Through a series of rigorous early-summer practices, a foundation was set. Now, though, with training camp as a spring board, Philbin’s first Dolphins team can start showing its on-field personality.
“We’ve got to establish an identity of how we’re going to play as a football team,” Philbin said. “We’ve installed our offenses, our defenses, our special teams, in phases, and now it’s an opportunity for us to refine each one of those units of play, but get out there and compete and play as a football team for the very first time.”
To varying degrees throughout the offseason, Ireland has worked to put together the roster that Philbin and his staff get to work with. Now that most of that legwork is finished, his role evolves a bit, especially in relation to how the final on-field product looks. He can be a sounding board for Philbin, someone who is far enough removed from second-to-second minutiae on the practice field to offer some big-picture player evaluation.
“I’m kind of the eye in the sky,” Ireland said. “I’m going to watch every lick of tape there is and try to make sure that the reps are being distributed correctly. We’ve never had a problem, but I still count them.”
One function of training camp–maybe the most difficult part–is determining who actually makes the team, whittling down a 90-man roster to the opening-day 53-man roster. The process to find that proper mix is well underway, but the coaching staff is still looking for individual growth.
“We’re looking for improvement out of these guys,” Philbin said. “We’re looking for guys that can learn from their mistakes, move forward, improve and, ultimately, produce in a game.”
Strictly from a personnel standpoint, there’s still plenty left to settle on the practice field prior to the start of the season. Philbin said there isn’t one particular position battle that stands out; in fact, he’d prefer healthy competition across the board. But for fans–and perhaps the “Hard Knocks” cameras–there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the quarterbacks. Though there will be an open competition between the three, the team seems to be taking a very measured approach with Ryan Tannehill.
“I’m trying not to put too many grandiose expectations on the kid,” Ireland said. “I think the kid is our future. Obviously I wouldn’t have drafted him with the eighth pick in the draft. I feel very good about him. I feel like he’s the kind of guy you want in the locker room and the kind of athlete you want running an offense.
“But we’ve got two other quarterbacks in here that are very established, very good competitors, so it’s not going to be easy for him.”
At this point, he may have less control over outcome, but Ireland finally gets to see his vision begin to materialize.
“For me, it’s just to help from an evaluation standpoint,” Ireland said. “I want now, and I want the future on this football team.”
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