There is only 3 days left of vacation for the Miami Dolphins players. Then, the off-season is over and it is time to get to work. With just a short 18 days until the new look Phins take the field for their first pre-season game, there is a lot of work to be done, and even more questions to be answered.
We start on the offensive side of the ball where lingering concerns over the capability of the WR corp is overshadowed by the trio of QB’s that will be fighting for the top spot. Then, if that wasn’t enough to chew on, there is the made over offensive line, that just so happens to be Tony Sparano’s area of expertise.
This is our look at the players who will be at training camp!
All eyes, as they have been in recent years will be on the QB. No Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green, oh hell the list goes on. This year is nothing but a couple of young guys and a journeyman veteran who has had little success. While for the first time there will be an all out QB competition, the candidates are not exactly worth jumping up and down over…yet.
John Beck – The lone returning QB from last year, Beck’s first impression to Dolphins fans was far from exciting…unless of course you were the gift horse from the other team. Beck struggled with each snap and it wasn’t until the last game of the season (he only played in a handful) that he began to show some signs of settling down and tossing the rock. Beck had way too many fumbled snaps and the fumbled exchange against the Bengals in the first quarter caused laughter and groans that are still echoing through the tunnels of Dolphin Stadium.
Beck has been a fixture at the Phins training center since the season ended. He has been throwing up-wards of 1,000 balls a week at one time. The Dolphins hiring of new QB coach David Lee has gone a long way in changing the mechanics of John Becks throwing motion. His release was too high and his elbow too low. While Beck may be the incumbent returning veteran, the fact that for all intent and purposes he is still a rookie makes his job harder, and not guaranteed. Beck must step up in year two to prove that he belongs. Chad Henne is in the wings….and Beck is not the choice of Bill Parcells.
Josh McCown – While Beck may be the veteran Dolphins QB, McCown is the longest tenured Phins QB…combined. McCown has bounced around the NFL with pretty much the same results. Not good. His play has bordered on decent, but never really came to more than that. While no one will fault him entirely in Oakland, as the entire team was bad the last two years…especially on offense, the fact is that McCown could not generate a rhythm of any sorts. Unable to lead his team to scores will not win him another round in Miami.
McCown has three things going for him. One, he was brought in and signed by Bill Parcells, something Beck does not have. He is a veteran who has started in more real NFL games than Henne and Beck combined, and 3, the offensive players around him have praised his leadership in the huddle. Something they have not done with Beck.
Chad Henne – Just because Henne is a rookie does not mean that he won’t be competing. This is the hand chosen selection for the Dolphins future by Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland. He will get his reps in practice and he will be given time to develop if that is what he in fact needs. However, Henne has a huge arm and with a speedster on the outside, someone has to be able to throw the ball with some accuracy and Henne supposedly has it.
Some compare him to Jim Kelly and there are media guys out there who believe that Henne of all the QB’s chosen in this past draft, is the most ready to start. While it is hard to fathom the Phins starting a rookie QB, if Henne shows his stuff, and the Dolphins like it, they may very well let the kid learn with the rest of the team.
Prediction: While this is only my opinion I believe that John Beck will be the opening weekend starter with Josh McCown sitting 2nd. Chad Henne will see playing time this year and he may move up the depth chart quickly. Still, I think we see a different John Beck although I am not sure if what we see will be enough to please the fans, or his coaches for the long run.
The world of Miami’s offensive attack is in the back-field. The Dolphins have questions in every facet of their game, but the RB questions are probably the biggest outside of who starts at QB. The two top stars are coming off injured seasons that found them on IR and the depth behind them is a couple of rookies and a special teams player.
The Dolphins saw fit to get rid of Lorenzo Booker, a draft pick from last years draft, and Booker is getting rave reviews from the Philadelphia media and team. So extra scrutiny will be paid to the decisions that were made in Miami this off-season at the position.
