Miami Dolphins: 5 No-Name Players Who Could Explode in 2013
5 No-Name Players Who Could Explode in 2013
Four decades. That’s how long it took for the 1972 Miami Dolphins to receive their White House moment. And while three dozen of these former players were given a warm welcome by President Barack Obama recently, you may only recognize a handful of those men. Nick Buoniconti, Larry Little, Bob Griese and Larry Cszonka are easy to pick out of the crowd because they have represented Dolphins football for nearly half a century, but what do you know about the other players from the only undefeated team in football history — the role players, the backups and the journeyman?
I bet you didn’t know that men like Marv Fleming, a young tight end that became the first player in NFL history to play in -- and win -- five Super Bowls were part of that team. How about Earl Morrall, the 21-year career backup that filled in admirably for both Johnny Unitas and Bob Griese? It was Morrall, after all, who led the Dolphins to their epic finish after he took over for an injured Griese five games into that ’72 season. And let’s not forget the stalwart offensive tackle Norm Evans, who protected the blind side of both Griese and Morrall during the historic run.
Each year, new players rise to take integral roles that contribute to their team's success; this year’s crop of Dolphins will be no different. And while some players may turn out to be nothing more than seat warmers, there will always be a few that not only stand out amongst their peers, but will usher in a new era for their respective franchise.
Here are five young Dolphin players that could be the next Fleming, Evans or Morrall.
5. DE Derrick Shelby
It was expected that when Dion Jordan was selected with the third overall pick in the draft, he'd be a plug-and-play guy. Fortunately for Derrick Shelby, Jordan hasn't seen much of the field due to a lingering shoulder injury. A second-year player, Shelby has shown power and quickness through three preseason games, providing energy to the defense with two quarterback sacks and another six tackles. Look for Shelby to increase his productivity throughout the season if Jordan is out for an extended period of time.
4. K Caleb Sturgis
Dan Carpenter was on thin ice the minute the Dolphins selected Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round in this year's draft. Carpenter, who has often struggled with distance, was released by the Dolphins shortly after Sturgis booted a 58-yard field goal against the Jaguars. Kickers aren't normally considered breakout players, but consider the fact that the Dolphins lost three games in 2012 by a mere three points, and this is one rookie kicker that is primed to for a big year. If Sturgis keeps burying kickoffs and adds a few clutch field goals to his resume, he'll wind up being a member of the Dolphins for years to come.
3. CB Will Davis
Will Davis was supposed to be the guy taking a year to grow and learn behind fellow rookie Jamar Taylor and a handful of veterans. Apparently he didn't get the memo, because he's shown flashes of being a ball-hawk throughout training camp and the preseason. A third-round pick, Davis has been blanketing receivers in practice, picking up key interceptions on a regular basis. And while he's still developing the skills necessary to stay on the field full-time, an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars was enough proof of skill that the Dolphins felt comfortable in cutting Richard Marshall. Look for Davis to be on the field in heavy coverage schemes and filling in as the nickel cornerback.
2. TE Dion Sims
Dustin Keller was set to be a major factor in the Dolphins' passing attack in 2013, but that expectation was tempered shortly after D.J. Swearinger put a helmet to Keller's knee in the Texans-Dolphins preseason matchup. Enter Dion Sims, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound rookie tight end out of Michigan State. Originally set to be Keller's backup based on his blocking ability, Sims may be thrust into the spotlight quicker than expected. A large man with soft hands and stiff hips, he has the ability to become the safety valve that Ryan Tannehill needs in the Dolphins' new, uptempo passing game. Look for him to get a look at the starting job if Miami doesn't scour the waiver wire.
1. DE Olivier Vernon
The big question for the 2013 Miami Dolphins was who would line up opposite Cameron Wake. As it turns out, Olivier Vernon fits the bill. Many thought rookie Dion Jordan would be penciled in as a starter due to his draft position, but due to a combination of Jordan's shoulder injury and Vernon's stellar play, Vernon has gotten the nod. Last year, Vernon took on the role of rotational player, putting up a respectable 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks. But this year, if he can stay healthy, look for Vernon to reach double-digit sacks. If Vernon can leave his mark on this defense this year, he may continue fending off Jordan in the future.