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As the beginning of the NFL season inches closer and closer. we are now in Training Camp and in PADS.  We now get the chance to take a look at the rookies and how they look as well as the new additions to the team this year.


It's also the time to establish who will be major contributors and who will not among the rookies, who will be starters and who will be part of the depth for the team among both rookies and the veterans on the team.    Key battles are now coming to a head at cornerback, linebacker and most importantly to the Dolphins, offensive guard.


I am going to start off discussing Miami's biggest acquisition during Free Agency, Ndamankung Suh.  We know what he is as a player, and he has not disappointed the first few days of camp.  He has been IMPOSSIBLE to block, from his power to his quickness to his mind, he has been everything the Dolphins thought he would be.  He has also done a great job of being a team leader and has taken 2nd round pick DT Jordan Phillips under his wing and is mentoring the young man.  Right now, Phillips is running with the 2nd team defense and fellow DT Anthony Johnson.  I expect eventually that C.J Mosely will be running with Phillips on the 2nd group of defensive tackles.  The Dolphins are DEEP, Big, Young & Talented on the defensive line.  You win games in the trenches, and this defensive line for the Dolphins can and SHOULD be a dominant unit in 2015.


With that said, we move to the other side of the ball and the offensive line, and the biggest area of concern, the offensive guards.  Billy Turner had the difficult task of trying to deal with Suh, and he more than had his hands full.  Dallas Thomas, Sam Brenner, Jeff Linkenbach, Billy Turner and rookie Jamil Douglas are battling for the offensive guards spots.  And I have read that the rookie, Jamil Douglas has looked the best of the group.  Many have not given Douglas much of a chance, perhaps because he was a 4th round pick out of Arizona State, and probably for some, because they did not know a lot about him.  That said, he is a talented kid and can play, and is holding his own.


The Dolphins will need to determine how this group performs.  If they feel they don't have the answer in this group, they will need to make a move via free agency and possible OG Evan Mathis, or look to make a trade.  The Jets contacted Mathis recently, but backed off, as Mathis wants more money than they are willing to pay.  The next few weeks should determine what directions the Dolphins go.  I just read on Twitter from Omar Kelly that Joe Philbin stated that he was uncomfortable with the O-line pass protection during practice today.  Not a surprise when you consider the caliber of the Dolphins D-line and the fact that the Dolphins are trying to determine WHO will be the starting offensive guards.  There is NO CHEMISTRY with the OL, and there will not be until you have an established starting unit.


Just wanted to add this as well.  OLT Brandon Albert made his first apperance of the year in pads.  Good to have him back on the field, although I am sure it was just to get him use to being in pads and working on the knee to see how it feels, it a positive step.


Another key position battle is for the cornerback spot opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes.  The 2 key figures in this battle right now are Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain, signed from Pittsburgh during the off season.  It was thought that McCain would be the slot CB, and he still probably will see some time in the slot.  But he is be given an opportunity to man the CB spot opposite Grimes.  The key to me in this is can Taylor stay healthy?  If he can, he has the size, speed and tackling ability you want.  He is solid in coverage as well.  McCain is a good football player and will see the field.


The other key battle going into Training Camp is Linebackers.  The one player you know will be on the field is Jelani Jenkins, who has established himself as a very solid, young linebacker for the Dolphins.  The other player that is close to being a lock is Koa Misi, but the question with Misi is whether he will be the MLB or the OLB.  Kelvin Sheppard has come in and performed well and is making a push for the starting MLB position.  He is a player that has shown leadership skills and the players gravitate to him.  The last player in this puzzle is UDFA from 2014, Chris McCain.  McCain has worked both at DE and at OLB, and has shown he can be a playmaker.  Has he learned the defense well enough and does he has the discipline needed.  DC Kevin Croyle has simplified the defense, which should help all the players, and we will see how this helps Chris.  The linebacker play HAS to improve for Miami.


In regards to the rookies, we know WR DeVante Parker will be out until close to the beginning of the season with the surgery on his foot.  Would have loved to had him on the field now, but I want him healthy when the season starts.  DT Jordan Phillips, CB's Bobby McCain & Tony Lippett & OG Jamil Douglas along with Jay Ajayi have chances to be contributors.  I think S Cedric Thompson will be a contributor on special teams, as the Dolphins have solid, young depth at the safety position.


Once again, I expect all of the 2015 draft picks to be on the 53 man roster.  I also expect to have some of the UDFA make the team as well.  We are just getting started.  Feels good to know Football is not far away.

5 Keys to success this year

  1. Protection of Ryan Tannehill. This kind of goes without saying but the way Miami addressed the giant holes at OG makes you wonder. I still wake up in a cold sweat watching Dallas Thomas get treated like _____________ (You fill  in the blank with your favorite punching bag example here because everything I came up with was way too non-PC). I’ll state the obvious by saying that having a healthy Alberts back is mandatory to success here.  I listed this number 1, because when the protection began to break down last year, so did the Dolphins.

  2. Coverage –Given Miami was 24th against the run, this might surprise you. However, when you analyze Miami’s pass defense there are some unsettling facts. They were 20th in TDs allowed and 18th in QB rating against them. So opposing QBs were very effective against Miami even when the Dolphins were limiting the amount of damage in the total yards department. You can blame scheme, personnel or anything you want to blame. The problem as I, and a few others, saw it was scheme. Miami would often run a lame zone blitz that was highly telegraphed. The inside backers would be in the gaps and the DBs would be in zone coverage. Big problem. All the QB has to do is isolate his RB in the flat against one of those ILB’s who is currently wedged between the DT’s or simply hit his WR on a quick pass to the outside. The CB is 10yds off and the play is a quick 5-7 yards. The net result is a very efficient QB playing against a very poor scheme.

  3. Run Defense – Miami was bludgeoned on the ground. Suh will likely single handedly fix this problem. I just don’t see teams running up the middle against him like they did last year.

  4. Passing  game – moreover, the big play passing game. Miami was 30th in plays over 40yds. They were only marginally better in plays over 20yds and were ranked 28th. Life for an offense in the NFL is really tough when you have to earn every yard. Defenses tighten up, they make you play against a short field. Safeties inch closer making it tough for the running game. Big plays ignite players emotions and are vital to this team achieving anything in 2015.

  5. Teamwork – Every team goes through emotional ups and downs but Miami hasn’t fielded a cohesive unit on either side of the ball in a long time and it shows. This really can’t be measured; however, having success early in the 2015 campaign will likely help. I really disliked the fact that 1 teammate tweeted congratulations to RT after signing his contract this year. Paramount for a team to succeed is their desire to help each other and to have each other’s back.



I think if you were to label coaches on the hotseat, Philbin’s name would have to be near the top. I’m not saying he has to win the superbowl to keep his job but I do think he needs to make the playoffs.  Even then, I think an early exodus without a good showing on the field may still be his undoing.  A lot of things have to go right. Miami has pretty good starting tackles on both sides of the ball but no depth. They have a thin, and average LB corps that can only be described as serviceable. They have a completely revamped WR corps and nothing will be known until they take snaps in September. Although I will go on record as saying the decision to trade Wallace was good for both parties involved.  Finally RT has to take this team on his shoulders. He’s been the best option Miami has had at QB since Dan the Man retired. He has shown remarkable growth and solid fundamentals. Miami needs him to take it one level higher and start winning games with his arm.

Go RT!



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