Ronnie Brown – Brown was in career mode last year until a freak knee injury against New England landed him in IR. Brown was lights out stellar. Leading the league in rushing, Brown easily could have finished the year in the top spot had he been able to continue. Instead, he saw his season end and more concerns of his injury prone nature come to the surface. Brown has been cleared to practice at full speed only a short 10 months after his ACL injury. The Phins however will bring him back slow and ease him into the game. While Brown will not likely post numbers close to what he did last season, a healthy Brown will go a long way to making this offense successful.
Ricky Williams – Jokes aside, Williams seems more determined today than at any time in his entire career. Receiving heaps of praise from HC Tony Sparano and even Bill Parcells, Williams seems like RB most thought he would be…now he just needs to prove he is still capable of running like the Ricky Williams he used to be. If healthy, and he is supposedly 100 percent after a shoulder injury last season ended him on IR, Williams will not be the lone featured back he hated under Wannstedt, but the dual weapon he was under Saban. Williams is the veteran leader of this offense whether he likes it or not and that could pose a problem for the soft spoken yoga teacher.
Patrick Cobbs – Chances are the days of Cobbs in Miami are about over unless there is an injury. The Phins have two rookies on their plate that they appear to be very high on. Cobbs has been on the bubble the last couple of years and this is likely the year that he sees the street. A good back with good hands, Cobbs may just be the odd man out because of what direction the team is taking.
Jalen Parmale – The rookie runner taken in late day 2 of the draft is giving the Dolphins some high hopes. Parmale will likely make his mark, he will need to make his mark, on special teams to get a roster spot, but the fact that Parcells, Ireland, and Sparano like what they see, he has a solid chance to stick.
Lex Hilliard – Another rookie that the “Trifecta” seem to like, Hilliard is a fast moving body with good hands. He has a long way to go, but RB’s tend to fare well early in their careers in the NFL. Hilliard will, like Parmale, need to show some value on ST’s, but he should be able to do that.
NOTE: For the life of me I can not remember which one of the rookie runners is also considered a solid option at FB. If memory serves it is Hilliard.)
Boomer Grigsby – The fullbacks on the roster number 2. Grigsby will have to show something in camp to be the starting FB but make no mistake, Grigsby was not brought in specifically for that duty, he is a special teams monster that should have no problem making this team. In fact, while not nescessarily having to make the team as a FB…he will push Mauia for the job.
Reagan Mauia – Mauia struggled last year missing key blocks and even hitting the wrong holes on running plays. He will need to step it up quick, but the good news is his coaching staff is 10 times better than it was last year. Mauia has a lot of potential but he needs to focus down on playing football at this level.
Predictions – The Phins like guys who play ST’s which means that of all the backs on the roster right now, only Patrick Cobbs stands be the odd man out. I do think the Phins easily could go into the season carrying 4 RB’s and 2 FB’s. In fact, I almost expect it. Cobbs should be cut in favor of the younger rookies with more potential long term. In addition, look for Ricky Williams to be the opening day starter while Brown is still working back up to playing speed. Brown will see playing time, but on the depth chart early on…I think Williams gets that nod.
With the trade of Chris Chambers last year, the Phins WR corp became nothing more than Ted Ginn, Jr. The problem was that TG was a rookie who up until the trade saw little time on the field. Marty Booker is gone as well. That leaves Derek Hagan and Greg Camarillo returning from rolls last year to compliment Ginn. Are you jumping up and down yet? While that may sound like horrible news, the Phins have a few guys that may surprise and Ernest Wilford who is expected to play a pivotal roll on the offense.
Ted Ginn – The real question with Ginn is not his hands or his speed, it’s who is going to throw the ball down the sideline? Ginn has the tools but he will always have to do more because of his draft slotting. Fans want a legitimate WR and Ginn hasn’t been on the field enough to prove he can be. The other question will be will Ginn be used on ST’s where he looked good last season? While Ginn should easily have the number 1 WR slot locked up, the question remains…is Ted Ginn a number 1 WR? A lot of eyes will be focusing on that in TC.
