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'Hard Knocks' primer: Miami Dolphins storylines for HBO series

DAVIE, Fla. -- Bouncing to the beat of the jams thumping inside the Miami Dolphins' indoor training facility, cornerback Vontae Davis looked particularly jazzed as he warmed up Monday for his eighth practice since camp opened less than two weeks ago.

Davis was high-fiving teammates, grinning big as he made his way through a stretching line, all while a cameraman and a sound technician from NFL Films shadowed his every move.

Was it a show? Sure, it was. But Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, when the Dolphins' first week of camp debuts on HBO's "Hard Knocks" series, the attempts at showmanship for everyone will take a backseat to something far more interesting: the reality.

So what will we see? Who will shine? Who will struggle? Let's take a look at 10 storylines from the first week of camp that could turn some heads:

1) The Vontae Davis show.
Speaking of Davis, it's going to be interesting to see how "Hard Knocks" covers the 2009 first-round draft pick. A true character with a fun-loving personality, Davis was an early favorite to come out of the "Hard Knocks" series as a star. Now, it's a wonder if this could hurt more than help.

In the last week, Richard Marshall has suspiciously replaced Davis on the first-team defense opposite Sean Smith. Will "Hard Knocks" reveal more into the reasons for this -- and will it include his struggles to show up to practice on time?

Davis has an incredible amount of natural ability, and his brother (San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis) has served as a great mentor, but we could soon see exactly why Monday's depth chart listed Davis behind Marshall.

2) Under center, under the spotlight.
Without question, the most intriguing storyline (some might argue it's the only storyline) centers on the quarterbacks. It's a reason some Dolphins players wonder privately whether this is really a good time to be showcasing the inner-workings of the organization when such sensitive decisions are being made.

To this point, David Garrard has been the clear favorite, and Ryan Tannehill has gained some very clear momentum after his first week of practices. Neither of those elements of this story should be a big surprise. But what about Matt Moore? We should learn more about what this team truly thinks about his future.

We should also find out if Tannehill really does have a legitimate shot of moving into the starting job -- maybe even as soon as the debut episode.

3) Incognito no more.
During one of the Dolphins' only days off, the "Hard Knocks" camera crew followed offensive guard Richie Incognito to Fort Lauderdale Beach, so it's pretty clear they've learned what many already know about this charismatic lineman: He's an interesting person with an interesting story, a kind-hearted big man who gained a reputation as a dirty player because of a temper issue that he has worked hard to conquer.

NFL Films has a great opportunity to show a new side of Incognito that few around the league know about. After this week's episode, his last name is likely to be far from fitting.

4) Breaking in the new guys.
You'll probably get to see nose tackle Paul Soliai leading the charge in a rookie hazing session that included plenty of blonde hair dye. You might also see tight end Anthony Fasano force rookie tight end Michael Egnew into drawing a Fu Manchu onto his upper lip with a Sharpie. And yes, you'll probably catch Tannehill carrying Garrard's helmet after practice, too.

Those are the standard rookie hazing procedures that take place around NFL camps each year -- and the Dolphins delivered their fair share last week.

5) From crunching numbers to popping pads.
It's not a matter of if "Hard Knocks" makes mention of tight end Les Brown's story -- it's a matter of when. Brown is the accountant who hadn't played football since high school until the Dolphins decided to offer him a contract with the team.

The "Hard Knocks" cameras have paid plenty of attention to Brown, even making sure he was wearing a microphone for at least one practice. He's a fun story -- and since it's never known how long a player like this might hang around, it's a good possibility we'll hear about his rise to the Dolphins' roster sooner than later.

6) The pure football guys.
When it comes to football -- just the pure, genuine game of football -- linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are likely to provide the most colorful subject material. Both players are hard-nosed veterans who will lead the defense this season.

They like to talk, but they aren't the types who will work for the spotlight. Instead, both players will provide the type of true reality that many hardcore football fans will come to appreciate.

7) Star search.
The wide receiver position has been one of the more discussed units of the offseason, ever since the Dolphins traded away Brandon Marshall in March. Who will stand out? Where will the firepower come from?

This is the most likely position to provide your sleeper-to-watch players. Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and Clyde Gates all have nice stories to tell -- and all three are clawing for a roster spot. The beginning of their journey through 2012 training camp is likely to be introduced Tuesday.

8) They need no introduction.
Chad Johnson. Reggie Bush. Two players you already know so much about -- and two players who will show you even more in the next month. If you had to guess which aspects of their lives will be covered in this HBO series, you might be wise to assume both will want to show they are serious about proving their worth as football players.

You'll probably see plenty of footage of Bush running gassers with different types of equipment after practice. You'll probably also hear him talk about wanting to lead the NFL in rushing yards this season.

As for Johnson? Well, if you haven't already heard, he's just happy to be in an environment that's allowing him to act like himself again. The Dolphins hope he'll be able to conjure up his old production, too.

9) Who is Joe Philbin?
Coach Joe Philbin has quickly earned the respect of his locker room during the first week of camp. The little-known, first-time head coach will now begin to earn the respect of the rest of the NFL, as well. Philbin is extremely likeable, and HBO will shed some light on what it's like for this man to begin his head-coaching career. It's an incredibly interesting angle that should provide some very intriguing color. This is unique stuff, even for the "Hard Knocks" series.

10) Franchise on the rise.
Let's be honest: The Dolphins aren't exactly an organization that creates thoughts of greatness in the minds of many around the NFL these days. Yes, they have an incredible history that includes Don Shula and Dan Marino. But those years have been followed by a decade of struggles.

This team is trying its hardest to get headed in the right direction, as you'll likely see if HBO airs a speech that owner Stephen Ross delivered to the team early in training camp. It's an organization that's filled with better people than the public currently realizes. And by the time HBO's series finishes, there's a better chance than not that Miami's football franchise comes out looking more like a team on the mend than one in the dumps.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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