Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Training Camp: Who's Hot, Who's Not

The full squad has been practicing together for more than a week now, so it's a good time to examine which players are impressing and which players are struggling in the early goings. Now is also a good time to look at some of the positional battles and how they are playing out.

Who's Hot
QB John Beck - By most accounts, Beck has been the most impressive QB on the team during training camp. Granted, he's been facing mostly the second-team defense, but it is very encouraging to see him picking up the playbook so quickly and finding success against NFL-caliber players. His arm strength has been great, and his accuracy and touch have been equally as impressive. Even though Beck will likely stay on the sidelines this season unless something goes horribly wrong, it's comforting to know that the QB of the future is playing that way from this very early stage.

WR Kerry Reed - Who's the beneficiary of Beck's success? Mainly undrafted rookie free agent Kerry Reed. Beck and Reed have formed a good deal of chemistry thus far. Reed has shown a knack for getting open, and Beck has been finding him when he is. Reed's strong play has put him in contention for the fifth WR spot on the roster, although it's more likely that he finds himself on the practice squad if he is indeed retained.

RB Lorenzo Booker - Although Booker has been struggling mightily fielding punts, that job is all but guaranteed to go to Ted Ginn Jr. Where Booker has been very good thus far is in the passing game and on runs to the outside. His speed and agility have made more than a few veteran defenders miss him in the open field.

CB Travis Daniels - Filling in as a starter for Andre' Goodman, Daniels has shown that he is fully recovered from bone spurs in his ankle that hobbled him for much of last season. Daniels has been making plays all over the field and has picked off roughly one pass per day during training camp. If Goodman is forced to miss the beginning of the season, Daniels should be able to capably fill the starting role and perhaps hold onto it for the whole season.

DT Rodrique Wright - Fully recovered from last season's shoulder surgery, Wright has been showing the skills that led to him being a projected first-day pick in last year's draft. With Fred Evans cut loose from the team, the defensive line rotation desperately needs a youngster or two to step up and be prepared to play. So far, it looks like Wright will be able to do just that.

Who's Not
RG Rex Hadnot - Hadnot was projected to start at RG during the team's minicamps, but he has yet to pass rookie sixth-round draft pick Drew Mormino on the depth chart. At first, it seemed like Mormino's place on the starting line was an experiment, but it's been more than a week and Hadnot has taken his snaps almost exclusively with the second team.

RT L.J Shelton - See Rex Hadnot. Shelton was projected to start at RT during minicamps, but he has yet to pass Anthony Alabi on the depth chart. Alabi is only recently returned from knee surgery and has looked slow and out of shape during practices. That says something about how Shelton has been playing.

CB Jason Allen - After a rough minicamp, Jason needed to have a strong training camp to rebuild some confidence. Unfortunately, his trend of getting burned in the secondary has continued, leading me to worry about his progression. Even with Goodman on the sidelines, Jason is still buried on the depth chart behind guys like Michael Lehan. Allen needs to turn things around quickly.

Positional Battles
Trent Green vs. Cleo Lemon - Lemon has actually made this pseudo-competition interesting. He won't win the job, but he's giving it all he's got. Maybe it's a bad sign that Green isn't blowing Lemon out of the water.

Tight Ends - Projected starter David Martin has yet to show that he can be a dominant player and worse is that he sustained a minor groin injury (not a good sign from a notoriously injury-plagued guy). His average play, combined with the atrocious TE depth on the roster, led to Miami picking up Courtney Anderson off waivers.

O-Line - Well, it turns out that there really isn't a battle for the LG spot as previously anticipated. Instead, there are now two battles over the RG and RT spots. Projected starters Rex Hadnot and L.J. Shelton are stuck on the second-string line behind a rookie sixth-round pick and a recently injured and out of shape guy. Things could get messy if somebody doesn't step up their play.

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