Sunday, July 20, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 6: FS spots

Dolphins fans got high on Jason Allen last season, as posted three interceptions and at times looked like a respectable defender. Still, the 16th overall pick in 2006 has a long way to go to live up to his draft status and is far from a quality starter in the NFL.

That being the case, Allen still has to be considered the favorite for the job, if only due to lack of options and his potential upside. Without a real quality starting free safety, there seems little harm in giving Allen the job in hopes he'll live up to the No. 16 pick. If that does indeed happen, then the real battle is between Renaldo Hill and Chris Crocker for the backup job.

Hill was a solid starter for Miami in 2006, but is coming off a torn ACL and is pushing 30. Crocker isn't much better, but has plenty of starting experience himself and at worst is a viable fill-in at free safety. Both also have experience at corner, so that's a wash. The one key difference is Crocker was brought in by Parcells and Ireland, while Hill is a Saban holdover.

Crocker probably has the edge at this point, though Hill will definitely give him a run for his money. It's possible the Dolphins could opt to put Hill on the PUP list, which would give them six weeks in the regular season to determine if they wanted his services. Very unlikely to earn a spot is Courtney Bryan - a second-year undrafted player out of New Mexio State. There's just too much experience ahead of him for him to have a realistic shot.

The position(s): Free safety spots
Number of spots: Two
The contenders: Jason Allen, Chris Crocker, Renaldo Hill, Courtney Bryan
Predicted winner(s): Allen and Crocker
Reason: Allen will get a chance to prove himself to the new regime, while Crocker should win out over holdover and rehabbing Renaldo Hill. Bryan never really had a shot.