Training Camp Preview: Defensive Ends

This is it ladies and gentleman. The last training camp preview means the 2010 season officially kicks off tomorrow for the Dolphins. And good thing I waited until the last minute to preview the defensive ends, with all of the acquisitions that have gone down since Phillip Merling was sidelined for the season.

Since then, the Dolphins have added Marques Douglas, Montavious Stanely, who has prototypical defensive end size, but will reportedly work at nose tackle, and Charles Grant, who should officially sign the deal that has been agreed upon today.

That figures to induce a nice, healthy competition starting tomorrow. The Dolphins are set on one side with Kendall Langford, but the other remains up for grabs. Eventually, the team has to hope first-round pick Jared Odrick takes over, but he’s going to have to beat out a couple proven veterans who have a combined 256 games of starting experience under their belts.

Safe

Kendall Langford: Perhaps, the most underrated player on the entire defense, Langford has been solid and reliable for two years now. As a 3-4 defensive end, you typically don’t get the credit the 4-3 pass rushing types do. But die-hard Dolphin fans know how valuable Langford is to the run defense.

His stats don’t jump off the page at you (43 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 09′), but Pro Football Focus does a nice job of discovering how good he was a year ago. The site ranks his 09′ performance 7th among all 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Not quite Pro Bowl caliber, but very solid work, nonetheless.

Jared Odrick: The 28th overall pick has yet to sign a contract, but you would think they are close. The team reportedly tried to hammer out a deal yesterday, but haven’t quite come to terms yet. The signing of Devin McCourty, who was selected one slot ahead of Odrick at 27th, surely makes things easier for the two parties, as Odrick’s deal figures to be worth slightly less.

Once business is taken care of, Odrick is going to have his hands full trying to earn a starting job. The Dolphins do like to rotate their DE’s frequently, however, which means Odrick is going to get his snaps regardless.

Marques Douglas: Douglas may only have one or two years left, but at 33 years old, he’s fresh off a 64 tackle season for the Jets, where he was as solid as ever against the run. If he shows no signs of slowing down in camp, he could be the favorite to snag the vacant starting defensive end job.

Even though, he would likely concede time to Odrick frequently in order to stay fresh, and would undoubtedly sub out on passing situations, as he’s a non-factor rushing the quarterback.

The ideal situation is still Odrick having a fantastic camp and starting form day one, but in the likely event there is a bit of a learning curve as he adjust to the scheme and the speed of the league, Douglas would provide much needed stability as Odrick develops.

 

Possible Cuts

Charles Grant: The signing of Grant should spark even further competition, but that all depends on if he can transition to the 3-4 scheme. He has been in the 4-3 for the duration of his career, but has the size to make the switch. Fans might get excited about bringing in a guy with 106 starts, but there was a reason he was still a free agent as camps were opening across the league.

He has been replaceable in New Orleans for awhile now, and the possible four-game suspension hanging over his head to go along with recently being cleared of an involuntary manslaughter charge, doesn’t exactly make him an attractive hire. Still though, even if he’s not a starting caliber player, he should provide excellent depth, and will bolster the rotation.

Tony McDaniel: McDaniel was one of the team’s five trouble makers this offseason- getting arrested on domestic violence charges. Being the fourth defensive end last year, McDaniel still saw 315 snaps, which speaks volumes about how Miami loves to rotate their DE’s, four to five deep.

Judging by the acquisitions made over the past week, though, he will probably get a bit of a demotion, likely dropping from 4th on the depth chart to 5th. That shouldn’t burst his roster bubble, but if a guy like Ryan Baker continues to build off a reportedly stellar spring, McDaniel could find himself on the outside looking in at the 53-man roster.

Ryan Baker: I also mentioned Baker with the nose tackles, because he is reportedly being trained as a hybrid. That, combined with reportedly solid showings in minicamp and OTA’s give him a good shot at avoiding the final cuts. Still though, once the players take the field tomorrow, anything done in the spring means very little.

We’ve seen players have great offseasons before, and struggle when the pads come on. If that’s the case with Baker, he’s gone, no doubt about it. If he continues to impress, though, he could earn himself the final roster spot at the position, and provide some depth at nose tackle as well.

Likely Cuts

Lionel Dotson: Dotson saw action in a total of four games the past two years, but with the talent that has recently been brought in, he likely won’t even receive sufficient reps to make a lastly impression.

Ikaika-Alama Francis: A season after having a pretty decent year in Detroit- 2 games started, 23 tackles, and 1.0 sack- Francis didn’t get any action for the Dolphins in 09′. That likely means Dotson has the slight edge over Francis, meaning Francis’ chances of making the team are even more minimal.

Predictions

Depth Chart
1. Kendall Langford
2. Marques Douglas
3. Jared Odrick (will take over starting job mid-season)
4. Charles Grant
5. Ryan Baker

Cuts
Tony McDaniel
Lionel Dotson
Ikaika-Alama Francis

Countdown to Camp: Tomorrow is the day!

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