The Miami Dolphins are moving into first game territory. No, they won’t game plan. They won’t likely do anything outside of a scrimmage prep. Ryan Tannehill may see a series, two if he is lucky. Matt Moore will see a bulk of the work with Pat Devlin likely playing more snaps in one game than he has in his entire career in the NFL. Or Joe Philbin will throw a wrench into my predictions and keep Tannehill out their for an entire quarter. Not likely. Regardless this weekend’s Hall of Fame game isn’t supposed to be a judgement game as much as an extra game to get some work in. Needed work at that.
The Dolphins have been up and down in training camp thus far. Not a bad thing when you consider they at least have an extra week of work. The rest of the NFL is prepping for their first game a week from tomorrow. While the offense in particular has struggled there have been some individual players that have stepped up on both sides of the ball and some that have slipped and slid down. Here is a look at those whose stocks have risen and those that have taken a dip.
Will Davis – With Jamar Taylor nursing an injury the first two weeks of camp rookie Will Davis has been able to get in more work. He started out well but fizzled when the pads came on. After a short adjustment period Davis is back to taking the ball out of the air and impressing the coaches, fans, and media. Davis is making noise in a secondary that features Brent Grimes and a returning Richard Marshall. He was supposed to be the “project” in the secondary but instead is showing that he wants to see the field his rookie season…and possibly make an impact. This Sunday’s pre-season opener should give him plenty of snaps to show what he can do.
Olivier Vernon – Vernon wants to start at the DE position and thus far through training camp he has been the most consistent player on the defense. He has taken control of the line of scrimmage and has manhandled Jonathan Martin at times as well slanting in on the guard position. He has registered a handful of “if this were a game that might have been a sack” sacks. He will see time on Sunday because the Dolphins need to see what he will do in a game situation when the guy he is beating up on isn’t his teammate. He may become more brutal. Vernon had a so-so rookie season last year but showed at times flashes of what he could become. So far he showing coaches that he is getting closer to that level.
Marcus Thigpen – Thigpen is the Dolphins return guy but now he is lining up as a WR and it’s here that he could make a big contribution to the team. Injuries have hurt the teams depth at WR mostly with dings to Wallace and Hartline but the loss of Binns was significant if only because his camp was going so well. With Mathews also dinged up the Dolphins brought in Julius Pruitt who couldn’t make the roster last season so is it a surprise they are putting a speedy back on the wings? Shouldn’t be. Thigpen is quick and can move through space and frankly he doesn’t have much shot at making the team solely as a running back. As a WR he could bring an interesting combination of agility and speed to the position. He will likely work the underneath, an area heavy in traffic where he is used to being on returns. Last season Thigpen lined up in the slot from during camp but as a rookie never saw the field at the position. This year may be different as he is proving that in his second year he can make plays.
Dion Jordan – While the debate over the Dolphins drafting Dion Jordan over LT Lane Johnson continues to roll through some forums there is no debate when it comes to one specific fact. The Dolphins did indeed draft Jordan. He is the one on the field and after missing all of the teams OTA’s due to NFL restrictions for college students entering the NFL as well as the rehabilitation of his shoulder, Dion Jordan is now in pads and practicing. Jordan is making a strong impact in the pass rushing game and is consistently getting across the line of scrimmage. It’s not clear on how much playing time he will see on Sunday night but the Dolphins should take some caution in letting him loose this early. It’s a non-important game with four more pre-season contests to go. No need to rush him into it. He has missed a good portion of camp so a select number of snaps may be what he sees.
Dimitri Patterson – Patterson has been between consistent and solid the entire camp. He is actually sitting atop the Dolphins depth chart opposite Brett Grimes and above Richard Marshall. The competition for that spot will go on all pre-season but Patterson who many believed would be gone due to his 4.5 million dollar non-guaranteed salary is earning his way onto this team.
Jonathan Martin – It’s early and Martin showed last year that he can play LT in the NFL. There is however no denying that Martin is struggling in camp. Some of this could be due to the shifting of guards next to him. Martin’s camp was not as bad until Ritchie Incognito was moved to the right side and Josh Samuda was moved to the left. Martin’s performance began to wane after that. Still, it’s Martin’s job to work well under any circumstance so we must consider that only a coincidence. Martin has gotten beat by Oliver Vernon consistently and by rookie Dion Jordan. As the anchor to the offensive line, Martin must step it up and get better in his protection.
The entire Oline – From left to right the offensive line is struggling. Pass protection is bad enough although Tannehill does still hold the ball too long but the lineman once again are allowing the defenders to get their hands up to knock balls down and are unable to run block almost at all. They look great in practice when the contact is minimal but during the intra-squad scrimmage the Dolphins were barely able to move the ball often seeing their backs hit behind the line of scrimmage or left with short yard gains. It’s an area that is in need of major improvement over the next five weeks.
Michael Egnew – Egnew did MMA training this off-season. Maybe he will have a post-NFL career ahead of him. The reality is that in year two of his professional career, he still is far too inconsistent. The Dolphins simply missed on this one. Egnew looked like a solid college TE but he has not translated well to the NFL level. In fact the one area that Egnew excelled at, pass catching, has been his downfall. He simply can’t hold onto the ball and is often one of two or three players consistently putting the ball on the ground during fumble drills. Egnew might have a shot if he could block but he is worse there as well. He doesn’t play special teams and frankly is failing in all facets of his game. The Dolphins are impressed with what they have seen out of rookie Dion Sims and of course Dustin Keller has the potential to be a top league TE. An unofficial depth chart has Sims above Egnew and Kyle Miller but Miller is making strides and is participating on ST’s. If Miller can have a solid pre-season and Egnew can’t get it together the Dolphins will be parting ways with Egnew. If he makes it another season with this kind of play, it’s anyone’s guess as to why.