Ernest Wilford – The 5 year veteran comes to Miami as the most experienced WR of the group. He was expendable in Jacksonville and joined Miami as an FA. He has been known to be a good route runner with good hands as well. For Wilford the question is can he get separation in the secondary and in the middle of the field when the Phins pose no real offensive threat right now? While Wilford is likely to be a good addition to the Phins offense, it may be another year or two before we see that come to fruition. Not because Wilford has to get better, but because the rest of the team does.
Derek Hagan – Most fans will tell you it’s time for Hagan to put up or go home. Going into his 3rd season now, the season that most WR’s make it or break it, Hagan still has that tendency to drop passes. Something that for Miami fans is all too familiar over the last 5 years with all WR’s. Hagan runs very good, crisp routes and he uses his body well to get separation. Still, if he can not catch the ball in traffic or wide-open he has little use to Miami.
Greg Camarillo – The hero of last season. Camarillo will always be known for the catch that saved the Phins from a horrible future of 0-16 reminders. While Camarillo on that day became a fan favorite, the Dolphins will have to decide if Greg is worth a roster spot. There are some young guys who have some upside that may make Camarillo expendable.
Davone Bess – Here is another Hawaii guy that has so far turned some heads. His speed and quickness and his showing of good hands has some in the media talking…but, that was all without pads and contact. The ball game is a lot different now. Bess stands a good chance of making this team, but he must continue to grow with the offense enough to land himself a spot on the Special Teams. There will be a lot of fans asking what Bess is doing.
Jayson Foster – If there are two youngsters in the WR corp that have fans talking, Bess is one and Foster is the other. A converted QB, Foster was undrafted, like Bess and has shown the athleticism that fans and especially coaches like. Many believe he could be a “Slash” type player as a WR/QB. He will fight to make this team as an ST’er but his ability to comprehend the offense and implement what he knows will be his saving grace.
David Kircus – Signed early from the FA wire prior to the start of free agency, Kircus comes to Miami with some off-field issues and as a 4 year veteran who still has not done anything on the NFL level. The competition in Miami this year surrounds a group of rookies and two borderline veterans. The cupboard is getting full and Kirkus must show he is more valuable than a younger guy with more upside and potential.
Selwyn Lymon, Justin Wynn, and John Dunlap – These three rookies will get a taste of a hard run training camp. while they all have some talent and some potential, the reality is they need to all play lights out on ST’s to make this roster. Of the 3, only Dunlap seems to have an outside shot at making the practice squad.
Predictions – The Dolphins will likely keep 5 WR’s and possibly a 3rd solely for ST’s. Ginn and Wilford are guaranteed. Hagan will likely make the team, but without a guarantee. That would leave two spots. I do believe that Bess and Foster should show enough upside to make this team one of whom should be listed as a special teamer. They will both however have to show more potential than production against Greg Camarillo. If Miami goes with 6 Camarillo makes it, 5 and he is a free agent.
Last year the TE position was a joke. David Martin was as overpaid as anyone else. This year, it at least looks the Dolphins are trying to get it fixed. They trade for Anthony Fasano on the eve of the draft and he is one of the guys I will be keeping an eye on.
Anthony Fasano – A second round by the Cowboys 2 years ago, Fasano was shouldered with the shadow of Jason Whitten. When Whitten went down Fasano played well, but that was not something that happened often. Which of course brings up the question of how good is Fasano? Considering that HC Tony Sparano worked with the kid the last two season on the Cowboys line and targeted him to be their TE…I would lean toward siding with Sparano.
David Martin – There is probably not one Miami fan who doesn’t wish that Martin would be cut in training camp. That could happen. Martin has a base salary of 750K but his cap hit is a little more than a million. The Phins easily could eat that hit and they just might.
Sean Ryan, Justin Peele, Aaron Halterman, Matthew Mulligan – Of these 4, two will likely make it to the roster. Peele and Halterman have been here the longest, but Ryan is one of the Parcells pick ups.
Predictions – David Martin will get cut as will Matthews. Sean Ryan I believe will stick due to his 5 year experience and the fact that he was a choice by BP. That leaves Halterman and Peele for he final 3rd spot. I think that goes to Halterman. Halterman is an inch taller and about 15 pounds heavier.
