Dolphins WR’s Again To Take Off-Season Center Stage
By Brian Miller
The off-season is when all teams are equal. It’s also the time of year that hopes are sky high and players are showing what they are made of. According to fans anyhow. When a report comes across the wire that TE Michael Egnew is looking strong it only shows that he isn’t looking bad. The reason is simple, until pads are on and the team lines up against another team it doesn’t matter if their name is Wallace, Egnew, Tannehill, or Wake. It’s shorts, shirts, and helmets. Everyone can be a star.
The real question is who will fail? When it comes to the Miami Dolphins this off-season will once again see wide-receiver as the main attraction. Albeit for a totally different reason. Last year there was little question that WR was the big question mark going into the season. The Dolphins failed to add a playmaker after trading Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline spent the offseason recovering from injury. The best on the team was Davone Bess and hopes rode on Anthony Armstrong.
This year, the WR’s are again front and center but for a totally different reason. What was as of last year the weakest group on the roster is now arguably the strongest. Instead of asking who will step up, fans are asking who will not make the team? The Dolphins entertained 12 WR’s on their team last season through mini-camps, OTA’s, and training camp. This year they have 11. Those 11 however are bringing some solid talent or at the very least potential. It will make the Dolphins coaches really dig into what they plan to do come July…which by the way camp starts in less than 50 days. Here is a look at the Dolphins WR’s.
Mike Wallace – Clearly the number one target for Ryan Tannehill. Wallace has the speed to get downfield quick, the body size to get the ball over two defenders, and so far has the attitude that he genuinely wants to be in Miami. The fans have all heard Tannehill asking him to run at 1/2 speed for now to which Wallace replied, “I am”. The point is that both QB and WR are working hard to develop a relationship. Timing is critical and the two are spending time away from the team making sure they get that down.
Brian Hartline – Hartline exploded last year for the Dolphins and became Tannehill’s favorite target. That won’t change with the addition of Wallace. While Wallace will poach some targets away from Hartline, Hartline will still be the go-to-guy when Tannehill needs to make a completion. Unlike last season, Hartline will see second corner coverage quite often with the top defending corners likely moving on Wallace. Hartline stands to benefit more from Wallace’s presence than any other WR on the team.
Brandon Gibson – Gibson has to fill the solid shoes of Davone Bess but it’s a role he should thrive in. Gibson is a solid route runner with faster speed than Bess. He is tall and is able to make the tough catch and is versatile enough to play the outside as well. Gibson struggles with concentration at times. While he can make the tough catch he sometimes will drop the easy one. In addition, Gibson isn’t stellar off the line when faced with bump and run coverage. He will however benefit from the style of offense Miami runs. He should excel in the West Coast system.
Rishard Mathews – Given the chance last season, Mathews showed he has what it takes to play at the NFL level. How far up he travels that level remains to be seen. Still he is a viable option for Tannehill and should see more contributions to the team when they run the four wide set but nothing is a given with Mathews as he will have to compete with several others looking to make the jump in year two.
Armon Binns, Jeff Fuller, Marvin McNutt – All three possess a high ceiling and it’s likely that all three will find a place on the roster but the question is where. NFL teams normally will keep 5-6 WR’s on their active roster and at this point the team has 7 players that are going to create a problem. Binns was seen in limited action last year but he has a lot of upside and while Jeff Fuller enters his 2nd NFL season he has a good relationship with Tannehill and works hard. The question here is McNutt who was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia not too long ago. McNutt has speed but does he give the Dolphins something they don’t have with the others?
The rest: The Dolphins currently have Brian Tyms, Terrell Sinkfield, Chad Bumphis, and Jasper Collins filling out the 11 man crew. The fight here will not be for an active roster spot but instead for practice squad work.
What we do know going into this year is that Tannehill is a year older into his career and the Dolphins have surrounded him with enough talent to keep his progress moving forward. The Dolphins biggest weakness may indeed be this years strength.