The Miami Dolphins kicked off the first day of Training Camp yesterday. The day was full of high tempo practice sessions and fans talking about their high expectations for Joe Philbin’s squad.
With the first day of training camp officially in the books, let’s take a look at five potential break-out candidates for the upcoming season. Note: We are excluding Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller and Jonathan Martin from the list as they are the “hot” break-out candidates for the squad.
Jimmy Wilson – Safety
Entering his third season with the team, the former Montana defensive back will likely return to his nickel/safety role in Kevin Coyle’s 4-3 defense.
Wilson put together quite a nice season last year for the team playing in 15 games (4 starts) while collecting 40 tackles (35 solo), 2 sacks, 4 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble.
The 5’11”, 205 pound safety will turn 27 this season and is likely entering the prime of his career. While Wilson may never be a full-time starting caliber NFL safety, Wilson is an excellent special teams player and should continue to cement himself as Miami’s best option in nickel and dime situations on defense.
Charles Clay – Tight End/Fullback
Clay will be entering his third season with Miami this year and will look to progress on a solid start to his career. During his first two seasons with the team, Clay has collected 34 receptions for 445 yards and 5 touchdowns while seeing time at both tight end and fullback.
Clay is an interesting player, in my opinion. The former Tulsa utility man does everything well, but nothing great. Yet, that is.
The 6’3”, 255 pound H-back is a perfect fit in Mike Sherman’s offense and we saw glimpses of that last year. Clay just needs to become more consistent with his hands.
Look for Clay to remain as the team’s second team tight end and potentially push FB Jovorski Lane for his job at the fullback position.
Nolan Carroll – Corner
Yes, I know. “Tyler, you say Nolan Carroll will break-out every single year.” I know.
Carroll will be entering his fifth season with the team and it is make-or-break time for the former Maryland Terrapin.
Carroll actually began to play well towards the end of the year last season for the team. The 6’1”, 205 pound corner collected 53 tackles (46 solo), 1 sack, 5 passes defensed, and one forced fumble in 14 games last year.
Maybe I have high hopes for this kid, but Carroll does have the skill set to be one of Miami’s top two corners this season if he wants to be.
If Carroll plays the way that he can, Carroll can push Richard Marshall for the spot opposite Brent Grimes. If he plays like his good ol’ inconsistent self, he could potentially find himself unemployed sooner rather than later.
Rishard Matthews – Wide Receiver
Welcome to my man crush list, Mr. Matthews.
Rishard Matthews is the most likely receiver to stick on the roster not named Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson or Brian Hartline.
In his rookie season with the ‘phins, Matthews played in 8 games (1 start) while snagging 11 balls for 151 yards and zero touchdowns.
Now, entering his second season with the team, Matthews will be looking to potentially push Brandon Gibson for some time in the slot position. Matthews has great size for the slot position in the west coast system Miami runs (6’0”, 210).
Matthews is in a log-jam with everyone and their brother fighting for the fourth and fifth receiver spot down in Miami. That being said, Matthews has the most potential of those receivers left – Fuller, Binns, Bumphis, Collins, Tyms, McNutt.
Olivier Vernon – Defensive End
During the off-season there were actually some rumors circulating that Vernon could be making the shift to linebacker to play a position similar to what Denver has done with Von Miller. Obviously for now, those rumors are absolutely dead.
Vernon is a very interesting guy and has the most potential of any player on this list. The second-year man out of the University of Miami will be battling with Derrick Shelby, Jared Odrick (not really) and Miami’s first-round pick Dion Jordan for the starting defensive end spot opposite All-Pro defensive end, Cameron Wake.
In a very limited role last season, Vernon collected 32 tackles (25 solo), 3.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Vernon was also Miami’s special teams ACE. The former Hurricane recovered a Jimmy Wilson blocked punt for a touchdown against the NY Jets and also blocked a crucial field goal. Vernon also laid out this bone-crushing hit which can be seen here.
The 6’2”, 268 pound defensive end definitely has a ton of potential and could break out this season giving Miami one of the league’s better pass rushing units in the league.