The pads will come on and the real position battles will begin. Forget about the cornerbacks and safeties who can run with the wide-receivers and swat balls out of the sky or the wide-outs who can slip past a chuck on the line of scrimmage when it’s helmets only, pads make little difference to those guys. Move up on the line of scrimmage to where the LB’s patrol the outside and middle and a little further north where the meaty weight of the interior lineman sit. That’s where the pads come into play. That is where the battles will take place.
For all the off-season mini-camp premonitions and accolades about this guy or that guy and how much so and so has improved (can we all say Michael Egnew together?) when the pads come on it’s all anew. So it will be tomorrow when the Dolphins enter the South Florida heat decked from head to knee pads and take each other on for the first contact practice of the season.
While the outside of the line will remain timing the interior will become a brutal mid-evil battlefield. There is nothing that sounds like shoulder pads hitting each other in a quick burst of speed or the contact of a defender on a runner as he lowers his shoulder. Bodies will be bruised and sore as the softness of the past few months are shaken into the reality of what awaits the next six.
On the offensive side of the ball John Jerry will be trying to hold off Lance Louis the former Chicago Bear while on the left side Ritchie Incognito will be pushed by rookie Dallas Thomas. Jonathan Martin will be under the microscope as he replaces Pro-Bowler Jake Long. Tyson Clabo will man the right tackle spot vacated by Martins switch to the left. Behind them a slew of lineman hoping to make an impression on the coaches that they belong.
The TE position is a mix of inexperience behind one veteran coming off an injury plagued 2012. Dustin Keller holds the number one in a two TE offense. None of the remaining three TE’s have any more experience over the other in real game situations. Michael Egnew suited for a game last year but saw the field only once. Kyle Miller not at all and Dion Sims is a rookie. Charles Clay lists as a FB and Evan Rodriguez is listed as the same. It’s likely one them emerges as a candidate for an H-back role into the slot outside of the tackle.
Defensively the line is looking to improve on their 2012 campaign that saw a stingy run defense. The only real loss came in the form of Tony McDaniel and the Dolphins front are now battling each other to prove they are the ones who are the future. Olivier Vernon will open as the top DE while Jared Odrick slides down to the DT spot but Dion Jordan is on the non-football injury list and while Vernon has looked very good so far the pads will tell a different story starting tomorrow.
It’s likely that the defense will win the first few days of pad practices as they usually do but don’t be surprised if the revamped offense doesn’t pull out a few surprises of their own. Like the defense, the offense is starting to show a little swagger of their own. We will see how much in the coming days.