The focal point…FINALLY…has been the offensive line this year. The high-profile drafting of Jake Long signified a future that recognized the offensive line as a problem. The Dolphins targeted and landed guard Justin Smiley at the outset of free agency…within hours. Vernon Carey moves back to a more natural position and side and Samson Satele is a year wiser. Like all lines, it will take some time for this group to gel. The sooner the better for everyone.
Samson Satele – Satele was one of the few bright spots last year on either side of the ball. While not the huge monster interior offensive lineman that Bill Parcells likes, Satele became a leader on the line. Sparano has said very little about Satele this off-season so far but in reality outside of Jake Long he has said little about any of them. Satele will be the starting center and he should improve with a better supporting cast.
Jake Long – The big LT comes to Miami as the top pick in the draft. It’s hard enough to make the NFL let alone make it with the onus of a number 1 hanging on your head. The Michigan LT will be asked to anchor the line and protect the QB’s blind side. While Long has a lot of work to do, he is drawing raves from his fellow lineman for his preparation and dedication to learning the schemes and the playbooks. Signed before the start of the draft, Long has missed no part of the off-season program.
Justin Smiley - The biggest question surrounding Smiley is will he fully recover from his injury last season? When healthy, Smiley is a road grader nasty offensive guard that would just as soon walk over top of you when your were down than shake your hand. He has a nasty streak that has been missing on this team for almost a decade. While the Phins will likely move some guys around early in camp, Smiley will likely settle into the LG position next to Long, instead of his natural RG spot.
Vernon Carey – Drafted in the 2004 draft in the first round, Carey represents one of only 2 remaining originally drafted Dolphins by Dave Wannstedt and company. A showing of poor drafting prior to that year. In the past 5 years, Carey has played RT and LT and now is back at RT where he should be able to adjust easily. Carey is a free agent after this season so many will be watching his play vs. his new contract value. One thing has been consistent on this line and that is Carey. While not a lights out lineman that is going to be a pro-bowler, Carey has been very steady and reliable.
Steve McKinney – The Dolphins brought in 11 year veteran Steve McKinney to fill in at one of the guard spots. Coming of an injury, SM is still rehabbing but should be available soon. He should slot in between Carey and Satele on the right side of the line. But the job won’t be handed to him. Steve is the long time veteran that this line needed regardless of whether he starts or not. He will bring much needed leadership to the younger group.
Shawn Murphy – Right now Shawn is known because of his father Atlanta Braves outfield Dale. That won’t stop this rookie from trying to distance himself to make a name of his own. In Miami he may get that chance. On the lighter side of what Parcells and Sparano are used to, they obviously like what they saw taking him relatively early on day 2 of the draft in round 4. Murphy has a lot to learn but with questions surrounding the guard position and McKinney still coming back from an injury, Murphy will get plenty of action and he could see the starting spot on opening day.
Centers – Mike Byrne – rookie, Matt Spanos – rookie
Guards – Donald Thomas – rookie, Ikechuku Ndukwe – 2nd year, Trey Darilek – 3rd year
Tackles - Daren Heerspink – rookie, Dan Gore – rookie, Julius Wilson – 1 year
Predictions – Vernon Carey will start at RT, with Murphy or McKinney at RG, Satele is at center, Smiley at LG, and Long at LT. The free agent pick up of McKinney makes the other centers expendable since McKinney is a G/C. Look for Miami to cut both rookie centers. Along the guard spot, there really isn’t much to cheer about as most of them are young and inexperienced. It will come down to shows the most promise and gets on the good graces of the Phins staff. The problems is that Darilek and Ndukwe both are listed as G/C. The good news is that the Dolphins have very little depth. Both should make the roster.
At the tackle spot, Julius Wilson will get his shot since he wasn’t sent packing already. He is not a “BP mold” lineman but he will be around another year. Heerspink also should make the final roster.
All of this could change however with some names dropping along the free agent wire/waiver wire. LeCharles Bentley is still out there and the Phins have some money to play with. I think there are still at least two names not on the roster that will be come opening day.