Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 9: Starting FB

With Miami still lacking a proven quarterback, but in possession of two potentially Pro Bowl-caliber running backs, there is little doubt the emphasis will be on running the ball in 2008. That being the case, the Dolphins will also need a bruising fullback to open up holes for Ronnie and Ricky. Who the fullback will be has yet to be determined and it makes for quite an interesting preseason battle.

The incumbent, Reagan Mauia, was drafted by the "old regime" the sixth round in 2007 out of Hawaii. While he gained quite a bit of attention from his YouTube video where he runs through a wall, he has yet to display such power on the football field. From what I saw of him during his rookie season, he was only average when it came to power and very rarely did I see him knock guys around. Furthermore, he showed very little ability as a pass receiver and a surprising lack of power in short-yardage carries. One also cannot forget Mauia's April arrest, who may put him in Parcells' dog house and give him a very short leash when it comes to future incidents.

The "Parcells guy" in this battle is Boomer Grigsby. The 26-year-old Grigsby has spent the last four season with the Chiefs after being drafted by them in the fifth round out of Illinois State in 2004. Primarily a special teamer, he was converted from linebacker to fullback prior to the 2007 season.

As one would expect from a converted linebacker, Grigsby isn't a threat with the ball in his hands and was still primarily a special teamer last season while backing up Kris Wilson at fullback. Neither he nor Mauia seem to have any advantage (or talent) in this area, and fortunately it's not something that will play a large part in their roles the team.

The key to this battle is who can establish themselves as a lead blocker for the run-oriented offense. Mauia (6-0, 270) has the size advantage over Grigsby (5-11, 249). However, as I mentioned before, Mauia didn't show a whole lot of power on offense a rookie. Meanwhile, Grigsby is your typical hard-nosed, blue-collar [insert more clich├ęs here] guy who has plenty of experience as a wedge buster on special teams.

There is a third player the position in sixth-rounder Lex Hilliard, though he is such a long shot to win a starting job I don't feel the need to give him much attention here. The running back/fullback will have his hands full just making the team, and his primary focus will likely be on special teams early on.

With no other candidates on the roster and none likely to be signed before the season barring injury, the battle comes down to Mauia and Grigsby. Both took reps with the first team during offseason workouts, so this battle is far from over and definitely something to keep an eye on.

The position(s): Starting fullback
Number of spots: One
The contenders: Reagan Mauia, Boomer Grigsby, Lex Hilliard
Predicted winner(s): Mauia
Reason: Mauia has more upside than Grigsby, while Grigsby is a huge asset on special teams. I feel that the organization will give Mauia the chance to establish himself as the starting fullback, because it's a place he could really thrive for years if he pans out. That being said, the Dolphins probably wouldn't hesitate to toss Grigsby in there if Mauia doesn't separate himself and get the job done.