Saturday's game most important to L.J. Shelton
Shelton has one game, two max, to show he truly is a consistent, motivated performer because he has not done that to this point in training camp. And if the veteran doesn't reach that consistency and high-motor aggression, he'll probably find himself looking for a job.
That's right. L.J. Shelton could get cut or traded if he's not careful.
The reason is the coaching staff has been trying to prod Shelton to produce at the level they expect -- at the level he reached at times last year -- before they give up on him. The Dolphins need Shelton to be a starter somewhere on the offensive line, or at least promise to be a GREAT backup if something happens to a starter.
Shelton didn't respond early on, reporting to camp overweight and showing little desire to improve his lot.
So coach Cam Cameron responded by unceremoniously demoting Shelton once then again. The guy who has been a starter all his career has been running with rookies, undrafted free agents and other guys likely to be cut throughout training camp. He's been playing at the end of each of the first two preseason games -- AKA garbage time.
The problem for Shelton is he can't afford to continue playing as he has been because his contract pretty much prevents the Dolphins from accepting that.
Shelton is scheduled to make $2 million in base salary this year and it says here there is no way the Dolphins will allow him to collect that kind of money while underperforming -- especially not when they can have a young guy, a guy who may be on the rise compared to Shelton being on the decline, a guy that would make about one-fifth of what Shelton is making.
So Shelton's got to improve to earn his keep or his salary will force the Dolphins to get rid of him.
Of course, the team may decide to ask Shelton to take a pay cut in exchange for allowing him to take up space in the locker room as an emergency backup.
But that course has many obstacles. Shelton, who has a pretty high opinion of himself, may not take the pay cut. And even if he does, the team would have to consider what kind of influence Shelton would be on Miami's young offensive linemen if he's unhappy after accepting a pay cut.
So where does that leave us?
"He’s got a ways to go," coach Cam Cameron said when I asked about Shelton this week. "I like his consistent approach. He’s developed an ability – that’s what I need to see, a guy with a consistent approach. If he’s doing it consistently average, then we’ve got to get that effort to where we need it and then if you can get a consistent effort out of a guy you can really get a true evaluation of what he is.''
That's coachspeak for: They guy has become somewhat consistent, but he's just average. We need to try to raise his level of play beyone what we've seen.
"I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays on Saturday night,” Cameron finished.
We should all watch -- to get a clue whether Shelton will be around or not.