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Sparano Has Issues To Settle In Running Game

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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano doesn’t have a lot of positions in flux heading into the third preseason game. But, if he’s to be believed that the focus of the offense will be on the running game, the position battles are to the most crucial elements of the offense.

The right tackle position has been handed to Marc Colombo, who was cut for poor play earlier this season by the Dallas Cowboys. Colombo is facing a stiff challenge at the position from Lydon Murtha who filled in for Jake Long while Long was rehabbing.

“(Lydon) Murtha has done some good things; (Marc) Colombo has done a lot of good things,” Sparano said. “(Lydon) has a lot of value right now in that his flexibility is really good. As far as competing, we’re going to play the best guys and we got another game or two to figure all that out.”

Sparano is very thankful to have a healthy Jake Long manning the left tackle position. Sparano, who’s specialty is supposed to be the offensive line, has played with various groups around Long since he took over, but hasn’t settled on a starting five for a full season.

Sparano said Wednesday that the offensive line, right now, looks to be set with from left to right, Jake Long, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, Vernon Carey, and Colombo.

“You know, we have a long ways before the first game of the season and the group that we’re playing this week will challenge us tremendously, because their fast players, they move really quick up front,” Sparano said.

As for Pouncey, Sparano has been singing the rookie’s praises since training camp began.

“I mean, he’s getting better and better and feeling really comfortable in there and the guys are feeling comfortable with him in there,” Sparano said.

The other key element of a successful running game is at the running back position. Past Reggie Bush, there’s mass chaos at the position for the Dolphins.

Rookie Daniel Thomas was expected to be the starter, or at least co-starter, for the Fins after the team traded up to select him in the NFL Draft’s second round. But Thomas has struggled with consistency at times in practice.

“Daniel had a couple plays in the last two practices where I’ve had to tell him, ‘Hey, I want you to hit this fast,’ and as soon as you tell him that, he does it,” Sparano said.

But Thomas’ hold on his position was thrown into further confusion when the Dolphins decided to sign former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. The mercurial running back has been in camp two days and is still being brought up to speed, but Sparano is encouraged by what he’s seen.

“I thought he did good stuff today,” Sparano said. “He naturally bounced something today, that natural runners do, which was a good thing. I’m kind of anxious to see him when the light goes on.”

Sparano said the wide receiver position is set with Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, and Davone Bess, but past that it’s still an open competition.

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