Answers start coming this week. Not definitive answers, mind you. That will take months.
But when the Dolphins’ rookies convene over the next three days for a minicamp that is closed to the public, the coaches and front office will start gleaning insight into which of the healthy rookies will be ready to assume meaningful roles next season, and which of the low-round draft picks and undrafted rookies will prove worthy of a roster spot.
Healthy is the key word, because first-rounder Dion Jordan and third-rounder Dallas Thomas are recovering from shoulder surgery.
A look at how the rookies factor in at key positions:
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• Cornerback: Second-round pick Jamar Taylor and third-rounder Will Davis assuredly will make the team. The question is whether either or both can beat out Richard Marshall, Dimitri Patterson or Nolan Carroll for one of the top four jobs, alongside former Pro Bowler Brent Grimes.
“What’s there is a lot of competition,” general manager Jeff Ireland said. “You’ve got some real good veterans that have played very good football in their career. Then, you have some young guys we’ve drafted. I feel good about the position. We’ve got a lot of talent over there.”
Speedy seventh-round pick Don Jones, a safety at Arkansas State, also will compete for a roster spot at cornerback.
• Tight end: Fourth-round pick Dion Sims almost assuredly will be on the team, but the question is whether he shows enough over the next four months to seize the No. 2 job behind Dustin Keller. Incumbents Charles Clay, Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller also will be in the mix.
Ireland is encouraged because Sims dropped his weight from 280 to 260 since his season ended at Michigan State.
• The Jordan question: Jordan can attend this weekend’s practices but not future ones in May or June because his class at Oregon hasn’t graduated, according to the Dolphins. So the decision on how best to use him will become clearer in training camp, when he should be fully healthy.
Oregon did not use him much as a hand-in-the-ground defensive lineman. It’s possible he could play a hybrid end/outside linebacker role in Miami, but the coaching staff will make that call.
“Could be,” Ireland said when asked if Jordan could end up at linebacker. “That’s what I like about him. He’s very versatile and he played linebacker there and he also rushed the passer.
“[When] we get our hands on him, [we will] see where the best place he’ll fit. We’ve got a great vision for him. Part of that’s going to be rushing the passer but the other part’s up to [coach Joe Philbin].”
Asked about the pace of his recovery from the shoulder surgery, Jordan said: “I’m doing well. Can’t give you a percentage. I’m not a battery. I tried it already, playing football with one arm. It doesn’t work.”
• Offensive line: Because of Thomas’ shoulder, the Dolphins have been non-committal about how much he will be able to do during this minicamp and subsequent sessions in May and June.
If the Dolphins believe Thomas is better suited to play guard than tackle — as many analysts do — he could compete with starter Richie Incognito. Backing up at both left tackle and left guard seems the most likely course for his rookie season.
“We’ve seen him play both positions,” Philbin said. “He’s got ability at both spots.”
• Running back: If Mike Gillislee impresses in the next four months, he could challenge Daniel Thomas for the No. 2 job behind expected starter Lamar Miller.
“I really like this kid,” Ireland said. “He’s got a very good skill set. He can pass protect. Kind of paid his dues at Florida. He was a one-year starter. He runs it very well. He’s tough.”
• Linebacker: A strong next four months could earn fourth-rounder Jelani Jenkins the top backup job. He’s competing with Jason Trusnik, Josh Kaddu and Austin Spitler, among others. Trusnik is steady and reliable, and Philbin likes Kaddu’s upside.
Jenkins is “very quick, very athletic,” Ireland said. “He’s going to be a core special teams player for us.”
• Kicker: If Caleb Sturgis performs at least as well as Dan Carpenter in the next four months, there’s a good chance Sturgis would win the job because he’s younger and cheaper.
“We’re not giving the job away to Caleb or to Dan,” Ireland said. “They’re going to be in pretty good competition in camp.”
THIS AND THAT
• Left tackle Bryant McKinnie declined an offer from Miami to take a better deal with Baltimore, worth up to $7 million over two years.
• Though two national media outlets suggested the Dolphins might have interest in Tim Tebow, they have not pursued him and are happy with their quarterback situation as is, team sources said.