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Hartline makes his move for starting job

It’s always difficult to project what rookie wide receivers will succeed in the NFL, and 2009 is shaping up to be as unpredictable as ever.

San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree remains a holdout and Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin is trying to hold on to a gig on special teams.

Cleveland’s Brian Robiskie was expected to be the most “pro-ready” rookie, but he’s been outplayed by his supposedly “raw” rookie teammate Mohammad Massaquoi.

Oakland is currently starting two rookies at wideout, but most observers would tell you that fourth-round pick Louis Murphy looks as good or better than top-ten pick Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Perhaps the most surprising rookie receiver story is unfolding in Miami, where Robiskie’s old college teammate Brian Hartline is making a serious run at a starting flanker job opposite Ted Ginn.

Hartline started Thursday night and led the team with three catches, five targets, and 79 yards. No other receiver had more than one catch or three targets with the starting unit. (Ted Ginn has been invisible all preseason.) The starting job was expected to go to Davone Bess (who caught 54 passes as an undrafted rookie) or Greg Camarillo.

Hartline’s ascension could leave last year’s surprise Camarillo planted on the bench. Camarillo caught a 52-yard pass late in Thursday’s game, but his post-ACL surgery lack of speed showed up dramatically on the play.

The Miami passing game wasn’t flashy last year, but it was awfully efficient. If Hartline steps up, Chad Pennington should have an improved young wideout group. And we haven’t even mentioned Hartline’s rookie teammate Patrick Turner.

Turner, of course, was drafted a round ahead of Hartline.