Friday will mark the first week of training camp for the Miami Dolphins. The team that some in the national media call “the worst team in the NFL”. In reality that honor likely belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars who’s star rusher is still a no-show and their number one draft pick, WR Justin Blackmon is still holding out and awaiting a DUI closure. To make matters worse the team up the same coast has a sophomore QB who still looks like a rookie and former Dolphins’ QB Chad Henne is barely being spoken of in the media.
So it could be worse.
In fact, for the Dolphins, I don’t know at this point who it could really get any better. Seriously.
Let’s look at Chad “my name is no longer Ocho” Johnson. CJ has been exemplary teammate thus far. He has been called out for his ability and willingness to work with the youngsters and has actually earned a starting role in place of injured Brian Hartline. He is also becoming a favorite target of the QB’s and is running far crisper routes than he has in a long time. Then there is Legedu Naanee who has stepped up and also earned a spot in the starting rotation.
Naanee was supposed to be roster bait who might get lucky and land in the teams 5th or 6th WR spot. So far he is showing all of the talent that he displayed in his one solid season with San Diego. And then some. While the news so far of Johnson and Naanee is uplifting the news about Clyde Gates is not. So far the 2nd year wide-out is struggling and has not given an impression of improvement. For all his speed, Gates is in serious jeopardy of losing a roster spot.
The bad news isn’t just with Gates, OG John Jerry showed up a little out of shape. He passed the physical conditioning test but his hold on the starting guard spot is gone. Artis Hicks and Jonathan Martin have a tight lead on the right side. Jerry’s been reported as being lazy and if that continues, he won’t be on the roster through the pre-season games.
Of course no news has been bigger than the reports regarding the Dolphins QB’s. David Garrard and Matt Moore are earning high marks but it’s rookie Ryan Tannehill who has stolen the show. Tannehill has apparently looked fantastic in training camp thus far however it should be pointed out that he has worked with the 2nd team units both with the offense and against the 2nd team defense. What happens when he faces the starters or in a game environment will do more to allow an educated opinion. Still, some of his throws doesn’t matter what unit they are against. The timing has been exceptional.
The good news on defense is that Jared Odrick is looking really good and Paul Soliai isn’t practicing lazy but the real talk is LB Jamaal Westerman who was signed as a free agent. Westerman has been explosive over the last two days according to several in the local media but like Tannehill, he is playing against the 2nd team unit. Time will tell if Westerman is that good or simply masked by the 2nd team being worse.
If you haven’t heard by now the biggest surprise has easily been that of RB Lamar Miller. Miller has been practicing in full contact after being cleared on day one. His speed and athletic ability have been turning heads in the media, the players, and the coaches. Fans are loving his ability to hit holes quickly and catch out of the back-field. The Dolphins even used him as an outside WR. Versatile and explosive, Miller is a considered by many to be a potential steal in last April’s draft and could be the biggest draft selection made by Jeff Ireland.
While the news out of Miami is good it’s still early in the process. Players are playing better and that may be because the team is buying into the Joe Philbin philosophy. Unlike the days of Tony Sparano, there is a broader focus on teaching rather than statistical numbers and player repetition counts. Philbins style is a much faster pace which gets more work done on the field and gives the players something to feel good about.
Over the next couple of weeks players will start to separate and we will begin to see a dividing line between the definite 53, the borderline 53, and those on the outside looking in.