The Week That Was, And Wasn't…Offense


So the first full week of Miami Dolphins 2008 training camp in the books.  It was a week that gave hope to a new defensive philosophy, a week that asked more questions about the QB’s with less answers, some names not mentioned, and other’s mentioned but not signed.  It was the week that was and wasn’t.  Here is our first week review of the training camp.  Position by position. 

The Quarterbacks

It appears that perhaps the opening day starter may either be a rookie or perhaps a player not on the roster yet.  Yes, it has been that bad.  While Chad Henne has struggled, his struggles appear to be more of the typical rookie struggles more than anything else.  While his practice is beginning to bridge the gap between himself and the two veterans, he is still a long shot.  Henne has been tight with his throws and his long ball has been at times on the money.  He has a long way to go, but of the 3 has received more compliments than the others.

Josh McCown is hearing ear fulls at practice.  The journeyman QB is showing little signs that he is the leader that many felt he could be in the right system.  Either this is not the right system, or Josh McCown is a journeyman for a reason.  His decision making is flawed and some of his throws are off the mark even on dump-offs.  He needs to step it up or Chad Henne will be crawling down his neck.

At the bottom of this weeks quarterback watch is Johnny “Checkdown”.  John Beck has been phenomenal on his passes, when he checks down to the RB’s.  Most of the local media guys have stated that his aired throws are fluttering ducks with no spirals.  He has been picked off more than any of the other 3 QB’s.  John is struggling with his mechanics, something he worked all off-season to change, his reads, and is showing a bad habit of not getting out of the pocket to avoid a rush.  With Beck pushing 30 already, he is not afforded the development time that many other first and second year QB’s are. 

Overall – The QB’s are not impressing the coaches with their play, and that hurts the offense as a whole.  From the WR’s to the running game, to the offensive line play.  It is ugly and it lead HC Tony Sparano say yesterday that he is “not happy with where the passing game should be after a week”.  Not good.

Running Backs

The R&R express is looking like a head on locomotive.  Ricky and Ronnie have seldom been mentioned in a negative way.  The RB’s are hitting holes, picking up blocks, and getting separation in the flats for the check-down passes.  Ricky Williams appears to be younger than he was the last time he lined up for a full season, at one point putting his shoulder down and knocking flat one of the Phins veteran defenders. 

Ronnie Brown on the other hand is quickly gaining confidence in his surgically repaired knee.  While he is practicing at 100 percent, the team is taking it easier on him than normal and it appears that Williams may see more action earlier in the season before the two split 50/50.  Brown is still not taking hits in practice and while his mental recovery is moving along, he still speaks of stiffness and no pain which means that the knee is still on his mind often.  It will come, but at some point, he is going to have to risk it and start taking some hits.

Jalen Parmele is a drafted rookie who is starting to show why the Phins are high on him.  He has the speed and quickness that the Phins like and it appears that he will be making some solid contributions on the special teams as well.  It is still no lock that he makes the team as their is a battle between himself, Lex Hilliard, and returning RB, Patrick Cobbs.

Cobbs is doing his part as well.  He is showing good burst up the field and is contributing as well to the ST’s.  Cobbs is still the odd man out as he is not the BP/JI RB and anyone not brought in by those two are not guaranteed a roster spot.  The Dolphins are likely to keep 4 RB’s which means that 1 of Cobbs, Hilliard, and Parmele will be gone.

Lex Hilliard is also making a good showing thus far in camp.  The youngster is not playing lights out football, but he isn’t one that is being mentioned much these days.  A flat pass here, there, and that’s about it. It’s still early in camp and with the frustration surrounding the QB situation, most of the rest are not getting much attention.  Hilliard falls into this category right now.

Tight Ends

Aaron Halterman was the first to reacht he unemployment line, being waived after yesterdays scrimmage, David Martin should be following soon.  This a slam dunk lock right now barring injury, for Anthony Fasano who is showing the coaching staff that they did not make a mistake trading for him.  His hands are soft, his routes are crisp, and he is showing that blocking is also not a problem.  While he too has a way to go, the job is definately his to lose, and that’s not likely.

Justin Peele and Sean Ryan are the other two TE’s that the Dolphins will likely keep and if they go with only two, Ryan should get the nod.  He is having a good camp if not a quiet one.  Still, he is a BP/JI signing and that goes a long way. 

Wide Receivers

Perhaps the laughing along the sidelines during yesterday’s scrimmage was an indication.  Dropped balls, bad routes, no separation from the defenders.  This is not what Miami fans want to hear.

