandy, Stockar McDougle (again), Fred Miller, Stephen Peterman and Kevin Sampson.

While most of these players are not quality starters, some (Gandy, Miller) have quite a bit of experience and could easily jump into the lineup because of injuries. Meanwhile, Peterman was drafted by the Cowboys under Parcells in 2004. While not the sexiest of names, all have at least some experience and have proved they are at least capable of playing in the NFL. This is more than can currently be said for current Miami's backup tackle options, which is why the Dolphins need to add someone to the mix.

The position(s): Backup offensive tackle
Number of spots: Possible one, likely two
The contenders: Trey Darilek, Julius Wilson, Dan Gore, Daren Heerspink
Predicted winner(s): Darilek and a veteran yet to be added
Reason: Darilek seems like a keeper given the lack of competition, his experience, his versatility across the line and his history with the Cowboys ('07 training camp). As for the other spot, I simply don't trust the undrafted guys to be ready to back up Long and Carey at the moment and unless one really came out of nowhere it'd be wise to add more experience, so that is what I think Miami will do.