Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Training Camp Positional Preview: Quarterbacks

The look at the offense will conclude with the most important position on the team, the quarterback.

What to expect: The passing game last year was an absolute mess, and for an area of the game that was so inefficient, the Dolphins sure did throw the ball a lot. In fact, Miami threw the ball a whopping 591 times, fourth most in the NFL. There's two reasons why Miami threw so much: 1) the team often fell behind early, forcing the team into a passing-mode, and 2) Mike Mularkey was far too quick to abandon the running game and put the outcome of the game in the hands of the sub-par QBs. And for all those passes that were lobbed up, Miami only had 16 passing TDs to show for it. An offense simply cannot succeed under those conditions. Luckily, the team went out and finally drafted a young prospect who can be the future of the team at the QB position. More importantly for this season, however, is that the team brought in an experienced veteran who above all else knows how to effectively and efficiently run an offense. One thing that is almost assured, the QB play this season will be more accurate than last season. Last season, Miami passers combined for a 57.9% completion percentage. For the past 5 seasons, Trent Green has never completed less than 61% of his passes. The bottom line is that the QB play should be improved from last year, but whether it will be improved enough to put the team in the playoff hunt is another question.

Here's a closer look at the individual quarterbacks currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Trent Green
The biggest question concerning the QBs will be if Trent Green's decline in play last season was due mainly to his brutal concussion and his incompatibility with the Chiefs' new offense, or whether his skills are finally starting to diminish in his 14th season. He's had plenty of time to recover from the concussion and he claims that he's feeling no ill side effects and he's now back in the offensive system that he has played in throughout his career. Training camp, then, will be the first glimpse into whether Green can still play at the high level he has displayed throughout his career, or if age (he's now 37) is finally catching up and dragging him down.
Green was hand-picked by Cam Cameron to run this offense, and he has the leadership qualities necessary to do that. However, he's very immobile and he will playing behind a suspect offensive line. There's a chance that he could get pounded early and often. If he can't establish a rhythm when dropping back to pass, this offense may never get off the ground.

Cleo Lemon
According to Cameron, Lemon will battle with Green for the starting job. We all know that's not really true. But Lemon will make a solid backup, especially given the fact that he took a majority of the starter's snaps during minicamps since Green was not yet a Dolphin. That added familiarity will ensure that he is ready to step in and perform when needed. Lemon played adequately when he started the team's final game against the Colts last year. If he has to start any games this season, he will at least give the offense a fighting chance.

John Beck
Beck is the guy that Cameron has put his faith into as the future starter for Miami. Cameron knows QBs so I trust his judgment. The most impressive thing about Beck is his intelligence - he's a true student of the game. If he struggles, it will not be because he hasn't prepared. The next thing that impresses me about Beck is his accuracy and poise in the pocket. He completed 69.3% of his passes last season and if he can translate that into a completion percentage in the mid-60% in the NFL, he will definitely be successful. Some people have knocked Beck's arm strength, which is a criticism I just don't understand. Sure, he doesn't have the arm of Michael Vick, but he's more than adequate. He is slightly shorter (6'2") than most passers which may lead to some passes being knocked down at the line. I don't expect Beck to start right away or at all this season. In fact, I think it would serve him better if he could spend a year on the bench being groomed by Trent Green. Granted, he will be 26 at the start of the season, so I don't think it will take him as long as other less mature rookies to adjust to the NFL. That could lead to him being inserted as the starter as the season progresses. There is certainly the possibility that he will fail at the NFL level, but I think it's much more likely that he eventually turns into an efficient and productive QB in Miami.

Gibran Hamdan
Hamdan will be the team's "camp arm". He's gotten more reps in practice than usual since it took so long for Green to arrive in Miami, and the coaches seem to like what they've seen from him. Given that, there's no room on the roster for Hamdan. However, if he's not picked up by another team, Miami will surely keep his number on speed dial in the event that any one of the QBs above him goes down.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. Trent Green
2. Cleo Lemon
3. John Beck

Training camp battle to watch: Lemon vs. Beck for the backup position. Even though Cameron is calling the starting job a competition, it's safe to say that Green will be the starter. Rookie John Beck could push for the backup position, but Lemon's experience gives him the advantage. Additionally, I would much rather see Beck stay at the No. 3 spot and prefer that he not see the field this season at all, so that he doesn't risk injury and he can simply soak up as much information as possible from Green. Of course, as the season wears on, he may move up the depth chart and if the team is out of the playoff hunt late in the season, the coaching staff may decide to let him play and get his feet wet.

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