Miami Dolphins 2013 Training Camp Preview
Miami Dolphins 2013 Training Camp Preview
The Miami Dolphins have enjoyed an offseason that's inspired the fan base like no summer since Dan Marino came to town. Jay Fiedler, Joey Harrington and many others walked through the door but the confident future in their quarterback took well over a decade.
Now Ryan Tannehill enters his second offseason as the franchise quarterback. He'll try to become the first Dolphins signal caller to overcome Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC East – Chad Pennington did so in Brady's injured reserve year – and he'll have plenty more help in 2013 with high-priced free-agent receiver Mike Wallace in South Florida. The two will surely look to find a rhythm in training camp.
Miami should strike while the iron's hot as New England looks vulnerable. Aside from the whole Aaron Hernandez saga they have plenty of other issues at their tight end and receiving spots. Meanwhile, Tannenhill matures as Miami loads up on both sides of the ball.
Adding to this higher-roller offseason, the Dolphins also made an offer Dannell Ellerbe could not refuse, brought in underrated outside linebacker Philip Wheeler and snagged the Atlanta Falcons' top corner in Brent Grimes.
Many wonder aloud if we are just seeing another "dream team" destined to crash. Whether or not this ends up happening is among valid questions but the assembly of this team doesn't ring of star-grabbing as with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. GM Jeff Ireland has filled very critical needs and used ample cap space to do it.
The Dolphins will have a chance to show exactly what they gained at each position during training camp down in Davie, Fla.
Tannehill fared much better during his rookie year than many expected given his recent background switching from wide receiver to quarterback during college. The second-year man showed early that his ability to thread the needle is NFL-caliber while also making things happen under duress — incredibly, about as well as from a clean pocket. I'm not saying he'll become Aaron Rodgers but his combination of traits mean that type of mobile quarterback could be the ceiling. Improving upon 3,200 yards on the year will be key when Coach Joe Philbin opens up the offense more for Tannehill.
Lamar Miller only received limited work last season but made the most of it by averaging 4.9 yards per carry, good for 250 yards on 51 attempts. Miller can move laterally across the line of scrimmage very smoothly and shows good burst upon turning upfield, though his pass-blocking remains a large question. Now that Reggie Bush has been jettisoned and Daniel Thomas remains completely uninspiring, it should be time for the second-year back out of "The U" to become a featured back. Rookie Mike Gillisllee could also factor here but will likely battle for the No. 2 role
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mike Wallace gets much of the press and deservedly so; his ability to rip the top off opposing defenses will really help Miami unleash Tannehill's strong arm. The much lesser publicized retaining of Brian Hartline will also be critical as he became Tannehill's favorite target last season. Hartline can't beat safeties quite like Wallace yet has nice enough speed for second outside receiver as shown in a long touchdown catch against the Arizona Cardinals West season. The battle for Davone Bess' void at starting slot receiver will come down to training camp and Armon Binns is challenging favorite Brandon Gibson. Gibson had a decent run in St. Louis but Binns admirably manned the slot for Miami in the final three games of 2012.
At tight end Miami moves on from Anthony Fasano and welcomes division rival Dustin Keller. It's likely that Keller will start Week 1 but I bet the Dolphins are hoping that "Hard Knocks" legend Michael Egnew or fourth-round rookie Dion Sims puts their strength and receiving savvy together to give one-dimensional receiving TE Keller a run at tight end.
It seemed that Brandon Albert to the Dolphins was a done deal on draft weekend but Miami picks up a nice consolation prize in free-agent offense of tackle Tyson Clabo. The veteran is much cheaper than Albert and fills a void on the line. In today's NFL, especially with the mobile quarterback, the difference in importance between right and left tackle isn't too huge. Miami is nearly all set across the line with Richie Incognito at left guard, one of the best pro centers in Mike Pouncey and decent right guard battle between Lance Louis and John Jerry. The one major question remains at left tackle with second-year man Jonathan Martin, who must rebound from a rough 2012 campaign when he was brutally thrown in the fire and kept there.
If Dion Jordan can quickly justify Miami trading up to third overall for him, then the Dolphins could possess the most terrifying bookend pass rush in the NFL. Cameron Wake has come a long way from working at the gym and the CFL, and now plays 4-3 defensive end better than anyone out there. The Dolphins are too shabby inside either, as Paul Solia and Randy Starks are an excellent tackle tandem in their own right. However, former first-rounder Jared Odrick moves inside to defensive tackle and could challenge Starks, who held out of mandatory minicamp. Olivier Vernon could also challenge Jordan for snaps, especially on early downs.
Miami elected for a major linebacker overhaul this offseason, cutting two perfectly good backers in Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett to instead add younger, faster free agents in Ellerbe and Wheeler, who would better fit a more aggressive scheme. Koa Misi should continue to man the other OLB spot, though you could also see Jordan blitz off the edge from two-point stance quite often.
The secondary will see much more opportunity for roster mobility than its defensive counterparts. Grimes comes off a season spent mostly on injured reserve but is one of the league's very best cornerbacks when healthy, as he showed 2011. The Dolphins would probably like second-rounder Jamar Taylor to seize the No. 2 cornerback role outside, but it's tough to count on rookie corners in camp. Ideally, you have Grimes and Taylor outside while Richard Marshall and Will Davis take snaps in the slot. I think it's truly a battle royale for every piece of cornerback real estate behind CB1, with Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson also in the mix.
While the Dolphins did overhaul their linebacker and cornerback spots to the point where it looks like a completely different roster, business is much more the same at safety. Strong safety Reshad Jones and free safety Chris Clemons are one of the NFL's more underrated duos, ranking third and 25th respectively out of 88 qualifying safeties in Pro Football Focus' 2012 overall grading. However, there is talk that Jimmy Wilson and Kelcie McCray are angling for snaps at free.
Marcus Thigpen hit paydirt on both punt and kick returns last season. Brandon Fields continues to hold down the punter role. Dan Carpenter probably took note of Miami drafting kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round, knowing full well it will be a fight to stay on roster in training camp.