Thursday, August 6, 2009

Training Camp Roster Breakdown 2009: Wide Receivers

The past two installments of my roster breakdown haven't had much controversy or real competition. That changes with today's breakdown which looks at the wide receiver position. This is a group of players with no clear cut leader and lots of inexperienced youth.

So let's see who brings what to the table.

Ted Ginn
Football Outsiders Almanac 2009 starts off their description of Ginn like so:
Comforted by the soft bias of low expectations, Ginn improved just enough in his second season to highlight the gap between potential and production.

I think that's quite an apt statement. Other than some Dolphins fans, most people looked at Ginn's very pedestrian rookie season and completely wrote him off. But his poor rookie season (-25.8% DVOA, -71 DYAR) just made it that much easier for him to "impress" in sophomore season even if his performance last year wasn't exactly "good."

He certainly improved, but with those metrics in your first year, it's almost impossible not too. He still finished last year with -10% DVOA and only 19 DYAR. Hell, Derek Hagan finished with 7 DYAR and he only caught three passes.

The point is, Ginn still has a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to route-running and beating physical coverage. He's obviusly shown that he can be a threat, but up to this point he has failed to be a threat on every play. The team needs more from Ginn this year. I think taking him off return duties will help his development. Thankfully, KUBIAK sees Ginn taking a rather pronounced stride forward this year in his development and possibly becoming that solid starter we've all hoped he could be since day one.

Greg Camarillo
Camarillo avoided the David Tyree career path last year by turning in a very solid season following a play of epic porportions that could have defined the career of a lesser player. Instead, all he did was multiply the number of passes he saw thrown his way eightfold (from 10 to 83). Until his unfortunate knee injury, Greg had firmly established himself as Chad Pennington's favotire, most reliable target. Of course, as I explained when discussing Ronnie Brown's knee injury, even though Greg may look physically fine in training camp, he likely won't be 100% until this time next year. That may lead to him ceding more of his workload to Davone Bess, but Camarillo will still likely start off the year as the starter opposite Ginn. And as long as he can stay on the field, he'll be productive.

Davone Bess
According to the advanced metrics, Bess was Miami's best WR last year, despite not starting until Camarillo was lost for the season in November. He finished with 81 DYAR and a 1.3% DVOA (the only non-Derek Hagan positive DVOA of all the WR). He also had the best catch percentage (72%) of all the WRs. Suffice to say, the team uncovered a real gem in this undrafted free agent. He'll be the team's slot receiver to start the season, but will likely be sprinkled in the two-WR sets as well.

Patrick Turner
Turner, Miami's third-round draft choice, may have been a bit of a reach that high in the draft, but he's been a pleasant surprise so far in camp, running great routes and catching everything. He's certainly been more impressive than Brandon London and Ernest Wilford, Miami's two other big-bodied receivers. He's hardly a deep threat, but if he can develop into a reliable possession receiver, Miami will have made a good decision.

Brian Hartline
Hartline was taken one round after Turner, showing Miami's strong desire to upgrade the WR group. His breakout season in college came in 2007, but he couldn't follow up on that with a strong senior season, as Ohio State switched to a heavily run-based offense. He is said to be very intelligent and has proven himself as an ace special teams player. Special teams is likely where he'll see the majority of his work this year.

Brandon London
I put London on my Top 5 Prospects list, and since that time he hasn't done a whole lot in camp to back up my selection. I picked him out as a prospect primarily because of his size and the fact that Miami lacked any other tall WR. But that's changed with the selection of Turner and Hartline. London's biggest contributions last year were on special teams, but that probably won't be enough to earn him a roster spot this year. London's only real chance of making this team requires them keeping six WRs, and even then he'll have to beat out Anthony Armstrong. Then again, this front office craves size, so they just might squeeze him onto the roster.

Anthony Armstrong
Armstrong was the toast of minicamps, making burnt toast out of a lot of the cornerbacks he faced. And then he put on the pads for training camp, and he couldn't separate quite so easy. Armstrong's game is based heavily on speed, but you need more than that to succeed at the NFL level. He's still eligible for the practice squad, so he could end up there again.

Ernest Wilford
Wilford was a gigantic free agent bust last year. He was only activated 7 times on game day, catching a measly three passes for 25 yards. I really have no idea what happened to him, as he had racked up more than 500 receiving yards three years straight. In a desperate attempt to salvage his Dolphin career, the coaching staff is experimenting with him as a tight end/H-back. Surprisingly, he was apparently somewhat impressive in that role during minicamps. I'm not buying it though. His ship has sailed, and I don't want to see him take a roster spot away from a young guy with actual promise.

Chris Williams
Williams is a tiny guy (just 5'7.5, 154 pounds) but he was an explosive player in college who doubled as a solid kick and punt returner. Those skills could win him a spot on the practice squad.


Here are the KUBIAK projections for Ginn, Camarillo, and Bess.



Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. Ted Ginn
2. Greg Camarillo
3. Davone Bess
4. Patrick Turner
5. Brian Hartline
6. Brandon London

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