As Dolfans, many of us watched hard knoocks last season, and we all became familiar with Michael Egnew. We all saw a promising rookie tight end out of the draft who appeared to be sloppy and unready to cut it in the NFL, what appeared to be a wasted draft pick prime to be culled from the herd at cut down day. Reading his face seemingly every time the camera zoomed in on him, he appeared confused and out of his league. Play after play that they threw to him, we watched as the ball bounced from his hands. Seemingly every attempt at a block saw a player who was outmatched, play in and play out. The speed of the game seemed too much for the rookie.
Fast forward to this past offseason, the signing of Dustin Keller and the drafting of Dion Sims appeared to spell doom for Egnew. The writing was on the wall, and Egnew was put on notice in the eyes of the general public. After Dustin Keller went down with a knee injury, the Dolphins tried various players at the position, with Charles Clay getting the starting nod. Clay has done some phenomenal things that I have expected of him since the end of his own rookie campaign. Dion Sims was getting praise as a big bodied tight end who could catch. The real story here, however, is the elevated play of Michael Egnew. Egnew began catching many of the balls thrown his way in the preseason, and quietly showed his drastically improved skills as a blocker. While his number has not been called many times this season so far in the receiving game, Egnew has been the best blocking tight end on the team by a long shot. His increased playing time has reflected that fact.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to ask Coach Philbin about the progress of Egnew, amidst the beating he took from the media and fans in his rookie year. As soon as I indicated the beating he’d taken Philbin immediately responded with “Not by me!” and with a chuckle. Philbin indicated that Egnew has been a very hard worker since the last time many of us saw or heard from him, and that we’re seeing the results on the field. Jeff Ireland indicated that he was pleased with the progress of players like Egnew. Quite frankly, we should all be pleased to see that he is progressing as well, especially given the issues that Miami has had with protection this season. It was pointed out by the Dolphins brass that Dennis Pitta of the Ravens barely saw the field in his rookie campaign as well, and that tight end is a position that seems to take the longest to develop for most players from college to the pro’s.
This past weekend, Egnew saw a handful of plays out of the backfield as a lead blocker as well. Being on the sidelines for the game in Miami, I saw something that as I walked by made me stop and pause for a moment. There was Egnew, standing with the coaches after an early series. Gone was the look of confusion we all became familiar with, as well as the slumped stance of a player who “gives up” that we became accustomed to watching Hard Knocks. Egnew was talking and standing with confidence, listening to the coach, letting them know what he saw, and GETTING what they were saying. Egnew had the look of a player ready to go back out on the field and put it to use.
Egnew looked like he might just end up being the kind of player that I want on my team after all, and while he might not be quite “there” yet, I’m excited to see how he progresses from here.