While the two names of the WR group, Ginn and Wilford, are locks to make the team, neither are performing well enough to make most other teams…at least as starters right now.

Ginn has been showing some flash with his speed but the problem is the QB’s lack of consistency means that he isn’t getting the ball thrown to him that much.  A big problem.  If Ginn’s’ problem on the outside is getting the ball, then Wilford’s problem is getting separation.  He isn’t.

Wilford was the number 1 WR target in the off-season for the Phins and so far, has shown a tendency to drop passes…not his MO…and not get separation.  Ernest is not using his tall 6’4 frame to his advantage and is often unable to fight off a smaller defender for the pass.  It’s still early and much of the problems with all the WR’s could easily be attributed to the guys throwing the ball, but separation from a defender in the passing lanes is all him and he needs to step it up.  Wilford has good hands and that doesn’t concern me as earlier this week, he was doing quite well.

Derek Hagan is showing that he actually can catch the ball.  Although he, like the other WR’s, have had a few drops lately, Hagan was impressing some of the media and the coaches with his routes and his hands.  He will need to continue that progress as there is a youngster driving up the stakes.

Davone Bess is an undrafted rookie from Hawaii.  So far, he has received the most attention on the field.  Unlike many mini-camp hero’s, Bess is showing that he is also able to practice well in pads.  While he too has had a few drops, Bess has been one of the more consistent WR’s and he is making a strong case for why he deserves to be on the final 53 and maybe even the active roster.

Jayson Foster the converted QB is another undrafted WR that is playing well.  A combination of speed and a shorter height than the others, Foster is getting separation and using his diminutive size as an advantage to slip in and out of coverage.  Should Foster continue to get better, the Dolphins may be hard pressed to let him go.

Camarillo and the rest of the WR’s are not showing much and at least one, Anthony Armstrong could be cut sooner than later.  The Dolphins are not only looking to make strides in repairing this team, they are trying to send a message as well.  They do that by replacing guys on a whim as in off the roster because they know that the player will not make the team.  With talk of the Phins trying to find another veteran WR, possibly Terry Glenn, the Phins are not sitting on what they have.  With an extra 2nd round pick in their pocket, they can afford to go shopping.  Anquan Boldin anyone?

Full Backs

Forget about this one.  This is all Boomer Grigsby the former KC Chiefs special team standout.  Reagan Mauia is heading for the unemployment line unable to get a grasp on the passing game.  Routinely missing blocks and hands that are made of stone, it will be no surprise to see him an early exit candidate.

Offensive line

The new look offensive line is struggling, and that is perfectly fine for a week into camp.  New rookie monster LT Jake Long is having an up and down camp.  At some moments he is every bit the monster they wanted opening gaping holes for the RB’s, then he struggles with pass protection, a must for an LT.  Still, he is a rookie being asked to play the toughest line position there is and he is only been doing it for a week at this level in pads.

The rest of the line, Smiley, Carey, and Satele are all learning to play together and in the case of Carey back at RT instead of left.  It takes some time to gel.  To become cohesive and we may not see that from these guys until the season starts which itself is not unexpected.

The interesting play however has to be emanating from the RG position where Trey Darilek opened with the first team during the first 3 practices, was rotated out for rookie 6th rounder Donald Thomas for 4 practices and counting.  While 4th round pick Shawn Murphy has had some time, he is struggling mightily with the system and his lack of bulking size doesn’t help.

Donald Thomas so far has been all the rave.  The defenders call him heavy, because of the way he hits, it’s a big compliment.  So far, Thomas is showing he belongs in the NFL, but he will need to continue to show he belongs in the NFL as a possible rookie starter.  Steve McKinney is still recovering from last year injury so Thomas could see continued first team reps.

The line is a work in progress, but they always take time.  There is no quick fixes for a group of guys who rely more on each other than any other position or group on the field.  They must find that balance and know each others moves and reads to begin to work more seamlessly.  After week 1, they are giving up way too much in the sack department, but that takes time and with the QB’s struggling, nothing is really a surprise.

First week thoughts

The offense is going to take a lot more time than the defense and it’s only been one week.  still, from a fans perspective, it’s hard to get happy about a season that follows a 1-15 record when all you hear is about how bad the struggles are with the QB’s  This team is not done reshaping the offense this season in my opinion.  A trade, a waiver wire pick-up, something.  But it is coming.