The Miami Dolphins are wrapping up their off-season workouts. The players will soon have an entire month and a half off as the countdown to the 2014 training camp begins. For fans it already started. Not being in Miami makes it difficult to cover the daily OTA’s practices and we are all stuck with what the local beat writers and MiamiDolphins.com wants us to know. Some of it is good, and some of it not so much. One thing is for certain, very rarely, if ever, does any team come out of OTA’s with a pessimistic feel for the season.
For the Dolphins, like the other 31 NFL teams, OTA’s provide fans a lot of optimism for the season and this year is no different.
The Dolphins offense is fast. Very fast or haven’t you heard? According to new CB Cortland Finnegan, the Dolphins are running the fastest offense he has ever seen. The offense is so fast that last years Pro-Bowl CB Brent Grimes is getting torched by the WR’s. So fast that Mike Wallace has said it will be very difficult for opposing teams to cover him. All eyes now point to Bill Lazor.
The Bill Lazor offense is a hybrid spread-West Coast offense that utilizes smart QB play, a much faster pace, QB mobility, quick outs, deep routes, intermediate routes, and everything in between. There is little time in the huddle and the players are moved and bounced all around the formations. Fans are excited about the prospect of an offense that isn’t so stagnant and boring. They want to see Mike Wallace in motion, Jarvis Landry one on with a LB, and Charles Clay split outside. It’s a far cry from the Mike Sherman offense of last year or the Dan Henning offense from a few years back. This is exciting stuff.
But. There is always a but.
Knowshon Moreno showed up thicker around the waste according to one report. Dallas Thomas is looking great at the LG position while rookie Ja’Wuan James hasn’t looked that impressive at the RT spot. Lamar Miller looks great so far but fans really wanted Moreno to be the featured back. He currently sits behind the rest of the RB’s on the OTA depth chart. Or so we are told. O.K. I admit that wasn’t the “but” of of my point. It was the lead in. The reality is this is OTA’s. As in no contact. At all.
The offense may be fast but how fast will it be when the defensive lineman can actually rush the QB? How good will James be when he can actually knock the crap out of a defensive end on that right side? Will Dallas Thomas be able to stand up against the likes of Olivier Vernon, Jared Odrick, and Earl Mitchell? Will the South Florida heat in late July early August make Moreno faster and less, bulky? The questions are endless honestly. Mike Wallace getting off the line in contact coverage, Lamar Miller getting hit as he goes through the line instead of slapped at. On and on and on.
The word on defense is that the team is going to get better simply due to the offenses speed and vast array of weapons and tactics. But there is also the size. Olivier Vernon is ready to break out and last years disappointing 3rd over all pick Dion Jordan has bulked up by adding 15 pounds of muscle. Sure Brent Grimes is getting beat and Finnegan is trying to become the Finnegan of old but the defense still has question marks at LB. Koa Misi hasn’t done bad in the middle but he can’t tackle anyone yet. Last years biggest issue with the LB’s wasn’t them being out of position, it was wrapping up and driving through ball carries to make stops. You can’t gauge the development there without contact.
On the interior line Jared Odrick has been out with a lower leg injury. It has some fans concerned and the media, locally, are talking about it as a concern. He has been doing rehab work on the sidelines. In his place, other d-lineman have been getting looks. Isaaka Aaitui and A.J. Francis to name two. Odrick’s injury isn’t believed to be serious if you talk to the Dolphins. It’s rehab. While they won’t disclose the injury the fact that he is working at all is a good sign. The Dolphins have a very solid interior line on the defense.
Anchored by Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell is expected to put up similar numbers as former Dolphins d-lineman Paul Soliai. Odrick should be ready to go for the season if not training camp and nothing indicates he won’t be ready then, and the Dolphins now have solid back-up options as well. Put Dion Jordan’s name in the mix who we are told will have a larger role on this years team and you start to think that this defense could be and should be better than last years and the year before.
While the offense is reaping all the praise now, and most offenses do in OTA’s, it’s the defense that will get the final say when the pads go on come late July. OTA’s are a time for optimism. It’s a time to get excited about the new looks and the new players and all the little nuances that are set to make statements. A new OC, a new direction, and a faster system are indeed exciting. But they mean nothing. Not now. Not yet. Not to us. To the team, OTA’s are very important. It’s about conditioning and education. Teaching technique and position. Not about wrapping up and driving through. It’s knowing the read from one side to the other. And that is what is the most exciting about OTA’s. The thought of what this team can take with them to training camp.