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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
We are getting closer to the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, as NFL Teams, including the Miami Dolphins, have now begun to report to Training Camp. We are also inching closer to the begining of the Adam Gase regime for Miami, and the anticipation for what he could bring to this Miami Dolphins organization.
Some notes on the team and some good news, as Dave mentioned in his blog and as I posted on Dolphin Talk, Dion Jordan has been reinstated conditionally. I have read that Dion is in a good place MENTALLY, and I certainly hope that is the case. I am pretty sure Miami along with the NFL will continue to work with Dion and mentor him in regards to his fight with drugs. Dion had many demons that he was dealing with, and more than anything, I am hoping that he has that behind him more than anything else. His battle does not end because he back with the Dolphins. This is something he will have to deal with on an every day basis, and it is key that he continues to keep his head in the right place and has a solid core of people around him. From a talent standpoint, I have no questions. THE question for this staff is getting the most out of Dion talent, figuring out the best way the use this versatile, talented young man. As of right now, he is considered a HUGE bust. He has another chance to change that narrative.
One last note on Dion. Miami placed Dion on the NFI list, aka the non-football injury list, as he had minor surgery on his knee. Most don't believe it to be serious, and most feel it has more to do with the Dolphins not wanting to pay Jordan a $1.7M roster bonus that was due to him. Can't say I blame the Dolphins for not wanting to pay a roster bonus to a player that has been suspended muliple times and missed the entire 2015 season due to suspension. As I was finishing this blog, I just read on Twitter from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that Coach Gase said Miami knew nothing of Dion's knee injury before he was reinstated.
As you know by know, 2nd round draft pick CB Xavien Howard was placed on the PUP list with an knee injury he sustained. The hope is he will be back for the 1st game of the season, and for know has elevated 5th round pick Tony Lippett to the starting spot opposite Byron Maxwell. The Dolphins signed former Canes CB Brandon Harris along with CB Rashaan Melvin as reported by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Melvin has played 12 games the past 2 years with New England and Baltimore. He fits the size that Miami likes, as he is 6'2. I see Harris more as a slot CB. Harris is coming off a torn ACL as well and missed all of 2015.
RB Arian Foster initially started on the PUP list, but that was a very short stint, as Foster has been activated and was out practicing with the team this morning and made a one handed catch. It's a very good sign that Arian has grinded and worked and is healthy now coming off that torn Achilles Tendon. I believe him and fellow RB and 2nd year player Jay Ajayi give the Dolphins a solid 1-2 combo at the running back position. RB Damien Williams is another matter, as he came into Training Camp out of shape and is now in Adam Gase dog house and on the PUP list. Not smart at all for Williams to come in out of shape with a 1st year coach.
OLG/OLT Laremy Tunsil goes into Training Camp behind OG Dallas Thomas and also backing up OLT Branden Albert. Read that Albert is mentoring Tunsil, and it good to read veterans like Albert are mentoring Albert. Albert mentioned that OG Brian Waters did the same with him when he was with Kansas City. Folks are alarmed a little that Tunsil is behind Thomas in the depth charts, but we are not in pads YET. Tunsil is learning a new position for one, a position he has never played before in OG. There is going to be a learning curve for him. I fully expect Tunsil to be the starting OLG when the pads go on. If he is not, that would be a STUNNER for me and a lot of other people.
Thoughts on Ryan Tannehill. This is a VERY important year for Ryan. He got his new, big contract last year, and now he FINALLY has a coaching staff and QB Coach and Head Coach that are firmly in his corner. He will now be allowed to make checks at the line of scrimmage, something that he was never allowed to do or he could do it on a very limited basis. IF Miami can finally put a compotent offensive line in front of Ryan, and I think they FINALLY will, I expect Ryan to take a big step forward, especially with the skill people the Dolphins have surrounded him with.
From what I have read, OLB/DE Cameron Wake has worked, grind and made a remarkable recovery from his torn Achilles Tendon, and looks like his old, explosive self coming off the edge. Read a post on Twitter that Wake had beaten TE Dion Sims for a sack. Wake has said he is comfortable in any role that Miami wants to use him, and I expect Miami to use Cameron as a 3rd down rush specialist, with free agent signing Andre Branch holding the fort down on 1st and 2nd down. A healthy Cameron Wake across from a motivated Mario Williams to go along with Ndamankung Suh along with the rest of the defensive line could give the Dolphins a potent unit. They have to improve against the run, and Williams has always been good against the run. It's up to DT Earl Mitchell or 2nd year DT Jordan Phillips to step up and do a better job against the run. I like the addition of Senior Defensive assistant/Pass Rush Specialist Jim Washburn and what he will bring, which is a more aggressive group. He worked with Suh in Detroit, and Suh has the utmost respect for Washburn.
I maybe in the minority, but I am excited about ILB Kiko Alonso and what he bring to the table. We all know the biggest key for Alonso and the Dolphins is Kiko ability to stay healthy, which if is finally indeed healthy. I believe he can be that same highly productive player that he was his 1st year in Buffalo. 159 total tackles, 87 solo tackles, 72 assisted tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. Miami has not had an impact linebacker like that since Zach Thomas. At 25 years old, Alonso is just starting to hit the peak of his career. Improved linebacker play is KEY for the Dolphins. As much heat as the DL got in regards to run defense, and that heat was legit, the linebacker group for Miami was not good at ALL and probably deserve MORE of the blame for the putrid run defense.
The defensive secondary for Miami remains THE biggest question mark right now as we go thru Training Camp. CB Byron Maxwell is hope to bounce back from an inconsistent year in the 1st year of his big money contract with Philadelphia, and return to the form that earned him that contract while playing for Seattle. As mentioned earlier, Xavien Howard was slated to be the starter oppostie Maxwell, depending on how things played out thru Training Camp and pre-season, but now that spot goes to 2nd year CB Tony Lippett. At safety you have Reshad Jones and then you have the competition between free agent Isa Abdul-Quddus and Michael Thomas. Walt Aikens has spent more time at CB than he has safety so far, and part of that probably is his size, and the other part was he did play CB while in college. CB Bobby McCain is a full go, and he is going to be counted on in the slot along with CB Brandon Harris and former Oregon and Cleveland Brown CB Ike Ekpre-Olomu, if he is healthy. Ekpre-Olomu is a very interesting player, as he was highly regarded coming out of Oregon and was a borderline 1st round consideration before tearing his ACL in practice leading up to Oregon playoff game against Florida State in the Rose Bowl. If he is healthy, and can be the player anticipated, it was be a HUGE plus in regards to addressing the slot position.
There is a LOT of questions in regards to the defensive backs, and a big key to this defense will be how well this unit jells and how soon Miami can indentify the players that can help this unit take a step forward. Training Camp and the pre-season will be crucial for this team, but especially this unit.
Finally, as I mentioned in my opening statement, we are moving closer and closer to the begining of the Adam Gase era. I like what I have seen from him so far, as he brings an energy to the team that we have not seen in quite a while, something much needed. He challenges his players, talks trash to the defense, and is very much at ease with the players. But can Gase and his staff develop talent, something that you think would not need to be done at the NFL level, but most certainly still needs to be done. Can Gase and his staff COACH. Can they make key game time adjustments, halftime adjustments. Can Gase get the most out of QB Ryan Tannehill. Can Gase and the coaching staff finally get this team over the hump and into the playoffs.
So many questions that need to be answered. We will start to get those answers soon.